Friday, May 22, 2009

The Evil Dead

“The Evil Dead” fires up in a really tiny, lake-like area, and it features a point-of-view shot that we’ll come to recognize as being the “evil” in the title of the movie.

Only… the evil hasn’t been invoked yet. We’re still twenty minutes worth of exposition away from the evil being invoked. So what are we watching, exactly? It’s like the opening of the movie is some dude’s home video of his pathetic fishing trip.

Then we cut over to our heroes – five college students (or college-age students, anyway) on a trip together to a cabin in the woods. For some reason. Spring break? On the run from the law after a five-state murder/robbery spree? Let’s pretend it’s the latter. That way we can root for the so-called evil! Hoorah!

I can’t say we learn a whole lot about the five so-called heroes, outside of their lust for death, destruction, and filthy lucre. We do learn right away that Ash is terrible at reading maps, and right after we get to learn that Scotty is a terrible driver. He claims that the steering wheel “jerked right out of my hands,” when he almost sends the car careening into a head-on collision.

This is, of course, man-speak for “I was taking a swig from the jar of moonshine I’m holding, and I was too busy getting my drink on to notice oncoming traffic.”

The kids confer with one another, and we add to our trip knowledge database. We learn that no one has seen the cabin they’re headed to, and that they got the cabin cheap.

They head off the main road and onto what looks like little more than a deer trail, and cross a bridge that actually has a sign labeling it “dangerous.” We are not, I fear, working with criminal masterminds.

No matter. Despite some shattered boards, the car makes it across the bridge okay, while some dude who probably wasn’t supposed to be in the shot looks on in the background. Way to insert yourself into a horror classic, sir.

They drive the car up to the cabin, and Scotty walks up to the creepy place while everyone else looks on. It’s clear that Scotty is well-liked in this group. Ten bucks says that if the food runs out, they eat him first.

Scotty locates the keys, which are cleverly hidden on top of the door frame. The owner, I guess, does not fear squatters.

Scotty goes in and takes a long look around, because the movie was made on a tiny budget and they need to kill some time before they start spending money on homemade blood.

Outside, the rest of the crew unloads the car. The highlight of this is when Ash’s own girlfriend throws a bag directly into his stomach and/or groin. Clearly, she’s hoping a little below-the-belt injury will occur. Ash will not be getting any adult relations tonight.

Scotty does a quick walkthrough of the work shed. I’m guessing he has special weekend plans for his lady-friend.

Later that night, one of the girls sits and does some sketching. After a few moments, the clock in front of her stops, a voice outside says “Join us,” and her drawing hand is possessed. It draws what looks like a somewhat evil book.

A moment later, the trapdoor in the floor starts bouncing.

A smart person would tell her friends that something creepy is going on. Alas, she is but one of a group of criminal non-masterminds, and there is nowhere else for them to run. So she figures, you know, why make anyone else worry?

The group proceeds to have dinner, which is interrupted by the door in the cellar popping open. Theories are offered, and finally Scotty is sent down the hole. To be eaten first. You can tell they love this guy.

After a minute passes and they don’t hear anything, Ash calls to Scotty. Only Scotty doesn’t answer. So Ash goes after him. So much for the feminist movement with this crowd.

Ash wanders around the basement until Scotty runs out and yells boo. Scotty follows up this hilarious joke with, “Come on, I want to show you something.” Really Scotty? In the dark basement, with the ladies upstairs? Couldn’t you have picked a better time to reveal your love-which-dare-not-speak-its-name?

Scotty takes Ash to a table, where they find a shotgun, a creepy-looking dagger, and a reel-to-reel tape player that will be replaced by an iPod in the eventual remake. Scotty, always to prankster, points the gun at Ash and says, “I bet this still shoots.”

So you see, making fun of my killers on the lam theory just proves that you’re ignorant. These people are three slices of bacon short of a complete breakfast.

Oh, and they find The Book of the Dead, which has a bunch of creepy drawings in it.

