I can think of few horror franchises more unlikely than Phantasm, which began as an independently-financed movie scraped together over the course of a year by a then-24-year old writer director and has now spanned five movies across almost 40 years. It is one of the only major horror franchises written and directed by the same person -- the great Don Coscarelli -- and, save for a second installment funded and released by Universal, has been done so on a shoestring. That there was not necessarily more story to tell after the first Phantasm is beside the point. This is a series that has continued because of the commitment of Coscarelli and his company of cast and crew, as well as the intense devotion of the fans, who have vocally supported one of the most eccentric and idiosyncratic series the genre has ever known.
Like so many other horror fans, I watched the trailer for Phantasm: Ravager when it first appeared and revealed that a fifth (and final) Phantasm film had been shot almost entirely in secret. And, like so many other horror fans, I was left underwhelmed. Not only was Don Coscarelli not directing -- and what's a Phantasm movie without Coscarelli calling the shots? -- but the whole endeavor looked, for lack of a better word, cheap. It was clear that there was ambition and a larger scope than the series had ever seen before, but it all had that After Effects-driven look of a SyFy production. The term I used most often (and I don't think I'm the only one) was that Ravager looked a lot like a Phantasm
This is beside the point, of course, because Phantasm: Ravager is not a fan film -- not in the traditional sense. It is a canonical entry in what might be the longest-running single-story franchise in horror (its competition has all been remade or rebooted by now). It is made with a ton of love and affection for the series and very, very smart about the way that it goes about telling a story that stopped making sense many years ago. Rather than just trying to expand the universe further (which the movie does) or bring closure to the plot (which it also does...sort of), the screenplay by Hartman and Coscarelli seeks to bring closure to the characters -- chiefly Reggie Bannister, who has become the de facto hero of the series over the course of five movies. The result is a film that's as much about alternate dimensions and murderous flying balls as it is about aging and the passage of time. It's one of the few years-later sequels that bothers to justify its existence by acknowledging where these people have been, and, ultimately, where they are going. Where we all are.