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Phantasm IV: OblIVion (Blu-ray Review)

In 2017 (Kinda the end of 2016, but hear me out), one of my BIGGEST bucket list items for Blu-ray finally was checked off; the entire Phantasm series arrived on Blu-ray. The iconic Tall Man’s entire chronicles of antagonizing the ice cream man Reggie and his friend Mike arrived in glorious restored 1080p glory. The first film features an outstanding restoration from JJ Abrams and company during the post production of The Force Awakens. Last year, everything was only available via limited edition boxed sets from Arrow and Well Go USA. Now, Well Go USA is finally giving Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead and Phantasm IV: Oblivion standalone releases. So, for those of you who missed out on the now out of print set, you can snag yourself the only two entries not available by themselves on September 18th. This review will cover the penultimate chapter, and what many of us thought for years may very well be the final Phantasm, Oblivion.

Film 

With a hearse as his escape vehicle, Mike flees from the Tall Man , who wants to enslave him as an undead servant. Along the way, he investigates the origins of his enemy. Elsewhere, Mike’s friend Reggie searches for him in a variety of dimensions, all the while battling mysterious spheres, including the ones he’s discovered in the breasts of his beautiful undead companion. The friends must stop the Tall Man before he destroys them all.

Phantasm IV: Oblivion was original supposed to be something else entirely, but could never get the funding, and the funding it did receive wasn’t much. So, we get something probably in the production range closer to that of a straight to video (Which it was) Children of the Corn or Hellraiser movie than something like Phantasm III. For better or worse, its a valid excuse or thing to keep in mind when watching the film after two pretty action-heavy horror classics back to back in the series.

As a part of the 5-part Phantasm series (And now that we actually have a 5th and final closing chapter), Oblivion works pretty fine. As a standalone horror film, its rather dull, sits around and waits only to have a sorta lackluster finale. Due to the budget constraints there is a lot of sitting around, hanging in cars, Michael by himself, voice overs and anything they can do to keep from having to spend money where they don’t have to. There aren’t many interiors in Oblivion, too.

Oblivion plays as a calm before the storm episode of television before a big 2-part season finale. You don’t want to blast off right before that, so you gotta do something calm; bottle episodes and such. This one is just about the characters separated and going to find each other while also learning of the Tall Man’s past and what exactly the hell is up with Jody. This is Phantasm’s rendition of that “Untold secrets revealed” film like Freddy’s Dead, Jason Goes To Hell, The Curse of Michael Myers and Hellraiser: Bloodline. But, while this would play well as part of a Phantasm TV series, back when the film released, it was a pretty big disappointment to watch, not knowing if another movie would come. NOW, since we have all the films on home video and can watch in succession and it DOESN’T end here playing like a glorified epilogue, we can be kinder to it.

Coscarelli’s fourth Phantasm film is definitely interesting, a change of pace and doesn’t feel like what came before. It still holds up and keeps it together in the special effects department. What might be the most impressive is his incorporation of footage he shot for the first movie and never used being implemented here and really helping drive the story and feel almost as if it was specifically written for this film. It’s not forced in at all, and is pretty impressive and in good shape. There are things happening here that you can’t believe were shot for that original film and scratch your head wondering where the hell it would have fit in.

After the thrill ride of the last two movies, its okay to come down and take a breath, but the rest doesn’t do Oblivion much good. It could have been a low key thriller, but instead feels more like a bridge just to get to whatever movie was next or to try and tie up the loose ends of the series without interest or having much of a way to pad around the revelations. While its interesting enough for me as a fan, its probably the least likely Phantasm in the canon that I’d reach for to watch by itself. It pretty much only works if you’re watching the series in order in a marathon viewing or re-visitation.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Once again this takes the original aspect of 1.85:1 and opens up to 1.78:1. Not a big difference, but for purists, it can be. Details are pretty strong. Its not as crisp and polished as the other one, but looks rock solid and is the best its ever looked and on the better end of above average.

Depth:  Depth of field is all right, but not quite as spacial as the previous film’s presentation was.  Movements are smooth and cinematic with minimal blur or jitter issues.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and pretty decently saturated. There is some murkiness that comes in spots of the more modern footage, while the 1970s carries a much more natural looking darkness.

Color Reproduction:

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish. Facial features like make-up, wrinkles, moles, freckles and lip texture all come through pretty cleanly from any reasonable given distance.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean for the most part with no real distracting issues.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: Phantasm IV is another straight to video effort like the 3rd one, but features a much more profound and commanding 5.1 track. While that one was fine, this one is pretty immersive and in your face when the film takes an explosive action turn. Its all woven together with a solid balance that sees the vocals just a hair under the music and the sound effects, but it works quite well. Nuances and depth on the effects feels pretty good and impressively feels streamlined with the old 1970s footage.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer here is a HUGE jump from the third one’s performance. Scoring beats, shotgun blasts and especially EXPLOSIONS rock your room with great thunder and rumbling.

Surround Sound Presentation: Sound travel is pretty terrific here like the 3rd film. The score can encompass the room utilizing the thrust of the rear channels. Hearing the balls zoom around through the rear channels and back and forth up front is really whoosh’y and fun.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp, maybe just a tick lower than the score and effects in the overall mix.

Extras 

Phantasm IV: Oblivion‘s standalone Blu-ray release does not contain all the bonus material found for it in the edition in the Collector’s set released last year. It has been stripped down to some very basic supplements. Those hoping to see the retrospective documentary on the film are going to be sorely disappointed.

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Don Coscarelli and Actors Reggie Bannister and Angus Scrimm

Phantasm IV: Behind the Scenes (HD/SD, 10:30) – A montage of on-set footage mixed in with clips from the film from the film (Showing comparison from on set perspective to finished product) featuring some make-up, shooting of scenes, cast and crew interaction, Coscarelli directing and more.

Trailer (HD, 1:47)

Summary 

Phantasm IV: Oblivion is for the hardest of the hardcore fans, serving as more of a bridge episode than a feature length horror film. Well Go USA’s standalone release of the film features the same terrific audio and solid video presentation previously featured on their boxed set release. Unfortunately, like III, they’ve neutered the bonus material, zapping the most important featurette, the retrospective documentary. BUT, as I said before, the film itself is once again readily available on Blu-ray.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

1 Response to “Phantasm IV: OblIVion (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Jay

    My favorite Phantasm sequel, much better than 3