And so we begin again. This year 31 Days of Horror focuses on those films that didn’t break any new ground, the horror movies that don’t make the best of lists, they’re not the a-listers but they are entertaining nonetheless. Some of got cult followings, some don’t but in the end these are the b movies that are that quick entertaining guilty pleasure to watch. To start things off we have Phantasm II.
In the 1979 writer / director Don Coscarelli made the first Phantasm. In it a teenage boy named Mike (Michael Baldwin) and his older brother Jody (Bill Thornbury) discover some mysterious going ons in their small town. The creepy mortician, nicknamed the Tall Man(Angus Scrimm), seems to be behind it and his has an army of creepy cloaked dwarfs at his disposal. It seems that the Tall Man is from another dimension and he is stealing the dead and forcing them to work as slaves in his dimension. Mike and Jody fight the Tall Man along with Jody’s friend Reggie (Reggie Bannister). The film ends with a twist ending that sets up the sequel. It was made for $300,000 and it did excellent at the box office. It wasn’t until 1988 did Coscarelli get around to making a sequel.
The film starts where the last ended with Reggie saving Mike but Jody dying. Six years later Mike is in an institution. He makes contact with a psychic woman named Liz (Paula Irvine) who warns Mike that the Tall Man is still busy. Mike gets out of the institution and hooks up with Reggie. The Tall Man murders Reggie’s family and the two go on the road armed with a couple of chainsaws, a flame thrower, some power tools and a four barreled shotgun. As they go from town to town they find each place wiped out by the Tall Man and they end up fighting various traps left by him. Soon they try to rescue Liz from the Tall Man and defeat him.
Universal Studios was interested in making a sequel and came up with the $3 million for the budget, which was the largest budget of any of the Phantasm films. Because it was now a studio picture the role of Mike was recast with a James Le Gros because the studio wanted a working actor. The film ended up bombing at the box office but it’s a entertaining surrealist horror. At times it’s got the same off the wall kind of horror humour that Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead movies have. The film was successful enough it get a third film which was released directly to video. A fourth one was made using outtakes of the previous three films. A fifth sequel has apparently been made and will soon get released.