Phantasm V: Ravager

Discussion in 'Other' started by rkellner, Oct 15, 2016.

  1. rkellner

    rkellner Active Member

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    [​IMG] Reviewer: rkellner
    Review Date: October 15, 2016

    Released by: Well Go USA
    Release date: 10/4/2016
    MSRP: $14.99 (Buy now at Amazon and help support the site)
    2016

    “The Tall Man fled across the Desert, and the Gunslinger followed.”

    Wow, the mind reels. It is hard to believe that I am watching another Phantasm movie, the fifth in a surprisingly strong series of science fiction horror films that has spanned almost four decades, with this one coming close to 20 years since the last incarnation, Phantasm OblIVion (1998). For “phans” of this series, and they are numerous, it seems fitting that this saga ends (with the recent death of Angus Scrimm, we can probably assume this is the last chapter) how it began: as an overly ambitious tale about mortality, wrapped in a horror movie, told artistically on a shoestring budget.

    Author’s Disclaimer: There are a lot of surprisingly negative reviews of this film on IMDB. It is Phantasm 5 (!?!?!?) for Christ sakes, not a sequel to The Conjuring. Sure, the acting is never going to be award winning, and the film has some spotty low budget CGI at times, but if can get past that, this is a really enjoyable ride and one worth taking for “phans” of the series.

    The Story

    inline Image The movie opens like some alternate universe spaghetti western with an aged and ragged Reggie walking across the desert with his trusty quad-barreled shotgun in his unending hunt of the Tall Man, an undertaker from another dimension who is driven to claim the bodies and souls of the recently departed to utilize them for an army of alien dwarves on some Mars-like planet…or something like that. It has been awhile since I watched these films! If you are rusty to the nuances of the storyline across four movies, we are treated to the most meager montage of the past quadrilogy, and then we are off again.

    inline Image Although this movie is the first one not directed by Don Coscarelli (Phantasm I-IV, Beastmaster, John Dies at the End, Bubba Ho-tep), make no mistake, this movie is built out of all of the previous DNA of the Phantasm series and feels totally at home in the series. The movie wastes little time in putting you right back where you left off with this tale. In fact it takes under ten minutes before Reggie is back to blasting silver spheres and some schmuck is spewing blood from the back of his head after a violent orb attack.

    inline Image The film takes a really interesting and thought provoking premise with Reggie spending his later days in an assisted living facility suffering from dementia. Much of the movie is then told in flashback as Reggie is trying to recant his adventures to his old friend Michael (played by series regular Michael Baldwin Phantasm I, III, IV) who may or may not actually be there, as well as to figure out if this is all just a ploy by the Tall Man to keep him off his trail and to end his interfering. This set up is pretty brilliant actually as it forces the viewer to question if all of the stories of him hunting the alien Tall Man, portals to the red planet, killer silver spheres and the like are just Reggie losing his grip on reality, or if he is actually the semi-badass hunter of alien evils that he thinks he is. The plot device here reminds me of aspects of Coscarelli’s Bubba Ho-tep with an elderly Elvis and JFK (dyed black of course) knowing the outlandish truth of an ancient mummy sucking the souls out of the buttholes old people in their retirement home. Similar lunatic ramblings of a seven foot tall undertaker alien from another dimension who telepathically controls killer orbs has to all be the figment of a degenerating mind, right?

    inline Image As the film largely follows dream logic rules, it is very hard to give a bit of a summary of the events of it. Much of it jumps around in time, sometimes largely in the mind of Reggie as he goes from being stalked by spheres, to playing mental chess games with The Tall Man, to wresting killer dwarfs and reuniting with a soldier version of Mike in a parallel reality where The Tall Man has taken over Earth, to battles on the red planet, to riding around in a machine gun toting Mad Max version of Reggie’s old hot rod, to mysteriously wandering around his nursing home which may actually be the only part of this movie grounded in reality. That said, all of it is highly entertaining to watch and unfold, but there is no semblance of a three act structure here. The best advice is just to go along for the ride.

    inline Image Listening to the recent Blumhouse horror podcast of Shock Waves (episode 20) (http://www.blumhouse.com/podcast/), the director David Hartman puts a lot of this film into context as he relays the genesis of the project, and how much of it was originally shot with him, Coscarelli and members of the cast on the sly for a series of proposed web episodes over weekends back somewhere around 2010-2012. You can almost make a bit of a game trying to figure out which parts of this were relics of that proposed online format and what was filmed later when this decided to be a full blown movie production. Some scenes have a bit of a lower resolution which may be a good clue.

