29 October 2008

6WH: Oct 28

Phantasm IV: Oblivion (1998) directed by Don Coscarelli
It's been ten years already since we've had a new Phantasm movie? Man. We're now passing the record set between P1 and P2. Well, if it has to end here, I'm okay with that. P4 brings everything full-circle in Phantasm style.

This movie is really for "phans" only. I can't imagine anyone not familiar with the previous three movies getting anything other than a headache out of this one. And it's probably mostly for phans who love the first movie. This isn't a "hey gang, let's drive this cool car through the apocalypse and kick dwarf ass!" movie like P2 and P3; it's back to the dream-like thoughtfulness of P1. Some may complain -- and it was a result of a low budget, to be sure -- but the integration of the never-before-seen scenes from P1 are absolutely fascinating to me. The scene in which Jody and Mike hang the Tall Man, in particular, is beautiful.

I also love the new scenes in which Mike visits Jebediah Morningside. Sometime around the turn of the century, this scientist activates a homemade spacegate ("dimensional fork"), walks through it and accidently alerts some terrible being that there's a ripe planet/dimension over here waiting to be harvested. Those scenes suddenly make the series very lovecraftian, which I think fits perfectly. Lovecraft was the godfather of sci-fi/horror. His monsters weren't just monsters; they were unimaginable, intelligent entities from some distant part of this vast universe who regarded humans as we do insects. Which is how I think of the Tall Man.

Not unexpectedly, there are still plenty of questions left unanswered by the end of the film. What is the infection Jody mentions in the future, empty L.A.? What does the Tall Man need with the sphere that came out of Mike's head? What are the hundreds of spacegates in the desert going to bring to this world? But, ultimately, those questions can be just fodder for fun speculation if P5 never comes. The point of the movie -- all three sequels, I think -- is summed up in Reggie's last action: Reg angrily picks up his quad-barrel shotgun and dives into the frightening unknown after the Tall Man, determined to help his dying friend. Steadfast to the end, that Reg. (8/10)