The more I hear about the 3rd film, the harder I freaking want to kick myself for missing it when it was on Netflix: Watch Instant.
Of course, I made sure to watch the 2nd film twice... hated it the first time (passionately). The 2nd time, it wasn't good but... it wasn't that bad.
The first film would be a masterpiece (read: MASTERPIECE) if the acting were better. Of course, I'd rather watch this cast any day than some random new millennium pos. So, that's where I stand on the original film. Anyone who thinks the 2nd film is better is crazy (read: insane, out of their mind, hallucinating). It's strange to hear some people regard the second Evil Dead film as superior but at least it's so vastly far away from the original that you can grasp a unique difference in taste. But the 2nd Phantasm film over the first? That film is easily inferior in all major categories. Including how it's shot. I suppose some people could like the more grotesque FX but horror is usually made by things like characters, atmosphere, being shot well, an amazing music score (and I still say Phantasm is THE best horror score, bar none- not even Goblin's scores for Argento, Howard Shore's scores for Cronenberg, Pino Donaggio's scores for De Palma and Joe Dante, and, oh yes: John Carpenter's score for Halloween), and a really fascinating story. Full of legitimate art film type stuff.
Phantasm is the Carnival of Souls of the 70's.
Oh, and... I refuse to watch the 4th film outright. I almost mentioned it in the Movies You Have No Desire to Watch thread. And, the reason is simple... : Sphere Boobs. I don't know how this traumatized me so much being a man. And gay. And all. But... I literally saw a review of the movie and this image popped up and it's one of the most motherfucking repulsive things I've ever seen. Troma would have killed for this idea (or the rights to execute it) and there isn't a torture movie around which ever came up with something as instantly hands-grafted-onto-eyelids inducing. This is practically Henenlotter it's so fucked up.
There's my rank: Phantasm > Phantasm II. No question, no doubt, no choice, no competition.