Sunday, September 20, 2009


     After waiting for 30 trillion years, Phantasm II has finally been released on DVD. It's important to understand I wasn't waiting for some new-fangled blu-ray transfer, but the very first release on DVD, in the year of 2009. It is available in other regions, but they are PAL and I don't like PAL because it looks funky, even with a PAL converter.
     Here's the front cover:

     And here's the back cover:

     Phantasm II was released in 1988 and I didn't see it in the theaters; I had never heard of it. I occasionally found it on TV when I was a teenager, and while I never managed to watch the whole thing from start to finish, I remember being impressed.
     So when I got home from work last night I watched it. And I watched it again when I woke up. None too unsurprisingly, the movie is simpler than I remembered. I can now watch it in much greater detail than when I was a teenager. Back then I used my parent's 20 inch, 4:3 ratio, glass tube television, with a mono speaker. Nowadays, I use a 50 inch, 16:9 ratio, flat-panel plasma, made by Panasonic, with stereo speakers. But I rarely use the speakers. My primary audio device is the $2100 headphone system, which reveals everything, from toothpicks hitting the floor to drops of spit spraying on one's face.
     I watched the movie last night using headphones and paid careful attention to the music, which I had remembered. But I had never listened to the entire ending theme before; it is a strong composition, like video game music. This morning I watched the movie using the built-in stereo speakers. Even with the volume up high, I couldn't hear the soundtrack as well, and even missed some dialogue. Headphones clearly provide one with a superior listening experience. I don't live in a house, so I can't use a good surround sound system. I would simply make my neighbors very angry, so I have to settle with high-end headphones.
     The main advantage to owning this DVD is the same as with all the others. No commercials - no interruptions. The movie plays from start to finish. And this DVD is perfect, by the way. There are no previews. The title screen loads immediately, like most Asian DVDs. (Korean DVDs have me spoiled, since they obviously don't have FBI warnings, nor any copyright warnings at all. They load the movie rather efficiently.)
     Phantasm II is not a great movie. However, I can't tell you why I love it so much. Maybe because it's so simple. There are very few actors and not much happens, but there is the Tall Man and the Spheres, which are unique. No other horror movie I've seen uses a 'tall man' as the antagonist, and I have certainly never seen metal spheres that fly around and drill into people, like the cerebral bores from Turok 2: Seeds of Evil. I would imagine the makers of that video game got the idea for cerebral bores from Phantasm.
     Back when I was a teenager, this movie gave me a horrifying dream. I was walking around in one of the mausoleums used in the film and a tall man with a long white beard was spinning around violently, like a tornado. Of all the things to carry while spinning, he happened to be holding an ax. He chopped my head off, cleanly, as if my neck were made of paper. I died in the dream, which is something that rarely happens.

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