Don Coscarelli, 1994
Starring: Reggie Bannister, Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury, Gloria Lynne Henry, Kevin Connors, Angus Scrimm
Picking up immediately where Phantasm II left off, Mike, Liz, and Reggie are beset by a new Tall Man, who comes out of a dimensional portal just after they kill the former Tall Man. The hearse explodes and Liz is killed. Reggie is barely able to save Mike, who now seems to be the sole target of the Tall Man. Mike spends a lot of time in the hospital recovering – he has been in a coma for several months – and when he awakens, he has a vision of his dead brother, Jody. Jody later appears to both Mike and Reggie and tries to help them. He is driven out by the Tall Man, but is able to enter into one of the spheres, using it to help them. He is not able to safe Mike, who is kidnapped by the Tall Man.
On his way to rescue Mike, Reggie has a number of adventures. He’s kidnapped by looters and meets a violent 10 year old named Tim, who he reluctantly teams up with after Tim kills all the looters. They also team up with Rocky, a tough young woman on her own after the Tall Man took her entire family. The three head after the Tall Man, hoping to find Mike and get vengeance for their dead families, though they are unprepared for the new obstacles the Tall Man sets in their path…
This third entry in the Phantasm series is confusing and is a total mess in terms of plot structure. It’s probably the weakest of the four films, though Phantasm fans should give it a chance. It still has some of the fun, endearing, and thoroughly wacky elements that made the first two films cult favorites, though I would not in a million years recommend this to Phantasm virgins.
Perhaps the saving grace of the film is that Reggie Bannister is great, once again, and has even more of a role to play in this than he did in the second film. He has essentially become the main character at this point, still slinging the double shotgun and driving the Hemi, but sadly lacking the ice cream truck. Angus Scrimm is also fantastic and perfectly menacing, though the script makes some odd decisions with his character. He gets a fair amount of needless dialogue and Coscarelli’s attempts to unravel his role in the Phantasm universe only make things far more convoluted.
It’s actually almost useless to go into the plot developments here, but they loosely involve Mike and Reggie trying to get to the bottom of who the Tall Man is, why he has so much power, and why he is after Mike. Keep in mind that they are assisted by Mike’s dead brother, Jody, who puts his essence into a lethal metal ball, as well as an ass-kicking lady and 10 year old boy who is slightly-less ass-kicking. The mind reels.
Gloria Lynne Henry (The Devil’s Advocate) is actually likable as Rocky, the ass-kicking lady who apparently has Army training and wields nun-chucks. Michael Baldwin makes a welcome returns as an adult (and very aged-looking) Mike, a sadder and less adventurous man than his previous incarnations. I found it disappointing that Mike was not really the focus of this film (as he was in the first two), but you will find out in the next film that this was only setting the stage for Phantasm IV.
This is probably the single Phantasm film with the highest number of implausible characters, as we have everything from a ‘50s-style looting gang turned into zombies and the little kid who dons a mask and literally eviscerates people who break into his home. This is never explained, outside of a way to introduce the kid, but the scene is like Three Ninjas combined with Home Alone on meth and steroids. Thanks to this and a few other moments, there is plenty of gore, though maybe not more than the second film. On reflection, Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead might be worth watching just for the scenes of a kid using razor-edged toys and some terrifying booby traps to defend himself against a gang.
Fortunately, Phantasm III is available on DVD, though it hasn’t yet made it to Blu-ray. It would be nice to see III and IV receive the same kind of treatment Phantasm II got from Scream Factory, hopefully sometime before the upcoming fifth film’s release later this year. I can’t really recommend Phantasm III, but I also can’t really steer you away from it. Proceed with your own judgment.