PHANTASM IIILORD OF THE DEAD
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The ball was back and so was a cheer from the Phans when a grown-up A. Michael Baldwin returned to play his character Mike (PHANTASM, PHANTASM IV) in PHANTASM III: Lord Of The Dead (sounds so much cooler than "Lord Of The Dance" any damn day).
Mike is soon put through a living and tortuous hell in this flick. The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm: SWEET KILL [as Rory Guy], [All the PHANTASM movies], SUBSPECIES, WISHMASTER) isn't playing games anymore and soon captures Mike. Now its up to his best buddy Reggie (Reggie Bannister: PHANTASM [all], WISHMASTER, BUBBA HO-TEP) to save the day. He gets help in the unlikely (but in PHANTASM "things are never what they seem") form of one of the deadly silver balls. This particular ball contains the brain of his old dead buddy Jodie (Bill Thornbury: PHANTASM, PHANTASM IV), who can morph himself from ball to human and back again. The fact is, he is always a ball, but he can get inside your mind and show you things. This makes for some bizarre moments in Reggie's life as well as some intentionally funny ones.
Reggie bumbles along trying to be heroic, trying to be brave, trying to be suave (whenever he meets a woman - any woman - poor Reggie is so damn desperate), and always coming up with the worst ideas for battling The Tall Man. By PHANTASM III: Lord Of The Dead, Director/Writer Don Coscarelli has clearly made Reggie the centerpiece of the film. Don gives us a comic insight into how the world would be if the only person who could save it was a well meaning; helluva nice guy; but an otherwise bumbling clod.
Though Reggie gets the crap beat out of him by pretty much anyone who comes along, he still tries to put on the brave face, take charge of the situation, and talk like a man of action - right before running straight into another ass whupping. More than the first two, PHANTASM III plays for laughs, and our lovable hero (in the capable hands of Reggie Bannister) is perfect for the job.
Reggie achieves the mostly physical humor without ever resorting to the time honored but overly tiresome pratfalls. No drawn out "mugs" at the camera or daft expressions of stupidity here. Reggie's foibles come when you least expect it, even though we should expect it. When Reggie gets hit in the head, he doesn't cross his eyes or roll them backwards - he just cries out like any of us would and drops like a freakin' stone.
To go into too much detail, especially for something as twisty as PHANTASM movies, gives too much of the plot away. Especially for PHANTASM where the fun is more in the journey than in the destination.
Nudity? There's a little. Gore? There is a whole hell of a lot of that, and nothing nice about it either. Don never skimps on the quality and creativity of his gore. It always looks real and real gross.
Special make-up effects come courtesy of Dean Gates (THE ABYSS, KING KONG LIVES, DRACULA'S WIDOW) and Mark Shostrom (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3, EVIL DEAD II, DEEPSTAR SIX, NETHERWORLD). The make-up effects are nothing short of excellent!
Also mention must be made of Stuntman Bob Ivy (HOBGOBLINS, SOUL TAKER, DARK RIDER, EYES OF THE BEHOLDER, PSYCHO COP RETURNS), who did the spectacular car crashes. Once you see this movie, you'll understand why I had to give him credit. PHANTASM III: Lord Of The Dead has some doozies all right!
Helping to battle The Tall Man is Gloria Lynne Henry (THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE) as Rocky: A tough as nails Army veteran and love interest for Reggie. Naturally this love/lust only comes from Reggie, as there is no love lost for him from Rocky. Tim (Kevin Connors) plays a kid with survival instincts so high its scary, and steals the show as the most talented child actors always can.
Brief Cameos include Samantha Phillips (Penthouse Pet for June 1993) returning to reprise her role as Alchemy from PHANTASM II. Kathy Lester "The Lady in Lavender" from the first PHANTASM movie doing a cameo appearance as the "Attending Nurse". Paula Irvine reprises her role as Liz from PHANTASM II.
Like the rest of the series, PHANTASM III: Lord Of The Dead is punctuated throughout with disjointed storytelling and missed opportunities. Where some directors grow, Coscarelli, like a few good horror directors who also write (Argento is one, Fulci was another), reveals gaping blindspots throughout his films: Mistakes that he continually repeats from one film to the other. He just doesn't see the shortcomings and he probably never will. Sometimes these shortcomings add to the mystery that he is trying to create, but usually they only make you wince.
That said, Coscarelli and crew have never the less created an enduring, cultish, and highly admired piece of work in PHANTASM, II, and now III. For all of its missteps, it's a fascinating film.
Three Shriek Girls and three Negative Shriek Girls.