A short while later, everyone gathers around the tape recorder to hear what’s on it, while Scotty first makes fun of someone and says that everyone hates that guy, and then when one of the girls says, “Like you!” he replies, “I’m gonna break your face.”

Something tells me Scotty used to make neighborhood kids lick steel poles in the dead of winter when he was a kid.

They listen to the tape, which starts with an explanation that a) reading from the book will raise the dead, and b) that evil demon-like beings are never truly dead. I guess “The Evil Semi-Living” doesn’t have much of a ring to it.

The tape plays, incantations are read aloud, creepy lights appear outside, Cheryl freaks and a branch breaks a window. So much for a cheap vacation – that window is gonna cost someone some scratch.

Ash and Linda decide to “stay up and listen to the storm,” only Linda exits to check on Cheryl, and Ash feigns sleep while holding a box. Linda tries to take the box from a “sleeping” Ash, and we learn that Ash has no problem with tricking his lady into stealing from him, and Linda has no problem stealing from him.

Criminal non-masterminds, folks.

Ash “wakes up,” the box is opened, and we learn that Ash has gotten a necklace for Linda that looks just like a magnifying glass. Linda notes that she’ll “never take it off,” but does not add that this is because she intends to use it as a centerpiece of mockery when she talks to her girlfriends later.

Now we know why she was so eager to give him a groin injury earlier.

Outside, we get the evil point of view, which watches Linda and Ash, then Scotty and Shelly, and finally settles on Cheryl, to whom it says, “Join us.”

Cheryl, who got a lot of ribbons that said, “Participant” as a child, heads into the woods to investigate the noise. This ends badly, with the woods, um… yikes… let’s go with “brutalizing” Cheryl in a most unpleasant way.

Cheryl gets free and runs back to the cabin, where after some crazy babbling she convinces Ash to take her into town. Only the bridge has been ripped up by the evil force. Or by that dude who was in the background earlier.

Either way, Cheryl freaks right out. But she’s had a bad night, so you can sympathize.

Back at the cabin, Ash slaps on some headphones and listens to the rest of the tape, and learns that the only way to stop the demons is through the act of bodily dismemberment. Luckily, his soul is as dark as a moonless night, and he’s just crossing his fingers that Scotty is taken first.

Because, of course, Linda gave him a groin injury, and Cheryl is his sister. So the only way to really make this whole trip worth his time is if Shelly is in need of a little comforting.

Speaking of Shelly, she and Linda are playing a game of “guess which card I’m holding up,” because comforting a woods-molested Cheryl just isn’t worth their time. Cheryl suddenly starts guessing the cards, and getting them all correct, which seems awesome until she turns out and everyone notices that she’s possessed.

The possessed Cheryl asks why “they” have been “awakened from their ancient slumber,” so maybe it’s not that the evil is all that evil, but rather they’re just kind of cranky about getting up so late at night.

Though I don’t suppose that “The Somewhat-Sleepy Semi-Living” would make for much of a title either.

Anyway, Cheryl falls to the floor, her so-called “friends” go to investigate, and she stabs Linda in the ankle with a pencil.

Then she throws Ash into a bookshelf, which falls on top of him.

Scotty pushed Cheryl into the cellar the cellar door with a conveniently-placed chain and lock that just happen to be sitting there when he needs them most.

Linda goes to lie down, and Ash, Scotty, and Shelly sit around and debate what to do. This ends when Shelly goes into another room and the evil pulls her through the window.

Scotty goes to investigate and finds that his girlfriend is missing. So instead of calling Ash into the room and going to find the shotgun, he instead opts to wander around the room looking for her.

Scotty has a few “Participant” ribbons himself.

Eventually a Shelly with a sever case of possession grabs Scotty, and tussling occurs. Scotty pushes Shelly over, and she falls into the fire. He pulls her out, because he is an idiot, and she attacks him again.

Ash attempts to help, only he’s thrown into a bookshelf. Again.

