Wednesday, 16 May 2018
Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994) - Horror Film Review
I watched Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead the same day I watched Phantasm and Phantasm II, as such I was getting quite tired, but persevere I did. This time around writer and director Don Coscarelli had no studio interference to contend with and so the stipulations of II were dropped. As such A. Michael Baldwin returns as Mike, his love interest is killed off, and the dream sequences missing are now back in abundance. While this is a decent film it again is not as good as the previous ones in the series.
Picking up where the second film ended Reggie (Reggie Bannister) succeeds in rescuing Mike from the clutches of The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm), however it is only a temporary reprieve of two years. In that time Mike had been in a coma, but as soon as he wakes he is again kidnapped. With the assistance of a friendly sphere (lethal flying orb of death) that contains the soul of Jody (Bill Thornbury reprising his role from Phantasm) Reggie heads out on a mission to once again locate the terrifying Tall Man. Along the way he joins up with a young boy named Tim (Kevin Connors) and a martial artist named Rocky (Gloria Lynne Henry) who both have their own reasons for wanting to stop the alien being.
Much like the films before it this follows a similar format, this has more in common with the second film in that again it is set out like a road trip with Reggie heading to deserted town after deserted town. Aside from the prologue though there are not any zombie dwarfs to see, instead they are replaced with a trio of thuggish zombies. This threesome pop up time and time again and make up the majority of the action scenes, the make-up effects for them were neat looking but they seemed to go against the lore of the franchise a bit, and the way they keep surviving impossible situations felt a little silly (silly but fun). It was great to see the original cast all reunited though the way the plot goes means that it is only Reggie who has the majority of the screen time, Thornbury and Baldwin both are only really secondary characters with Rocky and Tim taking front and centre. Neither of those characters really appealed, Rocky had an abrasive tough girl act, while Tim came across as a sociopath due to the cold way he is first shown murdering humans (though slicing someone's neck open with a frisbee covered in razor blades was an awesome looking effect!).
The action sequences were good but there wasn't really anything too new here, a problem which plagues the series. There is another car chase involving the black sports car and a hearse, there are more giant explosions, and chases involving spheres, and more of The Tall Man walking around looking ominous but not really doing much. Following the tradition we have a bad guy who ends up accidentally falling victim to a sphere, and yet another ending that is near enough identical to both the other films (Coscarelli said at the time he had no idea where the franchise could go next which makes the very open ended finish a bit of a weird choice). While the plot itself didn't do too much aside from give the implication there is something very special about Mike it was cool to get an explanation into just what the spheres are. It was also nice to see more clues as to what the Tall Man actually is, though the sudden reveal that his weakness is the cold seemed made up on the spot (even with a great flashback to one of the more memorable scenes in Phantasm).
The special effects were all better here than before, aside from a fake looking severed head in the intro that is. There is a sequence involving monster hand creatures that looked great, a fantastic car flipping shot, with most the effects of the trio of zombies looking the best. However this marked the first time CGI was used and it looks as bad as you would expect for a mid nineties film. It is mainly used for Jody transitioning from an orb to a human and looks pretty terrible and out of place. The dream sequences are ok but they never match anything that Phantasm had to offer, while the soundtrack is great, but then it is the exact same one that Phantasm II had.
Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead is a good sequel, however with each new instalment the quality does drop, and as a stand alone film this would make zero sense. It is also frustrating how many cliffhangers are left with some subplots straight up not resolved. I loved the callbacks to previous films, Reggie is a fun lead, and Scrimm a great antagonist despite again not getting too much screen time.