Phantasm V: Ravager Blu-ray Review
Written by Giuseppe Infante
Blu-ray released by Well Go USA
Directed by David Hartman
Written by Don Coscarelli and David Hartman
2016, 86 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on December 6th, 2016
Reggie Bannister as Reggie
A. Michael Baldwin as Mike
Bill Thornbury as Jody
Angus Scrimm as The Tall Man
The Phantasm series is a uniquely complex and puzzling film collective. There is no doubt about it, Phantasm is my all-time favorite movie. To review the fifth installment, Phantasm V: Ravager, has been one of the most painstaking, grueling and bittersweet tasks since I started reviewing films for HorrorTalk in 2015 (I have seen this flick four times to really absorb it all). I actually reviewed Phantasm for my HorrorTalk “tryout,” and it was the first article I’ve ever written on horror. It’s been an 18-year long, empty road since Phantasm IV: Oblivion and regardless of my love for the original and sequels, I will cast my bias aside for this review, as I did with the original (see my review here).
Phantasm V: Ravager opens with Reggie, the ice cream man turned lurker hunter, appearing alone in the desert and not certain as to what happened to him and his ’71 Barracuda. Reggie is in search for Mike; similarly to where we left off at the end Oblivion. After the first viewing, the opening sequence was one of my most disliked segments in Phantasm history. Although the more I watched, the more it grew on me; especially the first strike from a CGI sentinel. I really dislike CGI blood and effects in general, and Ravager is full of technology in all its detrimental glory. Although the lack of practical effects is evident, the crew manages to make scenes with tangible spheres sticking in heads and necks as bloodshed ensues throughout the film. This delivers a major detachment from the other four films, but the sequences with the massive sentential are magnificent. The immensity brought on the trailer cannot do justice to experiencing this on a Blu-ray displayed on a big ass television. It’s a mixed bag, but overall it works, as the movie’s flaws have grown on me with more and more watches.
The complete first act is a bit of a rollercoaster ride of nostalgic emotions and terrible CGI, but from there the film progresses into a clash between psychological darkness in some of the most brightly lit atmospheres in the franchise. The latter two-thirds of Ravager are when it is at its best, especially in scenes on the Red Planet and during battle. Throughout the saga, Reggie is in pursuit of finding Mike, and in various realities. Through bright and vivid colors illuminating the backdrop of the desert, there is a clear-as-day kill on a highway; blood is shed and then the film shifts gears drastically. Immediately after the action of the opening scene, we land smackdab in the outdoors area of a nursing home, where it is bright and dreadful. An elderly Reggie is visited by Mike and he claims Reggie has developed dementia.
The concept behind this installment is brilliant on so many levels, (which I will go in-depth with analysis on an upcoming episode of my podcast, Death By Podcast) but the lack in production quality really diminishes the overall rating of Ravager. The film comes full circle, as we get returns from series regulars Mike (A. Michael Baldwin), Jody (Bill Thornbudy) and The Tall Man himself. Unfortunately, viewers only get a few scenes with the late Angus Scrimm portraying his iconic character, although his looming presence is just as eerie and sinister as in the original. The cast has aged and sometimes it’s hard to not hone in on the makeup covering Reggie’s face. But once he steps through the pitchfork portal, the pace picks up and the story comes to a finale... or does it?
Like the opening sequence of Ravager, this film has grown on me with every viewing. More aspects stand out, especially when dissecting the writing in correlation with line delivery. The undertones in characters like Dawn/Jane (Reggie’s love interest/Tall Man hunter) and Chunk (the wise-ass comic relief loaded with heavy artillery), are not only fun, but stay true to the classic tropes running through the franchise. That’s the beauty of Phantasm. It is one of a kind surreal horror that cannot be replicated. I’ve heard folks say they should have never made this installment; people should be so lucky as to have a swan song for the whole cast, not just the late Scrimm. This is a celebration of Phantasm and family, art and horror. This is about intense thought about life and existence juxtaposed with goofy one-liners, blood spurting from chrome balls and hooded dwarf creatures jumping out of kitchen cabinets.
But at the same time, it is a motion picture with many flaws and extremely high expectations—a recipe for disastrous hate. Don Coscarelli stepped away from the camera for the first time in the franchise, and that may have been a huge mistake. No disrespect to director Mr. David Hartman, but without the crutch of a brilliant story and such beloved characters, this flick would fall flat on its ass. Ultimately, the film is a blessing and I was not deterred through all the polarizing reviews and insights. Most of the true diehards will overlook the inferior filmmaking and find love in this movie, while others may believe this is a tarnish on the Phantasm legacy—it’s all in the eye of the beholder.
Video and Audio:
Phantasm V: Ravager is presented in 1.78:1 and Dolby Digital sound, and the classic Phantasm theme roaring from Blu-ray to home theater couldn’t have sounded better (until the weird remix kicked in at the end, but that’s about my personal taste in tunes). The cinematography is not the best by any means, due to the HDCAM/35 mm combination throughout the film, but that does not change the fact that the picture on the screen is not flawless; especially during the Train to Busan and other trailers the disc opens to.
There are only a few special features on the Blu-ray, but ultimately could have been more to include for the fans. The best part of the bonus features is the audio commentary from director/writer David Hartman and the man who gave birth to the The Tall Man, Reggie, Mike and the rest of everything Phantasm, Don Coscarelli. The duo discuss how Ravager came to life and other aspects of the film and franchise. Along with the audio commentary are deleted scenes, a bloopers and outtakes gag real and trailers for Train to Busan, The Wailing and Dead Snow 2, all which look stellar on the Blu ray playback.
The deleted scenes are nothing special, but rather redundant takes that are in the film already. It’s always fun to see the cast having a blast, and the gag reel lets viewers leave on a high note with Phuntasm: Bloopers and Outtakes.