The fourth installment of Don Coscarelli's horror franchise returns the focus to the grave-robbing shenanigans of the eerie Tall Man. With all of the original leads returning 19 years after the series debut, the filmmakers skillfully integrate unused footage from the first PHANTASM in
order to beef up the lackluster story line.
A fiend nicknamed The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) continues to transport human corpses through a dimensional portal to another planet, aided by half-pint drones and flying metallic spheres equipped with retractable spikes. Mike (A. Michael Baldwin), who has been haunted by this villain since he was a
boy, is slowly being transformed into one of The Tall Man's minions. Mike's old pal, ice cream vendor Reggie (Reggie Bannister) has his own problems: first, he has a fight with a possessed policeman, and then is visited by Mike's dead brother Jody (Bill Thornbury), who is an incorporeal being,
possibly in league with The Tall Man.
Using one of The Tall Man's strange portals, Mike travels back in time to the mid-1800's, where he learns that The Tall Man began as an undertaker, who entered an experimental rift and emerged as an insidious monster. Reggie and Mike drive to a location in Death Valley; undead Jody appears in the
same location via a nearby portal. Mike uses one of the portals in the desert to travel back in time, in hopes of putting a stop to the origin of The Tall Man. Unsuccessful, he's forced to kill the possessed Jody, and escapes back to the desert (and Reggie)--followed by The Tall Man. When Mike
loses his face-off against The Tall Man, the heavily armed Reggie follows The Tall Man through the gateway, leaving the injured Mike behind and promising him he'll put an end to this nightmare.
Picking up exactly where PHANTASM 3 left off, director-writer Coscarelli weaves together several parallel story threads here, each following its own internal (often hazy) logic. And while fans will be amused to see all of these characters in their old, familiar roles, newcomers will find it just
about impossible to understand the plot. On the positive side, Coscarelli makes ingenious use of the clips from the original film, and comes up with the occasional creepy moment. But more often, PHANTASM: OBLIVION is extremely slow-paced and works only on a scene-by-scene basis rather than as a
coherent whole. In a misguided move, Coscarelli attempts here to offer concrete explanations for the plot devices that made the original film such a success--when, in fact, the original was successful specifically because so much was left to one's imagination.
Despite obvious budgetary constraints, the film has a convincing production design and the performances are workmanlike--with the cast members deserving special credit for keeping straight faces during the goofiest moments. When compared to the other films in the PHANTASM series, OBLIVION is
strictly middling horror fare; when considered on its own, it's indeed difficult to endure. Though it is reportedly the final installment in the series, the open-ended finale leaves the door open for more adventures. (Graphic violence, nudity, sexual situations, profanity.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1998
- Rating: R
- Review: The fourth installment of Don Coscarelli's horror franchise returns the focus to the grave-robbing shenanigans of the eerie Tall Man. With all of the original leads returning 19 years after the series debut, the filmmakers skillfully integrate unused foota… (more)