Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead
Reggie and a pair of unlikely allies pursue the Tall Man, who’s kidnapped Mike.
This entry picks up right where part two ends, then abandons the prior film’s plot threads in favor of a more direct sequel to the first film.
Reggie Bannister returns as Reggie, but A. Michael Baldwin, who played Mike in the original film, replaces James Le Gros. While part two saw the pair hunting the Tall Man, this entry posits the Tall Man as hunting them, wanting Mike for some cryptic reason.
Sure enough, the Tall Man kidnaps Mike, and Reggie heads out to save him. Bill Thornbury returns as Mike’s older brother Jody, though he’s now less than human, and accompanies Reggie on the rescue mission.
Along the way, Reggie stops in a deserted town decimated by the Tall Man, where a group of bandits ambush him. John Davis Chandler plays the bandit leader in what could be the same character he played with such convincing menace in The Young Savages.
But the bandits meet their match in Tim, a grade-school kid orphaned by the Tall Man. Tim’s rigged his house up with a series of booby traps—think Home Alone but lethal, and proves quick on the draw with his dead father’s pistol and—in a glorious moment of unexpected violence—a tomahawk.
Tim and Reggie track the Tall Man to an abandoned mausoleum. There they meet Rocky, a crew cut sporting, combat boot wearing woman, armed with a no-nonsense attitude and nunchaku. Reggie takes a prurient interest, but Rocky’s having none of it. She holds her own in fights and doesn’t devolve into a damsel in distress. Amazing.
This unlikely trio soon rescues Mike, only to find themselves under siege from the Tall Man and the reanimated bandits in “the largest Gothic mausoleum in the western US.”
Along the way, wide shots of the returning Hemicuda cruising empty highways bordered by majestic fields and mountains project a sense of beautiful desolation.
The tone hews to the 80s action-horror of part two, but also introduces a welcome dose of black humor via the bandits and booby traps.
The action set pieces belie the minuscule budget. A high-speed shootout with the bandits evokes George Miller’s Mad Max series. And one could enjoy a drinking game based on how often someone crashes through a window.
In short: the best direct-to-video third entry in a fifteen-year-old franchise I’ve seen.