Review: Phantasm: Ravager (USA 2016)

It breaks my heart to have to give this film a bad review. I love the Phantasm film series. The first one is a freaky trip, and the second one is a campy, action-packed blast – and both do an incredible job of creating a dreamlike atmosphere of hopelessness. Even the third film, while deeply flawed, is still a lot of fun. Unfortunately, Ravager follows in the path of Phantasm IV, an ultra-low budget mix of outtakes and inexpensive new footage with little narrative coherence.

I cannot imagine how this film would play to someone not deeply versed in Don Coscarelli’s phantasm universe. Even as someone with a fair amount of familiarity with the franchise, I found the new film to be garbled, confusing and unsatisfying. The characters have aged substantially, and while Angus Scrimm brings his usual talent to the role of the Tall Man, in this film he evokes my grandfather more than a terrifying apparition. Moreover, the film is ill-served by its low-budget. While scenes depicting wide-scale devastation are handled decently, filmmakers need to learn that CGI gunshots and injuries almost invariably look cheap and terrible. Invest in some squibs and blanks.

That said, while this, the first entry in the series not to be directed by creator Coscarelli, feels a bit like mediocre fan fiction, it is nice to see the old gang get together one more time (particularly in light of Scrimm’s recent passing) and everybody seems to be having fun. In fact, by far my favorite part of the film – aside from the joy of seeing the beloved Hemi ‘Cuda tricked out with hood mounted Gatling guns – was the five-minute coda at the end of the film which featured an unexpected and delightful cameo. 1 1/2 out of 4 stars (Below average).

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