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Phantasm: Ravager Spoiler Review

Phantasm: Ravager - Reggie

Today sees the release of the newest Phantasm film, Phantasm: Ravager, in theaters (also available on VOD) after an 18 year wait. We’ve been taking a look back at the franchise this week with my ranking of the series so far, a breakdown of Phantasm’s End, the big budget sequel that could’ve been, a brief shout out for the franchise’s Black Sheep, and a differing opinion on the new film with Zach Kindron’s review. Now here we are with my take on the fifth and possibly final film, Ravager.

Phantasm Ravager Poster

Before we dive into the review proper, let’s talk about the elephant pummeling all the tiny Lurkers in the room. Phantasm: Ravager looks like a Lifetime movie of the week, and I don’t mean one of the “tentpole” flicks starring Lindsay Lohan or Christina Ricci. I’m talking some What Have You Done With My Daughter level stuff (Is that even a film? I don’t know, but it sounds like one).

This was an extremely low budget production, shot over a couple years on weekends when the guys had some free time. It is truly a labor of love. The original film cost 300k back in 1979, and I’d be surprised if the budget for Ravager was even a fourth of that. While I don’t believe the meager budget should excuse away all of the flaws here, it would be unfair for viewers to go in expecting something on the level of the previous entries (in terms of production value).


Okay. Now that’s out of the way, is Ravager a fitting end to the series? The answer in short is, “yes”. Ravager is a melting pot of ideas lifted from the previous entries. There’s something for every phan of the series. If you like the more esoteric approach of Oblivion, you’ll get pontificating in spades. If your imagination was captured more by the nightmarish/child-like logic of the original, you get that too. You just want to see Lurkers and Sentinel Spheres get blow-ed up real good (don’t we all)? Yep, we’ve got some cool 2 and 3 style moments as well.

We open to Reggie (Reggie Bannister) wandering lost and exhausted in the desert, the implication being he’s been stranded ever since the ending of Oblivion. Along comes a strangely familiar car, a black 71′ Barracuda. The driver is a pasty little asshole who stole Reggie’s prized possession of “American muscle” from it’s hiding spot out in the desert wasteland. After reclaiming his ride, Reggie is off and immediately under attack from a couple of roving Sentinels. It’s a thrilling scene to open the film. New director, David Hartman, throws us right back into the Phantasm world without any unnecessary setup. he’s aware we know the drill and despite the budgetary restraints, the scene is a blast.

Phantasm Ravager - Reggie

Then we’re thrown to a different timeline. Reggie has been placed in a nursing home. His visitor, Mike (A. Michael Baldwin), informs him that he’s been diagnosed with dementia, and all these stories of The Tall Man are merely a figment of his imagination. Reggie is, of course, convinced this is all a part of The Tall Man’s plan; he’s simply found himself caught in another trap – an illusion. From here, the film begins cutting between several different timelines, or dimensions depending on how you see it.

My instant excitement started to wane. I could forgive the homemade CGI which is better than most Syfy movies. The spotty acting was also a given, but one detour finds Reggie shacking up with a pretty redhead named Dawn (Dawn Cody) at her farmhouse. This entire sequence felt like a misstep. Knowing that a lot of this footage is compromised of short films Coscarelli and Hartman shot for fun only to later be molded into a feature, makes me feel like this segment must have been their maiden voyage. The lighting, dialogue, direction – it all feels so flat and amateur. I wasn’t completely “out” of the film during these scenes, but they unfortunately make up a good third of the very short runtime.

From here the film bounces back and forth between one interesting yet unconnected set-piece to another. About fifty minutes in, the film comes back to life. We’re dropped right in the middle of one more alternate dimension. This one certainly feels like the logical continuation of the films that have come before, a post apocalyptic wasteland where we are informed that most of the world has been decimated by The Tall Man and his kind. We even get a quick montage of news images that hint at the epic downfall we may have seen in Phantasm’s End. We even get to see a glimpse of “The Bag Plague” though its inclusion feels like nothing more than a wink and nudge to fans.

Phantasm Ravager - Lady in Lavender

The final third of the film is exactly the movie I had hoped for. This is where the pieces of the decades old puzzle begin to fall into place. The cinematography is stepped up substantially. The eerie greens and reds give the film a splendid, old school 80’s vibe that I wish would have been consistent throughout. The narrative narrows its focus, switching back and forth between the apocalyptic showdown and Reggie back at the nursing home.

