Phantasm (franchise)

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Phantasm is an American horror film series that consists of five films, novels, comic books, and merchandise. It's about the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm), a supernatural and malevolent undertaker who turns the dead into dwarf zombies to do his bidding and take over the world. He is opposed by a young boy, Mike (A. Michael Baldwin), who tries to convince his older brother Jody (Bill Thornbury) and family friend Reggie (Reggie Bannister) of the threat. The first film was released in 1979 and received generally positive reviews and has garnered a cult following.


The story idea for the original film came to Don Coscarelli in a dream; one night, in his late teens, he dreamed of fleeing down endlessly long marble corridors, pursued by a chrome sphere intent on penetrating his skull with a wicked needle. There was also a quite futuristic "sphere dispenser" out of which the orbs would emerge and begin chasing him.

Originally writer-director Don Coscarelli considered the first film’s ending to be conclusive and did not feel knowledgeable about writing a sequel, but Coscarelli had what he described as a breakthrough when he realized that he could start the film immediately after the previous film’s final scene. He also added a road movie element in how Reggie and Mike combat the Tall Man, after which he described the process as straightforward.[1] Coscarelli has later revealed that some elements of this movie were influenced by Stephen King, specially a few aspects of his novel 'Salem's Lot'. For instance, the end of the novel, when the characters go out on the road chasing down vampires, gave him the "road movie" idea of Mike and Reggie chasing The Tall Man.

Universal Studios, who took an interest in the film because they wanted a horror series, allocated three million dollars; this was the lowest budget of any of their films in the 1980s, but it was the highest budget of any Phantasm film. Greg Nicotero and Robert Kurtzman, later of K.N.B. EFX, were recruited for special effects.[2] The studio exerted much control over the film, and they did not allow Coscarelli to include any dream sequences or ambiguity.[3] The executives also wanted to recast both A. Michael Baldwin and Reggie Bannister because they were unknown and had been out of the movie business since the release of the first movie. Don Coscarelli resisted their efforts and was forced to audition A. Michael Baldwin and Reggie Bannister for the opportunity to reprise their roles. In the end, his efforts won him a concession: he was allowed to keep one of the two, but had to replace the other; Coscarelli chose to keep Bannister and cast James Le Gros in Baldwin's place. After the mild box-office results of Phantasm II (1988), Universal Studios chose not to personally pursue a sequel but did offer to distribute it should Don Coscarelli and associates make it themselves.

With no casting restrictions this time, Coscarelli offered the role of Mike to his original performer, A. Michael Baldwin, who returned to the role after almost 16 years in Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead.

Roger Avary, a self-confessed hardcore fan of the Phantasm series, wrote an epic screenplay originally called "Phantasm 1999 A.D." as a follow-up to Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994). It was set in a post-apocalyptic near future, featuring Bruce Campbell as a co-star. As the time passed and they couldn't get the budget needed (around $10 million) Don Coscarelli wrote and directed a fourth installment titled Phantasm IV: Oblivion as a precursor to the project, that was conveniently re-titled "Phantasm 2012 A.D." before renaming the planned film as “Phantasm’s End.” Ultimately, when the financing for such an ambitious sequel couldn't be secured, the idea was scrapped altogether.

In 2004, six years after the release of Phantasm IV: Oblivion, series director Don Coscarelli told Fangoria, "I’d also still like to do another Phantasm film. Reggie Bannister and Angus Scrimm are still in great shape and raring to go."[4]

In March 2005, it was announced that Coscarelli was in the final stages of talks with New Line Cinema to produce a new entry. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the new film was "being developed as a relaunch and as a possible trilogy about Mike's coming of age."[5] This version never came to fruition.

Rumors about a sequel were reignited in June 2007 by footage contained in Don Coscarelli's Farewell to the Alamo Drafthouse, featuring Angus Scrimm and A. Michael Baldwin in their roles. However an interview with Reggie Bannister surfaced on YouTube, and, when asked about the possibility of a fifth film, he stated there was no activity or development but that anything was possible in the future.[6]

In June 2012, rumors again surfaced that Coscarelli would begin a new Phantasm sequel. According to a report on Dread Central, a reliable source told them the script was completed and filming would begin later in the year.[7] Coscarelli disputed this claim, publicly stating, "I have no solid news to report on a new project now."[7] The director, however, was being coy with film news sites. According to what Coscarelli and new co-writer-director David Hartman told Entertainment Weekly, the film was shot secretly[8] in and around southern California during 2012 and 2013.[9]

On March 26, 2014, news of Ravager's completion was released via various film news sites. The next day, a teaser trailer debuted on the film's official site.[10] In a 2014 "sneak peek" video preview on the official Phantasm website, director Hartman mentioned in quick passing, "This thing is going to be in the can 2015... for sure."[11] In September 2015 at Scarefest in Lexington, Kentucky, it was announced that the film has been delayed until 2016. The next month, Reggie Bannister announced that Ravager is completed and is awaiting a distributor.[12][13]


Film Year Director Screenwriter(s) Producer(s)
Phantasm 1979 Don Coscarelli Don Coscarelli
Phantasm II 1988 Roberto A. Quezada
Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead 1994 Don Coscarelli
Phantasm IV: Oblivion 1998 A. Michael Baldwin
Phantasm V: Ravager 2016 David Hartman Don Coscarelli
David Hartman
Don Coscarelli


The residents of a small town have begun dying under strange circumstances, leading young Mike to investigate. After discovering that the town's mortician, only known as the Tall Man, is killing and reanimating the dead as misshapen zombies, Mike seeks help from his older brother, Jody, and their friend Reggie, a local ice cream man. Working together, they try to lure out and destroy the Tall Man, all the while avoiding his minions and a deadly silver sphere.

