2014 marks the 35th anniversary of the theatrical release of the original Phantasm, a nightmarish horror classic written and directed by Don Coscarelli that managed to carve out its own comfortable spot in the history of the genre despite being initially dismissed as an unfocused oddity. It was released at the tail end of a decade forever identified with the rise of gritty, grounded shockers such as The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, and Dawn of the Dead and stood out from the pack for its offbeat approach to conventional horror filmmaking and its iconic villain the Tall Man, a delightfully old school baddie played with menace and mirth by the great Angus Scrimm. Phantasm spawned three sequels, the first made for Universal Pictures with an increased budget and elaborate visual effects.
The last sequel, Phantasm IV: Oblivion, was released in 1998 and was a low-budget affair created using an extensive amount of scenes deleted from the first film. It also ended with a weird cliffhanger that has had fans of the series clamoring for another installment ever since. Throughout the years there have been multiple rumors floating around regarding a new Phantasm movie, and earlier this week “Phans” everywhere got a huge surprise when it was revealed that a fifth movie was not only in the works, it was already finished and awaiting a release. Phantasm: Ravager is very real, my fellow fiends, and it is on its way with a vengeance. The first poster was released two days ago, and since then information about this no-longer-secret project has been released piecemeal. Today the film’s minute-long teaser trailer has debuted, and you can check it out, as well as the poster, here below.
At one point before the new sequel was made official, a legitimate fifth film was being developed with a screenplay by Oscar-winner Roger Avary (Pulp Fiction) that would have been set in a post-apocalyptic future with Bruce Campbell leading a team of soldiers in a mission to destroy the Tall Man. There was also talk of a remake but nothing ever came of that.
For Ravager, Coscarelli ceded directing duties to David Hartman, who has provided the visual effects for the director’s last two films Bubba Ho-Tep and John Dies at the End and has an extensive background in animation direction for shows such as Transformers Prime and My Friends Tigger & Pooh. A veritable jack of all trades, Hartman has also worked with Rob Zombie on the music videos for “American Witch” and “Lords of Salem.”
Of the movie, Coscarelli said:
“I felt it was time to let someone else play with my train set. David and I go back to my film Bubba Ho-Tep. He did terrific visual effects on that, and more recently created a wild animated sequence and some amazing visual effects in my most recent film, John Dies at the End. Our aesthetics are in sync and he’s quite an experienced director in his own right.”
In a statement Hartman said:
“Having worked with Don before, and being a huge fan of the entire Phantasm franchise, it was a great honor to do Ravager with him. This film is a real turning point in the series. There’s real closure for the core characters that I hope fans will respond to.”
The series’ central cast will be returning for Ravager as well. Scrimm is back as the Tall Man and he’s joined by Reggie Bannister, Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornsbury, and Kathy Lester. The movie was filmed in and around Southern California (the franchise’s familiar stomping grounds) over the past two years.
Coscarelli reportedly financed the Ravager production out of his own pocket in order to retain total creative freedom for himself and Hartman:
“The Phantasm films have been a guerrilla operation for decades now, totally outside of the studio system,” said the series’ creator and overlord. “We do them for the fans, and I think Ravager will definitely please them. In the past few years several studios have made offers to remake Phantasm with large budgets, but the fans were very vocal that they wanted the original cast to return and finish this iteration of the story with class.”
Phantasm: Ravager has no release date at this time, but since it has been completed and promotional materials are trickling out we can expect to hear some encouraging news soon.