We’re also reintroduced to Dawn Cody, now playing a different character, only adding to the “what’s real or not” vibe of it all. My favorite new addition to the cast, Stephen Jutras as Chunk, is a badass little person with enough attitude to take Reggie down a few pegs. Together with Mike, they are all leading the resistance against The Tall Man.

It’s upsetting that this portion of the film doesn’t take up the majority of the runtime. There’s a lot that could be done even with the minuscule budget using this set-up. It’s easy to see a film partially buried here that could have played as a contained horror throwback. Take these mercenary types searching for the portal into The Tall Man’s dimension, under attack from his various henchmen, and we could’ve had a rock solid final installment. Perhaps, however, that would have been too simple a way to end such a strange franchise as Phantasm.

We get answers as to why The Tall Man has focused his efforts on Mike for all these years. Granted, the answer isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things, but at least we can stop asking. The final battle with The Tall Man is over quickly and is a tad disappointing in that it relies too heavily on some of the new characters that were only introduced twenty minutes prior. Despite this, the film still builds to a close that is nonetheless satisfying after all these years of build up.

Ravager is all about saying “goodbye”. As we let go of the franchise that has been with us for so many years, we watch as Mike and Jody let go of Reggie in his dying moments. Is’s a somber moment that will surely resonate now through future viewings of the other films. Yes, the idea is presented that Reggie has been living these adventures all along within his fractured mind. In his death he is able to find peace and happiness, riding off with his friends (and a surprise final addition that had me squeal with delight) on a quest to find the coldest location possible. Ya’ know, because The Tall Man hates the cold.

Phantasm Ravager - The Tall Man

Ravager is far from a perfect film. The narrative might be intentionally all over the place, but certain stories have little to no impact, only leaving us with half a film that truly delivers the goods. The acting is hit and miss, though Reggie Bannister delivers a charming if uneven performance, while Chunk is someone I would gladly follow into a new series of Phantasm films. Lastly, Angus Scrimm, in his final onscreen performance, doesn’t show up just to phone it in. His screen time might be limited, but he makes every second of it count. He truly is The Tall Man, and it’s hard to imagine any sort of continuation going on without his presence.

I recommend Ravager to long time fans without a second’s hesitation. It’s far from perfect, but as the credits started to roll, I was left with a huge grin on my face. Speaking of the credits, there is flashing images throughout that appear to be made up mostly of footage that did not end up in the final cut. Hopefully we’ll get a peek at this extra material on the Blu-ray.

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Zachary Paul

I'm a long time horror nerd and wannabe director. My inspirations are varied from Wes Craven, Dario Argento, George Romero, Lucio Fulci, John Carpenter, and even some John Waters and Joss Whedon. My tastes are all over the place within the genre. Give me highbrow, gross out, slow burn, rubber suit wearing, action/horror hybrid...I love it all. I enjoy writing and talking about all aspects of horror. BONUS FACT: I love cooking and eating anything with pumpkin in it. Find me on Twitter @BringBackMM :)
  • AxelPalmer

    Great review. I wasn’t sure about checking this out, but between your thoughtful analysis and a surprise showing of PHANTASM: REMASTERED last night on SyFy (well, surprise to me), my interest has been sparked, especially in regards to what you write about Reggie’s “arc.” Thanks for the article.

  • Zachary Kindron

    Solid review, man. I wanted to love this movie but unfortunately I couldn’t get over the visual style of it (the lifetime movie look, as you perfectly put it). I was happy to spend another 90 minutes with these guys but for me, this isn’t one I’ll be going back to nearly as often as the original

  • What?! Certainly was a surprise. I hadn’t heard a thing about it. I’m really hoping to see “Remastered” on the big screen, though. Certainly give Ravager a chance. Just know only half of it works, but it’s a really good half. :)

  • Completely understand. The production values are puzzling as anyone with an iPhone these days can shoot something that looks better than parts of this. From what I gather, they started shooting several years ago when shooting in 1080 first became feasible. It’s a lot to ask a viewer to forgive or ignore in 2016.

  • Zachary Kindron

    See the remaster on the big screen if possible, I did and it was absolutely incredible. The remaster is gorgeous and it booms on a big screen.

