Five for Frightening: Jerry Smith’s Top Five “PHANTASM” Moments!Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Jerry Smith
It’s been nearly 40 years since PHANTASM scared audiences for the first time, unknowingly starting a franchise that would span five frightening entries, the last of which was this year’s PHANTASM: RAVAGER. With both bookending PHANTASM titles hitting DVD and Blu-ray tomorrow, December 6th via WellGo Entertainment, this writer thought he’d throw together a list of five scenes from the series that are particularly close to his blood-soaked heart. But be warned: there are spoilers from here on out, so unless you’re familiar with all five PHANTASM films, tread lightly!
5. The Nightmare Ends…or does it?
After defeating the Tall Man (does anyone ever really defeat that scary giant?) and all appears well, we learn from Reggie that everything that had happened was Mike’s dream. Instead of teaming with his brother to fight supernatural entities, Jody had actually died in a car crash and this was Mike’s way of dealing with it. Once he’s in his room, getting ready to go home, Mike looks into the mirror and see the very much alive Tall Man, as hooded creatures crash through the mirror and take him into whatever oblivion awaits on the other side. It’s a scary-as-hell way to end a film, that’s for sure.
4. Jamming with Jody
The PHANTASM series has always been about brotherhood; more specifically, the brotherhood between Reggie, Mike, and Jody. The scene that really helps establish that is a subtle one, yet really shows how in tune with each other the two friends are. As Jody plays his guitar, Reg pulls his axe out and they bust into a jam session that not only works as entertainment, but also shows the beginning of a musical future for actor Bill Thornbury, who is now a high school music teacher. In any case, this standout scene is a fun and cheerful break from the nightmarish happenings that fill the rest of PHANTASM.
3. Reggie’s Luck With Ladies
In most horror films, the characters who get the girls tend to be whichever CW star the studios were able to secure in their attempt at telling a good story. The PHANTASM series though, bypasses those conventions and makes our favorite balding, ice cream-selling, four barrell shotgun-toting hero the one who is most definitely the ladies man. Whether it’s PHANTASM II’s devious Alchemy (who gives Reggie some bald-head loving, literally) or PHANTASM III’s tough as nails Rocky, Reg knows how to charm the ladies and it’s awesome to see. It’s a great break from the “Barbie and Ken” tradition that a lot of genre films unfortunately fall into.
2. PHANTASM III’s Brutal Beginning
PHANTASM III not only made fans happy with the return of A. Michael Baldwin as Mike (after the character was recast with James LeGros in PHANTASM II), but gave horror fans one hell of an opening. After Reg, Mike and Liz escape (or so they think), the Tall Man does what he does best: gives us viewers one hell of a scare, as he bursts through the window to grab Mike. When we see the struggle outside of the car, we don’t only see Reg and Mike in trouble, but Liz, who we had followed throughout PHANTASM II, on the ground, getting her face eaten by the Tall Man’s robed minions. It’s a shocking scene, and one that shows that, in this series, nobody is safe.
1. Reggie’s Demise
One of the most heartbreaking scenes in the entire series comes from the final entry, PHANTASM: RAVAGER. Throughout the film, we switch back and forth between the present day, which sees Mike visiting Reg in an old folks home, and the action-driven alternate world. While Reggie remembers and insists that the Tall Man is still out there, the reality of the situation is that our favorite PHANTASM badass is suffering from dementia, something we’re forced to confront as the film goes on. After defeating the Tall Man and seeing that the war will go on even longer than expected, Reggie does what only he would: refuses to give up and goes into the alternate reality, while on Earth, he passes away with Mike at his side. It’s a tear-jerking moment, and one that sees the end to one of the best horror protagonists in the genre’s history.