On a budget slightly above a NYU student film and shoddily shot on a digital SD card, this fifth chapter in the horror anthology is definitely most the spendthrift of the lot. For example, the silver-ball dissection of a white horse is absurdly impractical and spurious. The shapeshifting midgets and quantum-leap Tall Man (Angus Scrimm who is still a squinty hoot despite his failing health) are never spine-tingling for a moment.
The ornate score that precedes Reggie Bannister’s recap eventually refrains with a Kasio-style version of the haunting theme from 1979. The dreamscape in which Reggie is suffering from dementia next to Michael Pearson (A. Michael Baldwin) might warm the cockles of series acolytes. For the rest of us, it’s just a pointless wink at camaraderie. It also doesn’t cajole the audience when the balding, elderly Bannister is such an unnaturally awkward, rotund choice for the sunglass-adorned gunslinger in a vintage Plymouth Barracuda. It’s uncomfortably lecherous when he is ogling a female hitchhiker.
In the stead of Don Coscarelli is David Hartman who can’t spackle the seams of the amateur production including when the magnitude of The Tall Man’s Armageddon is just a Hooverville-esque shack on a desolate highway. The canon’s spherical drills are the biggest letdowns in terms of inadequate quality. Since it was financed on a shoestring, the whole film feels like obfuscated, underwhelming fan-fiction.
Reggie hopscotching across the interdimensional planes is still a hoot though. The yellow embalming fluid is a stark contrast to the crimson red of blood. Furthermore, the midget sidekick Chunk is an intriguing role reversal for the franchise’s history with dwarves. For me, the Phantasm films hit their zenith with part 2. Everything else has been a Salvador Dali illusion but it’s difficult to be too harsh to such a Lilliputian undertaking.
Rating: 2 out of 5