In Phantasm 4, we pick up right after the thrilling events of Phantasm 3. Remember how Ice cream vendor, Reggie, was surrounded by a hundred killer spheres and Kid Shooter got ripped through a window by a Jawa? Well, I’m glad you do because the movie shows the Tall Man letting Reggie go but at no point does Reggie look for or mention Kid Shooter.
That kid is dead.
Anyhoo, Reggie doesn’t know why the Tall Man let him go and Reggie doesn’t care. He’s tired of this shit. He just wants to go back to being a cool middle-aged ice cream man and forget all this dead body/killer sphere shit. The ghost of Jody tries to talk some sense into Reggie but Reggie is done.
Meanwhile, Mike is his own and keeps having flashbacks to when he was a kid. The reason for this is the director found three hours of unreleased footage from the last movie and by the ghost of Vincent Price, he is going to get as much of that footage into this movie as possible.
That sounds harsh from me, but the result is kind of interesting. Mike is having several existential crises moments as the Tall Man appears, says something cryptic, and then Mike remembers something that may or might not have happened. Half of the movie is Mike sitting in the desert, wondering if any of this is real. You know, the Phantasm brand of not understanding shit about what is going on.
The other half of the movie is Reggie running into weird shit. He gets pulled over by a monster in a cop car, with the original cop crammed into the car trunk like a broken Transformer. Reggie also finds a hot chick way out of his league who is another obvious trap but at least she has a sensible name like Jennifer before her boobs come to life and try to kill him. Honestly, Reggie has the cool adventures while Mike has all the trippy weird shit.
Reggie and Mike finally reunite and find out some secrets about the Tall Man. See, the Tall Man was once a kind and gentle Civil War-era mortician who did some experiments in dimensional portals as he tried to understand the afterlife. One day, The kindly doctor makes a portal, steps through but then the Tall Man comes back wearing his body. Oops! Went to the wrong dimension, buddy.
At least, I think that is what happened. It’s Phantasm so your guess is as good as mine.
In the end, Mike uses his psychic powers to blow up the Tall Man, killing him for sure thi-nope, the Tall Man literally re-appears a few seconds later. The Tall Man rips a golden sphere out of Mike’s head, perhaps killing Mike, and then stepping through a portal. Reggie chases after the Tall Man through the portal.
As Mike lies dying, he remembers/imagines riding with Reggie in his ice cream truck when Mike was a kid. They hear sounds from the present day but dismiss them as the wind.
This is the cheapest of the Phantasm movies, made with a mere 650K. It certainly shows, but it actually helps the story. The 2nd and 3rd movie were action movies while this has dialed back down to personal horror. Reggie will always be getting jumped by monsters while Mike will always struggle with not understanding the fuck out of anything. Is Mike even human? Is the Tall Man real? Is anything real? Maybe the entire movie franchise is Mike’s nightmares as a child, still mourning the loss of his brother and family. We don’t know! Mike sure as fuck doesn’t know.
Which is maybe why Phantasm is my favorite movie franchise. It is illogical, callus with characters’ lives with an inscrutable near-invincible villain: just like a nightmare.