So this is it, the final installment to Don Coscarelli’s epic horror/fantasy series? Well, considering MGM’s lack of interest in another sequel, rumblings about a possible remake of the original and the shear fact that none of the actors are getting any younger…I’d say it’s a very good possibility.
Continuing where Phantasm III left off, Reggie finds his life spared by the Tallman only because it is in his grand scheme. Meanwhile, Mike takes one of the Tallman’s hearses and drives off, unsure of what to do. Reggie considers giving up all-together, but is spurred back into action by Jody, still in the form of a Sentinel. Mike finds himself kidnapped by the Tallman yet again and Reggie pursues his lost friend once more. The Tallman whisks Mike away to the Wastelands, apparently determined to mould him into his replacement. Traveling a maze of dimensional-forks, and with Jody as his guide, Mike slowly learns the origin of the Tallman, the tragic truth behind Jody’s death and exactly what his very own future holds.
Phantasm IV is much closer in spirit to the original film than the previous two installments, focusing less on action and zombie-hunts and more on eerie situations, haunting dream sequences and a slew of flashbacks.
The way Coscarelli works the flashbacks into this film is utter genius. The flashbacks-themselves are actually deleted and alternate scenes from the original Phantasm made back in 1978, and by altering the context of the scenes to fit into Oblivion’s story, they tie the entire series together masterfully. It should also be noted that these deleted scenes were NOT included among the deleted scenes on the Phantasm Special Edition DVD. They work into the movie SO well it’s almost as if Coscarelli found some way to make all the actors young again.
The film ties-up a number of loose threads that had been hanging around since the very first movie, yet in true Phantasm-fashion, leaves enough untouched so the audience can form their own opinions and draw their own conclusions. So if you’re looking for blunt, definitive answers then I’m afraid you’re looking at the wrong franchise.
For however many questions this film manages to answer, it raises several new ones. What forces turned Jebediah Morningside into the Tallman? Why do they harvest corpses? Why exactly does the Tallman want Mike, of all people? And what parts are reality and what parts are merely a dream?
Those are questions we’ll most certainly never have answered, and to be honest, I think it’s for the best. Phantasm is “the thinking man’s horror franchise”, and by not spelling everything out for the audience its mystique remains intact.
If you’ve been watching Reggie, Mike and Jody battle the Tallman from Morningside, to Perigold, to Boulton, and to the Wastelands then it’s a real shame to see this story come to its conclusion. And while the ending isn’t exactly definite, nothing in the Phantasm franchise ever really is.
I give this movie a B+. That last flashback, right before the credits, gets me every time.