Phantasm: Ravager (2016) — Mind over matter

“Dude. Bad news about your horse.”

Justin’s rating: I won’t lie, the absence of a Roman numeral five in the title absolutely bugs me

Justin’s review: Guys, I don’t even know what to say at this point. I’m wrapping up a five-movie marathon of this supposed legendary Phantasm franchise, and all I can think of is, “When does this series start making sense? When do all of its weird elements finally gel together to make an amazing presentation? What am I missing here?”

Maybe that’s the mystique of Phantasm: It is a mess that teases you with a promise of actually making something with its life… and then it slouches back down on the couch and says, “Nah.”

For truly, 2016’s Phantasm: Ravager was the last opportunity for these aging actors and filmmakers to land the franchise, seeing as how this came 18 years after the fourth movie and was released right about the time that Angus Scrimm (who played the iconic Tall Man) passed away at the age of 89.

Against all odds, Reggie (Reggie Bannister) is still alive and nominally fleeing/fighting the Tall Man and his oh-so-gradually world-conquering minions. But now his mind is fragmented, with Reggie jumping between three time periods, including a post-apocalyptic world. What’s going on, and will he ever find Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) again?

Ravager is a movie fighting against a whole lot of odds. It’s fighting against the characters’ obvious age. It’s struggling with a micro-budget, horrible CGI, and too much plot ambition. And it’s saddled with — for the first time in this series — a different director than Don Coscarelli (who did co-write the script).

Yet it’s not nearly the wash I thought it might be given some of the reviews I had heard from the series faithful. Bannister gives it his all for this final performance, and he convinces me that he might just save the world before he ends up in a real old folks home.

And for those faithful fans who were always hoping to see the talked-up (and impossibly pricey) Phantasm’s End pitch from the ’90s, at least we do get some extended adventures in a truly grim post-apocalyptic world where the battle’s been quite extensively lost. It’s the scifi twists like this that set this franchise apart, and I was glad to see Reggie get a couple of new sidekicks while he attempts to fight the good fight.

Ravager is a farewell lap to this inconsistent, incoherent, insane little series with a can-do heart. The fan bait here is slathered on thick, and I appreciate the attempt — if not the success — to bring this saga to a close. Like pretty much every film after the second, it’s for the loyal crowd only, but if you start, you might as well go all the way.

Didja notice?

  • “That’s right… it was in the glove box.”
  • Reggie’s “suit up” scene
  • The horse gets death sphere’d
  • The Lady in Lavender
  • “You’ll never understand. It’s called loyalty.”
  • “You’re not even real. You’re my bad dream.”
  • The video game zoom through the conquered world
  • Alien viruses make your head pop
  • The Hemi’s got machine guns now
  • Rocky’s back!

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