Release Date(s)1998 (September 18, 2018)
Studio(s)Starway International, Inc./MGM (Well Go USA)
- Film/Program Grade: C-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: D+
Now we come to the end of the line with Don Coscarelli’s 1998 effort Phantasm: Oblivion (the fourth entry in the Phantasm series, for those keeping count), which was originally thought to conclude to tale of the infamous Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) and his murderous silver spheres. This time around, Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) is on the road, driving far out into the desert where Reggie (Reggie Bannister) can’t find him as feels himself transforming into a being of The Tall Man’s design. Meanwhile, Reggie attempts to find Mike with the help of Jody (Bill Thornbury) and wants nothing more than to wipe The Tall Man off the face of the Earth.
I would describe Phantasm IV as an interesting film, perhaps one of the most interesting films in the franchise as a whole. Originally, a script by Roger Avary was meant to be The Tall Man’s next outing, but for various reasons, it never came into being. Instead, we have a film that’s nothing like the previous three. It’s not a horror film, nor is it an action film, or even a comedy for that matter. It’s more of a spiritual journey for the characters, and depending on your fondness for them, could potentially be boring. We learn a bit more about The Tall Man’s origins, as well as his ties to Mike, Reggie, and Jody, but the scare quotient is at an all-time low.
The most fascinating aspect of Phantasm IV is that it utilizes entire scenes that were lifted out of the first film, making them a part of the overall narrative. It’s an interesting concept and they’re mostly successful at sewing them into the fabric without feeling out of place. I do think that Reggie was kind of sidelined for this film though. He has very little to do, other than to replicate his actions from the previous films, which is to find female survivors, only for them to turn out to be minions of The Tall Man... rinse, wash, repeat. To be completely honest, Phantasm IV: Oblivion just isn’t that exciting, and indeed it took me a couple of watches before I could even appreciate it. If you’re in it only for the nightmarish horror and spooky imagery, this is not a sequel you’re going to enjoy. Only the open-minded need apply here (and if you’re not open-minded, The Tall Man will be glad to unlock it for you with his trusty sphere drill – just a thought).
Well Go USA’s single Blu-ray release of Phantasm IV: Oblivion appears to carry the same transfer as the one found in their Phantasm Collection boxed set. It’s a generally pleasant presentation with nice detail and a clear picture with decent grain levels, although the CGI (brief though it may be) doesn’t hold up well in high definition. Colors are also well-represented, although they tend not to pop as well as they should, while black levels are deep with good shadow detail. Everything is fairly bright and well-defined and the overall appearance is clean with no major leftover instances of damage or dirt. The audio is included in English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH. Dialogue is clean and clear on both tracks, while score sometimes takes a slight backseat to the rest of presentation. Both tracks offer plenty of panning when the flying silver balls are in the air, but the 5.1 is slightly more aggressive, particularly for ambient sounds and low end activity.
Substantially, there isn’t really anything new when it comes to the extras. It’s all the same material that’s been hanging around since Anchor Bay’s original DVD release, but it also doesn’t feature any of the new material that was included in the aforementioned Phantasm Collection boxed set, which quickly went out of print. What you do get is an audio commentary with Don Coscarelli, Reggie Bannister, and Angus Scrimm; Phantasm IV: Behind the Scenes, 11 minutes of random on-the-set footage cut together with the final footage; the film’s trailer; and trailers for Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum, The Endless, and Afraid (which also open the disc). It’s also worth noting that all of these extras (aside from the commentary) play straight through, ala Laserdisc, when you select one of them, so keep your remote control handy. What you don’t get is the Death is No Escape – The Making of Phantasm IV: Oblivion 48-minute documentary; a 30-minute behind the scenes compilation; Phantasm Sequels: Conceptual Art Gallery by Justin Zaharczuk; a promo for the film; and a behind the scenes still gallery. Basically, this is a cheaper package if you don’t care so much about the extras, but not having them included is a real disappointment for those who missed out on the boxed set.
The presentation of Phantasm IV: Oblivion is certainly a good one, but I suspect it won’t be the last we’ll see of it on home video. Again, there’s not much reason to pick it up unless you’re a collector or you didn’t nab the boxed set when it was still in print.
- Tim Salmons