Phantasm III: Don Coscarelli admits that he’s always had a third “Phantasm” in mind. “We kind of left everything in limbo in part II,” says the director/writer/creator of horror trilogy. “I wanted to tie some things up and deal with some character elements we never really explored”.
And so we have “Phantasm III”, a grand reunion of Phantasm alumni that, like the second installment, picks up moments after the concluding action of the previous entry. “At the end of Phantasm II, Mike was injured after Reggie managed to save him,” reminds the director, who will drop only hints of Phantasm III’s storyline. “We pick up with Mike in a coma. Then there’s a montage, we flash forward a couple of years and the story picks up with the continuation of the Tall Man’s hunt for Mike.”
Besides its encoring director, “Phantasm III” also brings back Reggie Banister as Reggie, Angus Scrimm as the Tall Man and a much older Michael Baldwin, reprising his role as Mike from the original Phantasm (James LeGros tackled the part in II). Bill Thornbury also returns as a “changed” Jody, with newcomers Gloria Henry and Kevin Connors rounding out the cast. Filmed at various Los Angeles locations over a 45-day shooting schedule on a $2.5 million budget, “Phantasm III” features special makeup by Mark Shostrom and sphere FX by rookie Kerry Prior.
“There have always been a number of questions regarding certain elements of these films, and I wanted to give people some answers,” says Coscarelli. With “Phantasm III”, we discover why the Tall Man is after Mike and what the relationship is between them. We’ll also find out more about the Tall Man’s agenda, the true nature of the spheres and where they come from”.
For Scrimm, becoming the Tall Man is like putting on a familiar coat, but the veteran actor explains that the role has not grown old for him. “On this picture I’ve just kind of sat back and waited got the Tall Man to move in and take over,” he says. ”There’s no burnout factor for me in playing him – at least not yet.”
But Scrimm does concede that “Phantasm III” has thrown him a few curves. “This film has confused some of my perceptions of who the Tall Man is,” he admits. ”He’s still interesting to play, but this time it’s much tougher. To a large extent, he’s still the Grim Reaper type of character I saw him as in the first “Phantasm”. But now there’s a science-fiction element that is kind of hard to mesh with that concept. So, from an acting point of view, I’m not always sure where I am with him, and I hope that’s not showing.”
Coscarelli promises that “there are plenty of FANGORIA-type scares” in “Phantasm III”, but allows, “Most of the kills are of a fantasy nature. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody who is familiar with the Phantasm films. We’ve never been a slasher series.”
“Phantasm III”s release date is currently in limbo as Universal decides whether the film will get a theatrical or direct-to-video release. The writer/director is also at a loss when asked if a fourth installment is on the horizon – but that doesn’t mean that the possibility of “Phantasm IV” won’t exist. “A door has to be left open,” laughs Coscarelli. “That’s in my contract.”
Marc Shapiro, Fangoria.