Phantasm 2 opens with a young woman talking about the dreams she is having. Because this is the 80’s and the woman is blonde, she has psychic abilities. Her dreams recap the events of of the first Phantasm and adds the helpful bit of info that the main villain, the Tall Man, is coming for her.
We cut to the last few minutes of the first movie where Mike gets pulled through a mirror in his bedroom. never fear, because Reggie, the middle-age balding icer cream vendor is there to save him! Well, not so much as Reggie gets trapped in the kitchen with an empty shotgun and surrounded by the Jawas of the first movie. Reggie solves this problem by turning on the gas on his oven real high, grabbing Mike and then jumping out the window as his house explodes in fireball. Wow!
Except none of that happened. We see Mike, all grown up and looking sour in an insane asylum. See, he imagined all of that. Whoa, something happened and then it turned out to not be real? You just got Phantasm’d!
Anyhoo, Mike gets released from the asylum by pretending to be sane and the first thing the kid does is dig up the local cemetery. Turns out there are no bodies in those graves, which even Reggie thinks is suspicious. Reggie still isn’t sure about Mike and his psychic visions until Mike has a vision of their house exploding with all of their family. Two seconds later, the house explodes and kills all of their family. Well, Reggie is on board now. It is time to go hunting a Tall Man, his Jawas and his killer flying spheres.
After the dreamlike quality of the first movie, the sequel is pretty straightforward. Mike and Reggie go from town to town, following the Tall Man’s trail. They load up on weapons and make a few of their own because that is what you did in the 80’s. Just ask McGyver and the A-Team. They run into a few traps before finally finding psychic girl from the beginning of the movie. when she gets kidnapped, they launch an attack on the Tall Man’s new funeral home, which is just as deadly as the first one. Things blow up and damsels are narrowly saved.
You could argue that this movie is more of an action movie rather than the horror movie that the first one was. There are a lot of fight scenes and close calls. This movie had the biggest budget of any of the Phantasm movies at a whopping three million dollars and it shows in the bigger explosions and stunts. This movie hads a mythology of the Tall man slowly killing small towns across America and you can tell the studio really wanted to make this into a franchise.
There are still some creepy moments though. The shots of abandoned small towns are unsettling. The Tall Man has some human henchmen, called Gravers, that are never explained. Their wiliness to participate in these atrocities heightens the malice. The Jawas are still almost laughable except for one or two scenes that remind you that they are reanimated corpses.
The small budget means there is a lack of even background actors, which gives the movie a desolate feel,. Every set looks empty because there are at most four characters in any scene. I know if this was deliberate, but it reinforces the idea that America is slowing dying off. It also the closest the movie gets to feeling like a nightmare.
All in all, this feels like the dumber bigger brother to the classic of the first movie, but still a lot of fun to watch. Reggie is the only guy in horror who looks like a regular joe and that means a lot.
As for the Tall Man, he’s still a creepy mother-fucker.