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Frank's Movie Log

My life at the movies.

Phantasm IV: Oblivion

1998 | United States | 90 min | More...
A still from Phantasm IV: Oblivion (1998)
C+: 3 stars (out of 5)
on Thu Apr 27, 2023

Mike confronts the Tall Man in the desert with Reggie in pursuit.

This entry picks up where the prior film ended, knitting parts two, three, and four into one long film where the characters age years in seconds.

Following part three’s cliffhanger, Mike flees in a hearse, urging Reggie not to follow. Reggie follows.

Mike’s suspect motivation proves the first hint of this entry’s pivot back to the original film’s nightmare logic. Mike’s attempts to alienate Reggie run counter to his true desires, as though he’s not in control of himself. Soon he’s not in control of the hearse, as the Tall Man appears and assumes telepathic control, steering Mike into the desert.

Meanwhile, Reggie endures a series of nightmare episodes in his pursuit. In one, a traffic stop culminates in one of the Tall Man’s minions vomiting yellow goo into Reggie’s mouth. In another, an alluring woman’s breasts pulsate and swell until the Tall Man’s signature metal balls burst forth. Both sequences hearken to the original film’s dream-logic esthetic, but also brandish moments of Evil Dead style comedy-horror, with Reggie channeling Ash’s false bravado and crowd-pleasing one-liners.

Throughout, writer-director Don Coscarelli weaves in excised material from the original film. Instead of the disjointed clip-show one might expect, these sequences feel intentional, tying this entry to the original film despite the almost twenty-year gap between productions.

Coscarelli proffers more storytelling sleight-of-hand with the Tall Man’s origin and how he addresses the prior film’s cliffhanger ending. With both, he offers more information while maintaining the mystery. The origin story, in particular, shines as an example of how to enrich a character without diminishing its mystique.

Everything culminates with Reggie arriving in the desert to rescue Mike. And just as you’ve adjusted to the film’s tonal shift away from 80s action, Reggie pops the Hemicuda’s trunk to retrieve his four barrel shotgun before donning his ice cream man outfit and heading into battle. Notice the chainsaw in the trunk—a nod to the film’s tonal inspiration?

Despite the welcome return to form, this entry feels like a middle chapter. It offers little standalone narrative. Instead, it advances a bigger plot from part three’s cliffhanger revelation to an expected part five’s resolution. Though I doubt Coscarelli imagined said resolution would take eighteen years to realize.

Viewing History

    Watched on
    Thu Apr 27, 2023 via Blu-ray (Phantasm: The Complete Collection, Arrow, 2020)