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Phantasm IV: Oblivion

Directed by Don Coscarelli

Written by Don Coscarelli

Starring A. Michael Baldwin, Reggie Bannister, Bill Thornbury, Angus Scrimm

Produced by Don Coscarelli

Rated R

98 minutes


Well, this is it, folks. At least possibly. Ignore for a moment the swirling rumors around the upcoming Phantasm V, which even Angus Scrimm describes as so far-fetched that we shouldn’t “hold our breath” to get our hands on.

For the time being—and likely for all time—this is the last Phantasm in the Phantasm series, and thanks to Anchor Bay, we’ve got it back on special edition DVD. Anchor Bay seems to specialize in antiquities restored to ever-loving life, and there’s no two ways about it—Phantasm IV: Oblivion is one of those antiquities. I never thought I’d hear myself say that about a movie released when I graduated from high school, of all things, but there’s no two ways about it. It’s ten years old, and in movie time, that’s a lifetime.

Regarded by some as the most confusing of all Phantasm installments, and indeed lacking somewhat in action, Phantasm IV: Oblivion seeks to wrap up some of the loose ends of the series by sending our favorite combat duo of some guy with a ball in his head and the horniest ice cream man on the face of the earth off to discover the secrets of the Tall Man, a strange sort of figure who may or may not be possessed by demons or other intelligences during experiments in otherdimensional travel, who’s out to conquer the world by stealing corpses and becoming “Lord of the Dead.”

See, yeah…you cannot walk into Phantasm IV: Oblivion and expect to get it. In fact, if this is the first Phantasm you see, you will be so abjectly butt-lost that you will be demanding your ninety eight minutes back. But when you consider Phantasm IV as it was meant to be considered, as a capstone to the insanely great original series that earned Don Coscarelli his eternal place in the Masters of Horror list, you develop a healthy respect for it and you’re glad it exists.

I read a few articles about Phantasm IV: Oblivion and discovered that it was actually meant as a way for Coscarelli to release hordes of deleted scenes from previous movies. In fact, the first movie lost a great deal of footage in order to be released—originally the MPAA was going to slap the scarlet X on it, but after judicious cutting from Coscarelli, it was released as an R. Thus there was plenty of extra footage to do stuff with, and this was well before anyone even know what a DVD was let alone how many extra features could safely be packed into one, so Coscarelli can be forgiven for wanted to get the word out.

The ending may well be the most confusing part about Phantasm IV: Oblivion and is anything but satisfactory, but that’s the nature of the film.

The special features include English subtitles, audio commentary, a behind the scenes featurette, and trailers for Phantasm, Tenebre, Phenomena and Phantasm IV: Oblivion.

All in all, Phantasm IV: Oblivion definitely doesn’t pack in the action and horror and suspense the way the first three did, but that’s really not its purpose. Phantasm IV: Oblivion was designed to be a companion volume, a pack of extra features that really wouldn’t have been necessary had the original three been released later on. But the extra information, and the hope of a Phantasm V, is welcome and worthwhile. But only after you watch the first three first.

Steve Anderson is a film critic who collects action figures so he can dress them up as his favorite horror villains. He lives somewhere in the United States.

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