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Phantasm: Ravager (Blu-ray Review)

Phantasm VI’ve been waiting like 15 years or so for this movie.  The fifth and final Phantasm movie.  And it was done in super secret with the trailer surprising the hell out of EVERYONE when it randomly popped up a year or so ago.  For years there were rumors and such, but Reggie Bannister was the voice of honesty shooting it down.  Now, the final chapter, Ravager is here (Well, its been here, but its finally here for the Blu-ray review, Jason Coleman covered it a few months back.  It features the final appearance by Angus Scrimm, and fitting it being in his most signature and iconic role.  The main players are all back, and its up to Reggie, the guitar slaying ice cream man, to save the world from the Tall Man.  Don Coscarelli oversaw the film, but for some reason stepped back and let someone else take the director’s chair on the last film in his most famous series of films.  What started way back in 1979 finally comes to a head here in 2016.

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Film 

After battling with the Tall Man in Phantasm: Oblivion, a battered Reggie wanders through the desert in search of his missing friend, Mike. After recovering his 1971 Hemi ‘Cuda, Reggie is targeted by two of the Tall Man’s Sentinel Spheres and destroys them. He awakens suddenly to find himself sitting in a wheelchair pushed by none other than the elusive Mike! Although overjoyed by their reunion, Reggie is in this alternate dimension an aged and weary old patient in a psychiatric ward. And only he remembers their battled and bloodied past with the Tall Man. Reggie must travel between dimensions and discern what is reality in order to confront the mysteries at the heart of a decades-long struggle against evil. He is met with new and familiar faces along the way, and an epic showdown on the Tall Man’s home world awaits!

Since I knew I would be receiving this as a review copy, as much as I was excited for it, I held off on seeing Ravager during its initial release.  The feedback from trusted sources wasn’t too positive on it and after watching it myself, I realized that they were pretty right and I’m glad I didn’t rush out to see the film.  Its a shame that the final film in the Phantasm series is ultimately a disappointment.  But, in a way, even with its low quality, we are lucky it got made and that the book was closed.

I’m not the first to refer to it as such, but this really does feel like a Phantasm fan film from many angles.  Which is a shame, because every film in the series had its own flavor and approach (Though 3 is very close to being like the second).  This one pretty much sits on all the beats of the previous film while trying to be a little bit bigger in scale, while all the time feeling like one of the smallest films in the series.  That may be due to the overall look of the film.  Its appearance is that of a fan film that lucked out and happened to hire the actors from the original.  Effects are revealing and a CG that feels too separate from the actors to be believable and some of the settings feel from an early 2000s video game.

Maybe fans don’t care about that stuff or maybe it doesn’t bother them.  In addition to my fandom, I’m also knowledgeable on film production and the cheapness of the movie just made it difficult to engage.  The 4th film in the series was a super cheapie, but it at least LOOKED like a movie.  This one is super duper digital and feels so separate in appearance from the others that is really sticks out.  Its a shame, because everyone in the film is truly game for it.

Now, previously I was really down on OblIVion (The fourth Phantasm) as the weakest link in the series.  That film, was basically a lot of characters by themselves in the desert having inner monologues while deleted footage from the first film plays.  Its the cheapest form of making a film, where its basically a clip show and a setting that cost no money.  Its adds a little to the mythos of the Tall Man, but is ultimately a 90 minute bore.  Ravager does a whole lot more, but adds zero to anything.  Its got action, scene changes and feels like there’s plot movement, but its not.  Its also obsessed with this “which alternate reality is real?” device that I find myself not caring about.  Its almost a 2-headed coin to flip, but at this time I’ll say Ravager is barely a step up from IV because the characters in this movie at least do stuff and there’s consistent action.  Though, IV actually looks like a movie, which you wouldn’t think so, but goes a long way.  Ravager is there, I’m glad I saw it, will probably see it again down the road, but ultimately is a bit of a let down.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: BD-25

Clarity/Detail: Once again, Well Go USA either loves BD-25 or have so many unused one sitting around they are trying to get rid of them.  This one looks very good though, with plenty of detail and a stronger, sharper image to display.  There is a dim, dingy kind of feeling to the overall look of the film, but I have a feeling that’s maybe a filter or lowering the brightness attempt in post production to cover up the cheapness or to make it try to look a little more cinematic.  Overall, the image is still very clean, digital and good.

Depth:  Solid depth work here.  Nothing outrageous, and that may be at the crutch of the special effects.  Actors move freely and smoothly through their environments.  There is a good separation between green screen background and actor as well.

Black Levels:  Blacks are deep and rich.  A lot of this movie looks a bit dim, but detail comes through decently.  I didn’t notice crushing during my review, but I wouldn’t put it past it being there and just missing my glance on the viewing.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are pretty bold here.  There are some bleached out sequences, but reds really come as the main player here whether it be blood shooting or a filter on the scene.  Other natural colors like browns, whites and such come on strong.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural with a hint of being a little bleached out.  It maintains appearance from scene to scene until the end.  Details on facial features like stubble, freckles, wrinkles, dried blood, make up and such come through pretty clear, impressing in close ups and standing well in medium shots.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

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Audio 

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

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics:  Phantasm: Ravager features a solid little 5.1 mix that is really just pretty much getting the job done.  Look, this is a cheap film and for what it is, this track is fine.  Action sounds are very post production, public domain effects sounding, but they are loud and clear in this mix.  Balance between vocals, effects and the score is good and free of one another.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Shotgun blasts, hovering balls, engine revving, explosions and drilling sounds all give a little rumble to the subwoofer in addition to the music.

Surround Sound Presentation:  This one actually has some fun here with movements from front to back and giving unique sounds to the rear channel speakers.  No, its not all the time of fully flushed out, but it doesn’t forget them and that’s more than most.  Movement of action and characters right to left and back again is fun and accurate.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Vocals are clean, crisp and accurately placed within the 5 channel mix.

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Extras 

Bonus features play in sort of Play All function, after you play one, the next sequential feature will automatically begin.

Audio Commentary

  • With Don Coscarelli and David Hartman

Behind the Scenes (HD, 5:24) – While being a generic little EPK commercial, it does contain some good genuine bites from Reggie Bannister as well as a nice anecdote about Angus Scrimm from Don Coscarelli.

Deleted Scenes (HD, 7:53) 

Phuntasm: Bloopers & Outtakes (HD, 8:40) 

Trailer (HD, 1:46)

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Summary 

Well, it sucks to say that this final and long awaited Phantasm finale was underwhelming and below average.  Maybe over time I’ll accept it better and soften to it?  Who knows?  But, regardless, I am glad Ravager got made and maybe more fans are accepting and happier than I am.  This Blu-ray features a solid, very good picture and audio mix that is just fine for what this film is.  The extras are a bit of nothing and I really wanted some more, but it is what it is.  For the Phantasm collector, you may want to rent it now, then own it when the box set comes along and you can just take this as a bonus feature.  Because, in all honesty, in the big scheme of things, this movie’s existence kind of is.

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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).

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