Phantasm IV: Oblivion

02/01/2020 06:26

Film: Phantasm IV: Oblivion

Year: 1998

Director: Don Coscarelli

Writer: Don Coscarelli

Starring: A. Michael Baldwin, Reggie Bannister and Bill Thornbury



This was a film that I saw in college after I sought out the other films in the series first. This series was one that I knew about for some time, so when I was really expanding my horror knowledge base, this cult series was one of the top ones that I was intrigued by. The synopsis is Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) travels through time and dimensions to find the Tall Man’s (Angus Scrimm) origins.

For this, we kick off right after the previous film ended. Mike goes off on his own after he realizes that the Tall Man did something to him and he has one the spheres in his head. He left behind Reggie (Reggie Bannister), not wanting to put him in danger, but also not knowing that he was being held by the Tall Man.

Reggie does get away and while he is fixing his tire, Jody (Bill Thornbury) visits him, first as a black sphere and then as himself. He tells Reggie that he needs to go help Mike as he is all alone. Reggie is leery, but heads off in the direction his friend went.

Mike realizes that he might not be in control. The hearse he’s driving veers off as if it has a mind of its own. In the back in sees the Tall Man. During this drive, he sees visions of the past and tries to figure out how to stop his monstrous figure. He’s taken out in the middle of Death Valley, where he finds two of the poles. He tries to commit suicide and the Tall Man tells him that he can’t die until he lets him.

Mike ends up going in between the poles that take him into a different time, a time when the Tall Man was known as Dr. Jebediah Morningside. Mike continues to look for a way to stop this fiend and he is wondering if what he saw in the past provides a clue. All the while, he is visited by Jody and Reggie is on his way to help as well.

Now I did want to go a bit light on the recap. There’s a lot in this film that is referencing back to the original three films. That is something that I actually have to commend this series with, that to this point, it was all written and directed by the same guy, Don Coscarelli. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen the second and third, but I really want to watch all five in a row. It really does seem that they would flow into each one.

To get into the story with this one, I do have something I really like about it and something that I don’t. The first thing would be that it is cool to get some back-story about the Tall Man and who he was originally Dr. Morningside. Normally I don’t need this, but the more you make sequels, the more that we need things filled in to expand the mythology. I definitely found it interesting. The problem though becomes, we really still don’t get things explained. At the time, this was going to be the end of the series. If just the original was made, I’d be fine what they did. An issue I start to run into, you keep introducing new films and never explaining things.

This one also does something else I really like, which is dealing with time and dimension travel. We know that the Tall Man is from a different world or at least this form of him was altered into what he is now. I like though that he is difficult to defeat, because as a being that can move between these, another version of him can appear. There is a cool scene where the Tall Man is a Civil War medic. It is just things like that, which show time is a flat circle and I can get down with that.

That moves me into the next aspect, which is the editing of the film. I do have to say that it is edited together very well. We get a lot of clips from previous films that actually mesh up well with things we get in the ‘present’. That is something that I found to be quite interesting. This does create a bit of an issue, is that I feel this one was taking unused footage and padded out the runtime a bit. The film does fit the 90 minute mark. I did have a slight issue with the ending, because I don’t think it resolves anything. The movie kind of just ends if I’m honest, which I wanted a bit more. The editing does give it that nightmare feel that really makes the series what it is. We don’t know what is real and what is really a dream, which I’m all for in this.

To the acting though, which I thought was really solid. The four main actors are these characters to me. I like Baldwin in his portrayal of Mike. This all started happening when he was a teen and he’s never had a normal life. He has gone through changes with it that have ruined his existence as well. Bannister really has come into his own as the hero in this series. I love how he is kind of a badass action type guy for sure. Thornbury is fine in his smaller role. It really does work for me especially as the film progresses. Scrimm is terrifying as the Tall Man. He plays it so well and I love it. Heidi Marnhout appears as Jennifer. She’s definitely cute, but doesn’t add a lot and I thought Bob Ivy was fine as the Demon Trooper as well. The rest of the cast rounds out for what is needed.

Something that I did have some issues with here was the effects. The practical effects are good. The look of the dwarf creatures, the green blood and things that were done like this I’m good with. Seeing that KNB was involved, that makes a lot of sense. This film does go a bit heavy with the CGI. This is mostly dealing with the spheres. I do have to give them credit; using CGI allows them to do more with them than going practical. It just doesn’t really look all that good and really doesn’t hold up. I will give credit for the how the film was shot, the nightmare feel is still here, which was established in the original. I really like that aspect.

The last thing to cover would be the effects of the film. For the most part, it didn’t really stand out. It definitely fit the scenes for what was needed and that’s all I can ask for. I do really like the main theme. There is even a remix of it that I can also get behind.

Now with that said, this film isn’t a bad sequel in the Phantasm series. I do feel that it doesn’t necessarily work as the end of the series, which is what was originally intended as there are still so many unanswered questions. The movie does explore more of the back-story for the Tall Man. The editing of the film is solid in that the film isn’t boring and it is kind of a clip show to make it reach the 90 minute mark. I don’t care for the ending, but I do like the nightmare logic that is established through this and the cinematography. The acting is solid. Practical effects are as well, but the CGI really doesn’t hold up. I do like the soundtrack, even though that it really doesn’t stand out. The main theme is still really good and so eerie. Overall I would have to say this film is slightly above average. It has its flaws, really needs to be seen as part of the series. It is enjoyable though.


My Rating: 6.5 out of 10