To me, Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm franchise is the Harry Potter of the horror genre. It’s a world rife with the fantastic and the bizarre, in which ordinary people face off against an extraordinary foe; one who slips from one dimension to the next, feeding on the inhabitants of small towns, and turning their dead into soldiers in his hellish army. It’s a series that “Phans” hold dear, but, admittedly, is something of an acquired taste – certainly not a franchise one can simply jump into at any chapter and expect to understand much of what’s going on. This, however, is precisely why I love the Phantasm films as much as I do, as it’s obvious that Coscarelli makes these films for the fans, and eschews the crowd-pleasing conventions and plot simplification that would win over mainstream audiences (well, save for Phantasm 2, but, even then, Coscarelli didn’t dumb things down too much). No other film in the series illustrates the director’s dedication to the purity of his beloved franchise more than Phantasm IV: Oblivion; a hallucinatory mindfuck of a movie that brings the series full circle.
Oblivion picks up where Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead left off, as Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) is once again on the run from The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm), leaving it up to the hapless hippie, Reggie (Reggie Bannister), to pick up the pieces along the way. With a sphere implanted in his skull, Mike is discovering new things about both himself and The Tall Man, including bits about the grim harvester’s past that could very well help Mike to destroy him once and for all.
Things are complicated by the return of Jody (Bill Thornbury), as Mike isn’t sure whether or not he can trust the specter of his deceased brother, but, as Mike finds himself undergoing an irreversible transformation – one that will put him in league with his nemesis – he must set aside his doubts and rely on the few allies he has left.
To someone unfamiliar with the series, the above synopsis probably doesn’t mean a heck of a whole lot, but to Phans, it’s compelling stuff, I assure you, and, while the budgetary limitations are obvious, Coscarelli still maintains the “epic” feel that has run throughout the preceding films. One of the coolest things about Oblivion is Coscarelli’s use of “throwaway” footage from the first film, much of which serves as Mike and Reggie’s flashbacks, but adds loads of depth to the story, fills some voids, and provides an emotional conclusion that, no matter how many times I see it, sends a shiver down my spine. While it’s debatable as to whether or not Oblivion will serve as the final chapter in the Phantasm saga, it does wrap things up nicely (albeit in the same obscure manner as to which Phans have grown accustomed).
Phantasm: Oblivion joins the first and third parts of the series as a part of The Anchor Bay Collection, but extras here are as slim as Angus Scrimm, with a commentary by Coscarelli, Bannister, and Scrimm, as well as some rough behind-the-scenes footage serving as the only supplements of note.