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“PHANTASM: RAVAGER” (Film Review)

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The PHANTASM series has always been one of wonder. Based within dreams and the question of what happens when we die, Don Coscarelli created a series which never fully relied on being linear in its storytelling, but focused more on an otherworldly, dream-like tone that might have left some viewers wondering what had just happened to them. Yet for the majority of horror fans (including this writer), the PHANTASM films leave you smiling ear to ear at the innovative and special brand of filmmaking on display. Now with PHANTASM: RAVAGER, the fifth and supposedly final entry into the series, the story created back in 1979 with the first PHANTASM film is officially wrapped up and boy oh boy is it a bookend that will give “Phans” of the series happiness, horror and a bittersweet goodbye to the world and characters they have loved for years.

With its opening of Reggie (Reggie Bannister), the series’ four-barrel shotgun-toting protagonist, wandering through the desert, clothes’ ragged, face dirty, unsure of what’s going on, we’re thrust right into the film. With a story of alternate worlds and coming to terms with the idea of letting go, PHANTASM: RAVAGER not only comes to terms with the characters we love but asks us to let go of those characters’ journeys throughout the years. While we see Mike, The Tall Man and other characters past seen in the film, RAVAGER is very much a film about Reggie.

Present day, the former ice cream man is in a hospital, on his way to his final days, with Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) telling him that all of his stories of fighting Angus Scrimm’s Tall Man character and his flying spheres are just hallucinations, due to the diagnoses of Reggie having dementia. As Reggie sits in his room or with Mike at a bench, his mind goes back and forth between the part of him denying that it’s all been dementia and an alternate reality in which we see Reggie fighting through various situations to find Mike and battle The Tall Man like he’s always done. There’s even a moment where The Tall Man offers Reggie his old life back in exchange for letting this all go and Reggie, the badass character he’s always been, asks for only two things: his friends. It’s a subtle moment but that request really sums up the character well, Reggie has always been about being there for his buds and RAVAGER is great at reminding you that Coscarelli wrote and Bannister, Baldwin and Bill Thornbury perfected: a trio of characters that had each other’s backs. In a time and era where it was all about saving the girl and being the badass, the PHANTASM series was always about that profound love your friends and being there right up until the very end.

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Originally conceived as a possible web-series that led to the stories being combined into one hell of a solid film, RAVAGER never feels like a lesser film in the series. In fact, it’s on part with the imagination of the first film, one that changed the landscape upon its release. Walking into the film, we knew the film’s Tall Man, Angus Scrimm had passed away and seeing him on screen for the time he is (which is quite often) brings such a giddy smile to your face. While the film is such a great and unique tribute to one of horror’s most iconic villains, the film is also about saying goodbye to these characters and their decades-long adventure.

Under the direction of new director David Hartman, we’re given such a fun, imaginative time with RAVAGER, one that we can tell isn’t a major studio-backed ride, but is one fans of the series will take with joy on the faces, as its power of reminding you of the dreams, the imagination and wonderful otherworldly feeling that the unique series does so well. We’re back for the one last ride, one that is full of adventure, full of danger and full of what has to be the largest spheres around (Hartman’s Special FX background is in full swing with this one, and the scale of it is MASSIVE).

As the film is brought to the end and we’re faced to see things for how they really are, PHANTASM: RAVAGES forces you to say goodbye to the world of PHANTASM and its inhabitants through a different lens. It’s such a sad yet powerful ending, and one that will leave you wanting to revisit the entire series again. RAVAGER reminds you of how magical the PHANTASM series has always been, and it is definitely a bittersweet goodbye to one of the best horror series of all time. Farewell, PHANTASM; it’s been a pleasure to live vicariously through ya.

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About the author
Jerry Smith

A lifelong genre fanatic, Smith loves all things Carpenter and
plays a mean game of hide and seek. Currently the Editor In Chief of
Icons of Fright, Jerry hails from the dead center of California and
changes diapers on his off time.

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