Wednesday, September 10, 2008


The first time I saw PHANTASM 3: LORD OF THE DEAD I did not like it. Indeed, I felt so incredibly let down that I have refused to see the fourth film made a few years afterwards. The reason I was so upset by this film was that the second one had been so absolutely excellent. I felt (and still do) that PHANTASM 2 was one of the best sequels the horror genre had ever produced and in some ways might have surpassed the original. So 3’s limping story and the introduction of an irritating kid character just pissed me off. I wondered if the fact that I was watching this one on video instead of in the theater might have hindered my enjoyment but in the end I hated the sucker and was just angry.

Now- a confession. When I rented and watched PHANTASM 3 all those years ago I was on drugs. Serious drugs. And by that I mean painkillers given to me by a doctor. A real doctor. I had been struck down by my first (and so far only) kidney stone for three days. I spent those hazy days doped up on a wonderful prescription whose name is lost to the mists of my ever failing memory waiting to pass that damned chunk of calcium. Unable to go to work or do much more than lay around and hope it would soon be over I mostly distracted myself with morbid self pity and horror movies. Luckily the stone passed before I ran out of the happy pills or my idea about self surgery went from occasional thought to structured plan. Eventually everything was good again. Until, of course, the remaining pills were stolen from my car- but that’s another story entirely (to be filed under 'Christmastime Car Theft Tales'). Because of the wonderful drugs (Just say no, kids!) I have said for years that PHANTASM 3 was so bad that even drugs couldn’t make it good.

But…… my memory of the film faded over the last decade or so I’ve wondered if maybe I was being too harsh at the time. After all- I love the first two movies. Maybe I should give it another try.

Boy, am I glad I did! I really liked it this time. It is clearly weaker than the previous two movies but it’s actually good. Yes, it has its flaws with the foremost being the irritating, gun toting kid character played by an actor with less talent than was needed for the role. And I could have done without the trio of zombiefied looters Reggie runs afoul of more than once. But overall this movie moves very well and entertains in the classic PHANTASM style. Nice location shooting, fun action scenes, an unexpected returning character and some more hints about the Tall Man’s origin make it a fun trip indeed. And credit must be given to writer/director Don Coscarelli for both handling the low budget very well and fashioning another great ending.

So now it is time to finally see the fourth and probably final film of the series which even die-hard fans say isn’t very good. But who knows? I’ve said for years 3 stank to high heaven and I’m doing a public 180 right here. Maybe PHANTASM 4 will prove better than I’ve heard.

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