Shelly picks up the creepy knife from earlier and tries to stab Scotty with it, and Scotty fights back with a knife of his own, slicing into Shelly’s wrist.

Shelly then decides to bite off her own hand, to prove that she’s, like, a demon, and totally hardcore.

Scotty then picks up the evil hand with the evil knife in it, and stabs Shelly in the back. Because that’s what Scotty does.

A brief thought: Five people enter a cabin. Three of them are women, all of who seem kind of nice. Two of them are men, one of which is a total jerkface and the other of which has been, to date, thrown into two bookshelves and received a groin attack from his own significant other.

Meanwhile, two of the ladies are possessed by evil, and the third has dying of lead poisoning. Sorry. Graphite poisoning.

I ask you. What kind of message does this send to the youth of America?

Shelly, by the way, dies. And then of course, we learn that she didn’t really die, because she gets up and attacks Scotty again. So Scotty takes an axe and chops her into pieces.

Of course, given what we know of Scotty, this isn’t the first time one of his relationships ended this way.

Scotty decides it would be a good idea to bury Shelly, even though it’s still dark out, the woods are still evil, and Shelly’s bits and pieces are still flopping on the floor. Ash counters with, “We can’t bury Shelly, she’s a friend of ours.”

Which makes it sound as if, generally, Ash has his close friends stuffed on the occasion of their passing.

His collection of stuffed dead friends and relatives is, I’m sure, just one of many reasons that this small band of criminals is on the run, forced to hide out in a cheap cabin deep in the mountains.

(If you think I’m going to give up on that joke soon, you, sir or madam, are wrong.)

Scotty and Ash bury Shelly, and Scotty says he’s going to head out into the woods to look for a way out. Dude has a serious death wish. As a parting shot, he notes that Ash’s girlfriend is Ash’s problem.

Everyone, say it with me. “Woods! Woods! Woods! Woods!”

Ash goes to check on Linda, and to no one’s surprised, she’s possessed.

Ash runs away from her, having realized that a whack to the jimmies might soon be the nicest thing Linda will do to him now

He gets jumped by Scott at the front door.

Scott is torn up badly, having been attacked by the forest. He starts to panic, and then passes out. Ash slaps him awake. And the audience cheers, because Scotty’s been needing a slap for a while now.

Meanwhile, a possessed Linda starts taunting Ash. He slaps her across the face a few times, and then points the shotgun at her. Only she “wakes up,” and runs to him.

At that moment, Cheryl’s voice calls from the cellar, saying she’s all right. Ash goes to unlock her, and her still-possessed arms shoot up through the floor, attacking him.

He breaks free of Cheryl’s grasp, and sees that Linda is full-on possessed again. So he drags her outside. It is doubtful that this will prove an effective method of solving his problems.

Back inside, Ash tries to make Scotty drink some water, only Scotty dies. Ash gets up and goes to the window, I guess looking for something to stuff Scotty with, when Linda appears out of nowhere and stabs him with the evil knife.

She does not stab him in the groin, which he probably views as an improvement to their day-to-day relationship.

Linda and Ash tussle, and finally Ash stabs her in the back, and then takes her out into the tool shed to chop her up with a chainsaw. Only he can’t do it, because he’d much rather see her stuffed and mounted.

Only he forgot his tools at home, so he decides to bury her instead. Of course, she’s only semi-dead, so she crawls out of her grave and attacks him. He fights back, cutting off her head with a shovel. This does not prevent her from shrieking.

Ash goes back into the house, where he notes that the cellar door is now open, and Cheryl is missing.

He picks up the shotgun and goes to look for her. Apparently, he is capable of learning.

Cheryl, it seems, it outside. She attacks Ash when he walks too near a window, and he reacts by fighting her off and closing the doors to the cabin. Then he heads down into the cellar in search of shotgun shells.

He does locate them, after various things bleed on him, including the walls, some pipes, and the inside of a light bulb.