Phantasm II[edit]

In Phantasm II, picking up exactly where the previous film leaves off, the Tall Man and his minions attempt to take Mike, but Reggie manages to save him by blowing up the house. Eight years later, Mike, now a mental patient, still has nightmares about the evil mortician, and is the only person to recall that dreadful night. Upon being released from the institution Mike, who's had a premonition about Reggie’s family, tries to warn his friend of the ensuing danger before an explosion murders the entire family. Convinced by Mike's futile warning, the two men set out to track the mysterious mortician down and rescue Liz Reynolds, a young woman, who has a psychic connection to both Mike and the Tall Man.

Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead[edit]

In Lord of the Dead, once more picking up exactly where the previous film leaves off, the Tall Man has infiltrated the minds of Mike and Reggie. The two friends embark on a journey to find and kill him, only to discover that he has destroyed town after town, leaving zombies in place of the living. Along the way, Mike and Reggie meet several characters who share their goal, including a murderous boy named Tim, and two young women who are excellent fighters.

Phantasm IV: Oblivion[edit]

In Oblivion, once again picking up exactly where the previous film leaves off, Mike flees from the Tall Man, who wants to enslave him as an undead servant. Along the way, he investigates the origins of his enemy. Elsewhere, Reggie searches for him in a variety of dimensions, all the while battling mysterious spheres, including the ones he's discovered in the breasts of his beautiful undead companion. The friends must stop the Tall Man before he destroys them all.

Phantasm V: Ravager[edit]

In Ravager, Reggie continues in his quest to stop the evil, dimension-hopping schemes of The Tall Man and his armada of killer Sentinel Spheres. This time, the fight becomes a multi-dimensional battle across an alien planet, multiple timelines, and altered realities, where the fate of Earth is on the line.

Recurring cast and characters[edit]

Characters Films
Phantasm Phantasm II Phantasm III:
Lord of the Dead
Phantasm IV:
Phantasm V:
1979 1988 1994 1998 2016
The Tall Man
Jebediah Morningside
Angus Scrimm
Mike Pearson A. Michael Baldwin James LeGros A. Michael Baldwin
Jody Pearson Bill Thornbury Bill Thornbury
Reggie Reggie Bannister
Lady in Lavender Kathy Lester Kathy Lester
Rocky Gloria Lynne Henry Gloria Lynne Henry

Box office[edit]

When comparing Phantasm films to other major horror franchises such as Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Hellraiser, Scream, Friday the 13th, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Saw, it is one of the lowest grossing horror films but has gained a cult following.[citation needed]

Film Release date (US) Budget Box office revenue Reference
United States Foreign Worldwide
1. Phantasm (1979) January 6, 1979 (1979-01-06) $300,000 $11,988,469[14] N/A $11,988,469 [14]
2. Phantasm II (1988) August 7, 1988 (1988-08-07) $3,000,000[15] $7,282,851[16] N/A $7,282,851 [16]
3. Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead June 6, 1994 (1994-06-06) $2,500,000 N/A $358,253 $358,253 [17]
4. Phantasm IV: Oblivion January 10, 1998 (1998-13-10) $650,000 N/A N/A N/A [18]
5. Phantasm V: Ravager October 7, 2016
Total $6,450,000 $19,271,320 N/A $19,629,573


  1. ^ Miller, Donna Marie (2016-04-14). "Phantasm: Remastering a Classic". Creative Screenwriting. Retrieved 2016-04-14.
  2. ^ Savlov, Marc (2000-03-31). "Sphere of Influence". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 2013-08-08.
  3. ^ Sutton, David (2006). "Don Coscarelli". Fortean Times. Archived from the original on 2013-11-05. Retrieved 2013-08-11.
  4. ^ "Don Coscarelli talks BUBBA sequel possibilities". 2004-05-11. Archived from the original on 2004-06-03. Retrieved 2014-03-28.
  5. ^ "'Phantasm' in New Line's airspace". 2005-03-10. Archived from the original on 2006-01-09. Retrieved 2014-03-28.
  6. ^ "Blog » Blog Archive » Don Coscarelli's Farewell To The Alamo Drafthouse". 2007-07-01. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
  7. ^ a b "UPDATED: Is Don Coscarelli Finally Gearing Up For 'Phantasm 5'? Nope!". 2012-06-06. Retrieved 2014-03-28.
  8. ^ "Hot Teaser Trailer: 'Phantasm V: Ravager'". 2014-03-26. Retrieved 2014-03-28.
  9. ^ "'Phantasm: Ravager' cast details and teaser trailer – EXCLUSIVE VIDEO". 2014-03-27. Retrieved 2014-03-28.
  10. ^ "Phantasm V: Ravager". 2014-03-26. Retrieved 2014-03-28.
  11. ^ "Phantasm V: Ravager". 2014-03-26. Retrieved 2015-02-06.
  12. ^ "Phantasm Ravager Delayed to 2016". 2015-09-13. Retrieved 2015-09-15.
  13. ^ "News: Phantasm Ravager is Finished". Retrieved 2015-10-02.
  14. ^ a b "Phantasm (1979)". Box Office Mojo. 1979-06-01. Retrieved 2017-07-17.
  15. ^ "Box office / business for Phantasm II (1988)". Retrieved 2017-07-17.
  16. ^ a b "Phantasm II (1988)". Box Office Mojo. 1988-08-02. Retrieved 2017-07-17.
  17. ^ "Box office / business for Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994)". Retrieved 2017-07-17.
  18. ^ "Phantasm IV: Oblivion (1998)". Retrieved 2017-07-17.