    inline Image The movie interestingly bookends with some of the same themes it started with decades ago, namely trying to make sense of death, but now in a completely different light. In the original Phantasm, Michael was a teenager who was trying to come to grips with the death of his parents where the plot device of The Tall Man serves as an evil personification of the element of random chance that intervenes and sometimes causes death and destruction for reasons that don’t seem to make any sense. Pretty heady topics for a writer/director in his early 20’s. And now, close to forty years later, we focus on those original characters coming to face their own mortality as older men and The Tall Man now representing time and our inevitable shuffling off this mortal coil, a fate which we can never escape. Wrapping the story around the plot device of elderly dementia and Alzheimer’s as part of the Tall Man starting to take control of people is unexpected, but fits in beautifully with the Phantasm mythos. This is further driven home by the scenes of elderly Angus Scrimm in the nursing home who is either a resident, or The Tall Man in disguise.

    inline Image In between the explosions, alien planets, mindtrips, and battling orbs, there is some good sentimentality on screen where the classic characters of this series reunite and in a meta way, all kind of reflect on the Phantasm legacy and sign off on the ending the movie series which they are most known for. It is surprisingly poignant and at times seems shockingly well thought out. If I had one complaint (other than the unnecessary tacked on second ending, fine two complaints) it would be that the Tall Man does not seem to be as much of a presence or a menace in this as one would expect.

    However, in another nice twist, it is interesting that elements of the unfilmed script Phantasm’s End come into play here. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, following his fame from being the co-writer of Pulp Fiction, Roger Avery completed a script for a huge concept Phantasm finale which would focus on the Tall Man taking over Earth and the exploits of his home planet. While this never got lensed, largely due to financial constraints, a number of ideas from it seemingly show up here such as the disease that ravages mankind, huge spheres laying waste to cities, and battles on the home turf of The Tall Man. Even though the budget here is peanuts compared to what the proposed budget on that early 90’s incarnation would have been, it works pretty well in the storyline.

    Final Thoughts

    Alright haters. Sure, this has some student film qualities at times and is a bit rough around the edges, but Phantasm V: Ravager is a work of passion that respectfully and creatively wraps up this entire series in a way that is fitting and acknowledges the age of everyone involved in this four decade long saga. For all of its budgetary flaws, it is quirky, weird, bloody, funny, odd, occasionally badass and surprisingly thought provoking. Just like it started originally, long ago. This is playing on VOD and itunes right now with a blu ray release to come in the near future.

    Rating

    Movie B+
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 15, 2016
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  2. Dave

    Dave Pimp

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    I wasn't thrilled after my initial viewing of Ravager. Since then I have rewatched Parts 1 and 3 remastered on Amazon. I'm going to watch 4 soon and then revisit Ravager. Hopefully I'll warm up to it a bit.
     
  3. maybrick

    maybrick Well-Known Member

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    I've watched it twice and think it is a worthy enough edition to the series, although I still think the series ended Mike's story properly with Oblivion. Ravager is all about Reggie. A lot of folks have questions about what is supposedly real and what is supposedly a dream. The answer is both and neither. The whole premise is that dreams are windows to parallel Earths and that the Tall Man exists on an infinite number of them and has the ability to travel to the infinite ones where he doesn't. That's the beauty of the series. I didn't find the movie confusing in the slightest.
     
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  4. MisterTwister

    MisterTwister The Schlock King

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    Good review.
     
  5. Zillamon51

    Zillamon51 Member

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    This incomprehensible mess was embarrassing to sit through. SyFy-level production values, and senior citizens LARPing an action movie. Angus Scrimm (RIP) as the Tall Man barely moved, and was so heavily made-up and digitally smoothed-over that he looked like he belonged in a casket. Just sad.
     
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  6. maybrick

    maybrick Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, well, not every film shot for fans without a budget in secret over several years is going to look like a million dollars. For what is basically a home movie it looks damned good.
     
  7. Zillamon51

    Zillamon51 Member

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    It's not a home movie. I paid to see it in theater, and it's being sold on DVD and Blu-ray. They should have let it rest with IV. "For the fans" doesn't justify anything; would it be okay if they dug up ol' Angus and made a sixth one, Weekend at Bernie's-style, for the fans?
     
  8. maybrick

    maybrick Well-Known Member

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    It was literally shot at Reggie's home. Sorry that you felt ripped off, but it doesn't change its roots. For all of its faults I am still glad it exists.
     
  9. MisterTwister

    MisterTwister The Schlock King

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    Actually it justifies a lot. Coscarelli wanted to give us fans one more film and he tried for a decade and more to do it with a decent budget. It just didn't happen.

    But they tried hard to deliver a worthy finale and despite its obvious faults you can see all the blood, sweat and tears put into the entire production.

    You don't have to like it....but you also don't have to be a cynical arse either.
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2017
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  10. Myron Breck

    Myron Breck BOO!!! Gotcha!

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    It made me a little sad that they didn't get more financial support, but I found it enjoyable and will gladly watch it again when that (hopefully) amazing set comes from Well Go.

    I'm not trying to be argumentative, but of course they made it "for the fans"! No one else wanted to see it. And frankly, I'm glad they were able to give us what they did.
     

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