  • Zachary Kindron

    Exactly. I appreciate the movie and am happy we got one more game with The Tall Man, but I had trouble with that. I feel like if I was shown this movie on a dusty old VHS tape on an old tube TV and was told it was some lost Phantasm sequel I’d have probably thought it was great fun. Also, I love reading/hearing about how this movie was made so much more than I actually liked watching the final product, and that’s not even necessarily a slant against it, Coscarelli is just an awesome storyteller and has been telling all about the long and wild production of it.

  • Yeah I hope there’s an extensive BTS on the Blu release. As I was saying in the review, I was surprised by all of the deleted footage playing through the credits. Some it looked pretty epic. I wonder if they have something planned for all of that they’re not telling us yet.

  • Yeah I’ve signed up to host a TUGG screening of Remastered. I was aiming for Halloween night but they said that date was too soon. :( maybe I can line something up for Nov?

  • Zachary Kindron

    That would be cool, I can’t wait to see what kind of extras this bluray release is packed with. Im so happy they have all finally gotten HD transfers

  • Matt

    Thanks for sharing your insight and thoughts on the film. It was an interesting read. I did, however, disagree with you on some points. I found the whole film to be quite enjoyable and did not have any major issues with it. For what it was, I think it was a solid entry in the series, and would return to view it as often as any other in the series.

  • I’m curious to watch it again, now fully aware of what’s in store – I feel like it might get better with repeated views. We’ll see

  • Matt

    I only watched it once also. I’m trying to decide if I should just wait for the Blu Ray to come out or not. It is a must-own for me, no debate necessary.

  • AxelPalmer

    Yeah, it was strange…came on about eleven last night, even had the WELL GO USA and BAD ROBOT logo before the film. Kinda unusual this didn’t get any kind of fanfare, especially considering this is supossed to get a (small) theatrical release, which is where I would’ve ideally like to see this.

  • Yeah, I would think the Blu is going to be loaded with some cool features.

  • James Sebastian Roa

    Hi guys. Just seeing If you could help me clear something up.
    On one hand I had come to the conclusion that reggie had suffered dementia and died in the caring home with his friends, it was a tough pill to swallow but in a way made sense.
    And yet…….. a in between credits scene shows the little guy survive the explosion and teaming up with one of the survivors waiting to be picked up by Mike, reg in the car,?????? What gives. This seems no longer reggies imagination but actually happening. So are we viewing multiple dimensions and possibilities? In one dimension reggie had dementia in the other the reality of the spheres is real. Is this what the tall man was hinting to?

    Would love someone to please help out with this.

  • Ultimately, I believe Coscarelli/Hartman want us to take what we will from the ending. I believe the Phantasm films are about cheating death or atleast the desire for those we love to be able to cheat death.

    Taking that reading of the films into consideration, I think Reggie did in fact die and all of this was in his head. The ending is almost a way of saying, despite that he did manage to cheat death and thwart The Tall Man as somehow his subconscious lives on, weaving more tall tales. He’s finally reunited with his friends and “the one that got away”, Rocky. Their adventure never ends. His own personal, fucked up heaven.

    You could also just say, it’s Phantasm. This shit is just taking place in a different dimension. It’s completely up to you to decide. :)

  • Matt

    I prefer the alternate dimension theory. I like this answer because I don’t want to believe that Reggie is dead. Also, and more importantly, I choose not to believe that all five films were nothing more than a product of Reggie’s dementia. If I chose to believe that scenario, I would feel cheated like you couldn’t imagine. All of my DVDs would then go straight into the garbage can.

  • Matt

    If you believe the whole thing was all in Reggie’s head, don’t you feel like you got ripped off?

  • I think the “it was all a dream” rationale can be cheap in most films/shows, but with Phantasm I think it kind of works. The films have always played around with different dimensions and dream realities. Even the first film retcons everything that came before in the last few minutes. But…because they didn’t give us a definitive explanation, we’re left to ponder and analyze it which is certainly a good thing.

  • Paul Chach Mcarthy

    Spot on review. It wasn’t the best way to end things, but that final scene will be remembered forever, at least by me, as the definitive end. The gang all drive off towards some unimaginable final battle with Tall Man. That’s about as perfect an end as you can get with the budget they had. I love the Phantasm series, and whilst Ravager is far far from perfect, I give it a Phan-“BOOOOOOOy” 10 out of 10 just for Reggie Bannister alone.