Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994)

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You know, I think I’ve seen this before. It certainly seems familiar, but I couldn’t give you a time frame of when I actually viewed it. If I did it was probably on SciFi before SyFy came along and started to suck.

Phantasm III picks up immediately after the end of the last installment. Reggie and Mike are still trying to defeat the Tall Man, except this time Mike manages to get his ass captured and it falls to Reggie to not only find and save his friend, but to stop the demented morticians evil deeds as well.

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Casting off the chains of the larger companies, Phantasm III returns to the series roots, reintroducing the more dream oriented elements from the first film. It also incorporates many of the action elements introduced in the second film, giving the third installment a nice balance between the action and chills.

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Chills! Get it….hehe…he…. I’ll see myself out.

Despite the smaller budget, the decrease in funds does little to affect the visual quality of the film. Less money, in this case, did not necessarily mean cheaper visual effects. By this point the filmmakers were adding in some digital effects and blending them into the more practical camera techniques, making much of the film look visually on par, if not better than, its immediate predecessor.

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With those damn spheres flying around, people need to pay more attention where they’re going in these movies…or at least learn to duck.

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Michael Baldwin returns in this installment to reprise his role as Mike, his return handled with some clever costuming and editing. Not that you actually get much time to spend with him. Not too long after his return he’s promptly whisked away by The Tall Man and effectively drops off the face of the earth for 3/5ths of the story.

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Welcome ba-…Aaaaand he’s gone again. Well, that was short.

It’s at this point in time when the series subtitle can effectively be changed to, “Reggie Takes A Road Trip,” because that pretty much summarized a good chunk of not only this film, but the next one as well. With Mike gone, Reggie takes center stage and the more screen time he has the more it becomes clear that he is this series Bruce Campbell (Not at all a bad thing.) His cross-country search for his absconded friend is surprisingly unhurried and often interrupted by a series of encounters with looters, gun crazed children and two, female ex-army women who seem to like to hang out in mausoleums.

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This wasn’t what they meant by ‘hang out’, Reggie.

Which brings me to the two new characters, Tim (aka Child Rambo) and Rocky, one of the aforementioned army gals with a fondness for nunchakus. Both add some interesting action to the film and buck a few trends by not being the helpless child/damsel in distress, but their main purpose here is for comic relief and to spur the horny advances of one Reggie Bannister.

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Back off, baldy.

There are a lot of returning series traditions here. The dwarves and the human minions are back, and this time we also have a new addition to the club of evil: Zombies. Yes, [i]Phantasm III[/i] introduces zombies into the mix to further thwart our heroes. At this point it feels like our heroes already had [i]too[/i] much to worry about without the added annoyance of the snarky walking dead, but I guess the thinking here is that you can never have too many enemies.

Oh, and the spheres are back.

And there are a lot of them.

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Like, A LOT.

Phantasm III also had the obligatory expansion of the stories ideas and themes, with a hint about the inner workings of the spheres.

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Though that brings about more questions then answers.

Whether everything thrown into the mix of Phantasm III works is going to end up as a matter of taste. It has as many high points as it does low points and there are small instances where the budget starts to show (thought they aren’t nearly as laughably bad as the first film.) Those who enjoyed the first two movies will find something to enjoy here (and probably be pissed off by the ending.) It’s still fun and creepy and a little corny, but people who found nothing enjoyable in anything previous should look elsewhere. Those who did like the first two films will likely enjoy this one just as much.

Phantasm III is currently available for streaming via Amazon Prime.

It is also available on DVD and Bluray.

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Michi

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