Ash reloads the shotgun and heads upstairs, skulking through the house as his paranoia builds. “Why,” he wonders, “did I ever begin my life of crime? I should have known it would end with my friends dead, and me trapped in a deserted cabin in the woods, surrounded by evil semi-sleepy beings from beyond the near-grave.”

Eventually he flips out and shoots and innocent window.

He then leans against an outside door, which allows the evil creature behind it to punch through the door and grab at Ash’s face.

Ash escapes and shoves something not-very-heavy in front of the door, which might protect him for minutes on end. Unfortunately for him, the now-possessed Scotty sits up on the floor.

Ash and Scotty fight, and Ash punches through Scotty’s eyeballs with his thumbs. Then Ash pulls a branch out of Scotty’s thigh, causing Scotty to bleed out on the floor.

But, of course, Scotty is technically already dead, so this doesn’t have much of an effect.

Cheryl punches through the door, and Ash is grabbed by Scotty. Ash falls to the floor, having noted that Scotty has started to smoke – because the Book of the Dead has fallen partially into the fire, and tiny flames are licking up from one of its edges.

Despite the fact that it looks like it would be the easiest thing in the world for Ash to stand up, grab the book, and toss it in the fire, for the sake of suspense we must watch him attempt to lasso the book using the magnifying glass on a chain that he gave his man-bits-hitting-woman-friend earlier in the picture.

Ash accomplishes this while Scotty yanks on his ankle and Cheryl picks up a fire poker and hits him with it.

Ash throws The Book of the Dead into the fire, and Cheryl and Scotty melt into somewhat-tired not-quite-dead goo.

Ash sees that the sun has come out, and he picks up his buddy the necklace and walks outside. Only an evil point-of-view shot comes running down a hill and through the back door of the cabin and out the front door of the cabin, and straight into Ash.

Who of course dies, so there will never be a sequel.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Request Lines Are Open

All right folks - what do you want to see? I've got The Evil Dead trilogy on tap, and a few ideas for after that, but I'm taking requests.

The rules:

Has to be horror.
There have to be at least three of them.
I have to be able to get my hands on all the parts of a series, in order. This is more my problem than your problem, but trust me... there is just no way to get my hands on every part of The Howling.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Phantasm: Oblivion

“Phantasm: Oblivion,” it should be noted, makes prominent use of the IV in the word oblivion. So that you know it’s part IV of a series.

I keep thinking this is sort of awesome, and that more sequels should do this, and then I remember that there are no words that have the letter i in them three times in a row.

“Phantasm: Sorry We Left You Hanging At the End of the Last Movie” starts off with a montage of bits and pieces of the previous three films, which mostly tells you that there were some people that some events happened to, and that they were often rather violent.

Then Reggie pipes up with a voiceover and tries to explain the plot of the three previous movies in a succinct manner. Among the things he points out – “Jody was taken from us, turned by The Tall Man into an alien form.”

Because I guess “turned by The Tall Man into a little silver ball” would sound silly.

He goes on to say about Mike, “The Tall Man wants to transform him into one of his kind.”

Which doesn’t seem to be what The Tall Man wants at all. The Tall Man actually seems to want Mike to remember that he is already like The Tall Man. Or at least that Mike has a giant ball inside his head.

But I think it’s fair to say that we’ve already established that Reggie is kind of an idiot. So I guess we’re just lucky he doesn’t mention that he used to sell ice cream… no, wait, sorry, my mistake. He brings that up as well.

Roughly five minutes into the movie, we finally get back to where part III drew to a close, with Reggie pinned to the wall by a bunch of spheres. The Tall Man nods the balls away, informing Reggie that “…the final game now begins.”

I was sort of hoping the final game would be a best of three matchup of Chinese Checkers, but instead it appears to be the same thing that happened in the last two movies. The Tall Man goes off somewhere, and Reggie and Mike go looking for him.

Only in this case, Mike is driving around in a hearse that he got from somewhere, and Reggie is a few hundred miles behind him, trying to catch up.

