This third tour through the haunted mortuaries of writer-director Don Coscarelli takes fans of the series to places they've been before, but PHANTASM III (subtitled LORD OF THE DEAD in the ads for its brief theatrical play and its video release) contains enough twists and morbid jokes to
keep the series well above average among multi-part horror epics.
Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) is rescued by his older friend, Reggie (Reggie Bannister), from the evil, supernatural Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) who's been pursuing him. But after a visit from the spirit of Mike's dead brother, Jody (Bill Thornbury), whose soul now resides in one of the flying silver
spheres that the Tall Man uses as weapons, the villain kidnaps Mike and takes him to the other side. On the road in pursuit of the Tall Man, Reggie is abducted by thugs Henry (John Chandler), Rufus (Brooks Gardner), and Edna (Cindy Ambuehl). When the trio stop to loot an apparently deserted house,
however, they're killed by booby traps set by Tim (Kevin Connors), a young boy whose parents were killed by the Tall Man and who joins Reggie in his search.
The two soon pick up Rocky (Gloria Lynne Henry), a female martial artist with whom Reggie consistently (and unsuccessfully) tries to get it on. The trail leads to the town of Boulton, "home of the largest Gothic mausoleum in the Pacific Northwest"; while camping nearby, Reggie is visited in a
dream by Jody's spirit, who helps him free Mike from the other side. After the group survives attacks by the zombified Henry, Rufus, and Edna on the road and at the mausoleum, Mike learns he is actually an experimental minion of the Tall Man; a sphere has been implanted in his head. Reggie, Rocky,
and Tim force the Tall Man, who is vulnerable to cold, into a freezer; a sphere erupts from his head and pursues them, and they force it into a cryogenic chamber. Mike, accepting his supernatural identity, leaves with Jody's spirit, and Rocky departs as well. Venturing back into the mausoleum,
Reggie is attacked by dozens of spheres, and the Tall Man confronts Tim once again.
While PHANTASM III, like the previous 1988 sequel, has a more linear storyline than the anything-goes 1979 original, it still revels in the kind of jokey, bizarre details that made PHANTASM a cult favorite. One of the chief pleasures of this movie is its offbeat lead characters; after abducting
Mike, the ostensible protagonist, off to the spirit world, the movie gets a lot of its juice from its unlikely trio of heroes: lethal kid Tim, Rambette Rocky, and balding, horny Reggie, who doesn't let the seriousness of his quest get in the way of trying to score with his new traveling companion.
This entry has more overt humor than the other PHANTASMs, and some of it strays too far on the goofy side, but Coscarelli keeps the key plot and its attendant horrors anchored in commendable seriousness.
Though produced at a low cost, PHANTASM III has a professional look that belies the budget, with excellent cinematography, production design, special effects, and stunts (including a spectacular hearse crash). In particular, the silver spheres, a memorable but only sporadically-seen element of
the first two films, have more to do here than ever--popping out of heads, sprouting eyeballs and other accessories, finding ever more creative methods of dispatching their victims. Coscarelli handles the visceral attacks by the various supernatural entities and the moody dream sequences with
equal aplomb. As before, Angus Scrimm's Tall Man provides a foreboding figurehead for the movie's horrors. (Graphic violence, nudity, sexual situations, adult situations, profanity.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1994
- Rating: R
- Review: This third tour through the haunted mortuaries of writer-director Don Coscarelli takes fans of the series to places they've been before, but PHANTASM III (subtitled LORD OF THE DEAD in the ads for its brief theatrical play and its video release) contains e… (more)