This goes on until Mike has a flashback to the first movie, only it’s not actually a scene that was in the first movie. I suspect that “Phantasm IV” may be the first and only film to take a bunch of scenes that were deleted from an earlier part in a series and use them in a later part.

This happens a LOT in the movie – bits and pieces of story that weren’t important enough for “Phantasm” are apparently good enough for part IV, since your expectations have been lowered.

So whereas the first five minutes of IV are flashbacks to things that happened in parts I, II, and III, almost everything after this point is a flashback to something we haven’t seen before.

Anyway, the first lost scene involves Mike running up behind Reggie’s ice cream truck, jumping onto the back, and stealing some ice cream.

This is followed by another scene that involves Michael and Jody driving down a long empty stretch of highway. They pass a boy and his dog.

Then a hearse, driven by The Tall Man, comes from the other direction and runs over the dog.

Which begs the question: It’s strongly implied that these are Mike’s memories, so how, exactly, is Mike remembering that?

Back in the present, Mike looks in the back of the hearse using the rearview mirror, and sees someone there. Only they vanish. And appear on the seat next to him.

It’s the psychic grandma! I think.

Back at the mausoleum, Reggie has somehow found tires and repaired his car. Continuity! Yes!

He gets in his vehicle and gets ready to drive away, only Jody is sitting on the back seat. So everyone gets out of the car and they have a long conversation about what to do next.

Back in the hearse Michael is driving, Michael looks at his rearview mirror again and sees The Tall Man. He tries to hit the brakes, only they don’t work, as the car is now piloting itself.

They drive by a state trooper.

The Tall Man says a bunch of creepy stuff and then dives into a coffin in the back and vanishes.

The hearse drives by a sign that says “Death Valley 54.”

Which I’m guessing means it’s 54 miles away, not that it’s the 54th Death Valley. But you never know. The “Phantasm” movies love to mess with your head that way.

So it’s back to Reggie, who managed to get pulled over by the state trooper we saw just a short while ago. He gets asked for his license and registration, and then he sits and waits while the cop walks back to his car and checks out Reggie’s information.

At least until Reggie gets bored and decides to go find out what’s taking the cop so long. Only it turns out that the cop isn’t in his car. Okay, he is, but he’s been cut into bits and pieces and stuffed in the trunk, and now Reggie gets to fight a zombie cop.

There’s some running, and fighting, and Reggie shoots the cop twice with a shotgun, but it doesn’t kill him. So he pins the zombie cop into the back seat of the cop car with a nightstick, and then jams a flare into the gas tank.

It’s time for that Phantasm staple – the exploding car.

The car explodes, the zombie walks out of it while on fire, and then collapses.

Back in the hearse, Michael wakes up to find that the hearse is dead and smoking in Death Valley. He gets out of the hearse and wanders around for a bit, noting dwarves as they race about the dessert.

Finally, he goes back to the hearse, and opens the coffin, where he finds The Tall Man’s suit, but no Tall Man. So he gets into the back of the vehicle and starts writing his last will and testament, which is mostly testament as it is actually written as a letter to Reggie.

Then Mike falls asleep and dreams about The Tall Man cutting open his head. This is followed by another dream, in black and white, wherein Michael is in a tent during what appears to be the Civil War. The Tall Man is there, embalming him through his nose.

I’ve mostly avoided interpreting the dreams in this series, but honestly, this is a cry for help of the first order. It’s clear Michael has developed a nose candy habit.

Michael wakes up.

He gets out of the hearse and notes that one of those gates sitting in the middle of the dessert.

We leave these exciting developments so that we can see Reggie leaving a rest area, where he sees a girl who he does not interact with. So all we really learn here is that Reggie still has a bladder.

Mike attempts to hang himself in the desert, using a rope that I guess he must have created using threads from The Tall Man’s suit, because I swear he didn’t have rope up until this point.

This kind of works, and it means we get another deleted scene flashback, wherein Mike and Jody attempt to catch and hang The Tall Man. This works great, as they do manage to hang him. Only he doesn’t die. Which should surprise no one, because if he did, it would mean this series would have ended three movies ago.

Lil’ Mike confronts the hanging Tall Man, who demands to be cut down. “But you’re killing the world!” Mike replies, even though at that point The Tall Man has killed maybe four people that Mike knows about.

“I’ll go away, and I won’t ever come back,” says The Tall Man, which actually is true. He did go away. It’s just that Reggie and Mike keep chasing him.

I mean, he may traffic in the undead, but the man doesn’t lie. So he’s not all bad.

Back in the present Mike’s rope breaks, and The Tall Man says some more creepy stuff that basically amounts to, “If you could kill yourself, this series would have been over a long time ago, dude.”

He actually says, “I’ve been waiting for you for a very long time.”

This prompts Mike to walk through the gate in the desert.

Mike comes out from a rather antique-looking gate, which looks like something out of an old Universal monster movie. He goes outside, where he encounters someone who looks just like The Tall Man – only his name is Jebediah Morningside. Remember how this all started at Morningside funeral home? Sure you do!

Jebediah Morningside says, “Did you come through my dimension fork?” Which I guess scares the bejabbers out of Mike, because he runs away, goes back to the “fork,” turns it on and leaves.

Oh, and psychic grandma was on the porch again. It must mean something. But your guess is as good as mine as to what it is.

I mean, both times we’ve seen her, she’s been old and sitting. Which means… old people like to sit? And can sit for a long time?

Moving on.

Reggie catches up to the girl he saw earlier, and he goes to pass her on the empty highway. Only she sees a turtle, freaks out, and flips her car.

Reggie saves her. Then the car explodes. Who saw THAT coming?

Mike, meanwhile, is sitting in the desert. He sees a scorpion. So he uses the power of his mind to crush it with a rock.

Then he spots a dwarf, and uses the power of his mind to crush it with a rock.

Then he sees the people who caused a major financial breakdown in the United States… No, sorry. Just a little attempt at levity there.

Actually, what he does is go to the hearse and start playing around with the engine. Jody appears, and Mike tells Jody that Jody can’t be trusted.

Michael also cracks open the glove box of the hearse and finds the knife that he used to free The Tall Man from his hangin’ tree.

Jody explains that he didn’t abandon Mike – he was taken.

Mike uses this particular moment of brotherly revelation to go look over at the desert again, where hundreds of gates are now sitting and humming away.

Later that same night, Reggie and the girl, who is named Jennifer, stop at an abandoned motel, break into it, and proceed to set up camp for the night.

Michael, meanwhile, is sitting by a campfire. He looks over at the hearse’s engine, and a little homemade ball jumps out of it and looks around.

Back at the motel, Reggie and Jennifer prepare for bed. Or rather, Jennifer gets ready for bed while Reggie recaps the last three movies. Jennifer doesn’t believe a word Reggie is saying, which must mean she’s an idiot, since we’ve already watched Reggie and Jennifer discuss the fact that everywhere they go is a ghost town.

Reggie falls asleep, and “wakes up” in what looks like the world’s fakest graveyard, complete with plywood headstones. His dream ends with Michael looming over him in The Tall Man’s suit.

Reggie wakes up, and notes that a) Jennifer is still asleep, and b) her chest is rising and falling in a somewhat unnatural manner. So he unbuttons her shirt.

This proves to be a poor choice, as two silver balls have taken the place you’d figure two silver balls would on a lady-person.

They fly out and attack Reggie, and he fights back, smashing one with a sledgehammer, and stopping the other by catching the ball in his hand. Which the ball then proceeds to drill.

He finally stops the ball completely by hitting his tuning fork, which he happens to be carrying around. This causes the ball to explode, like a car in a Phantasm movie.

Oh yeah. And he kills the zombie Jennifer with a sledgehammer.

Back at the hearse, Mike writes to Reggie about going back in time and stopping The Tall Man before he can, I dunno, become The Tall Man. In other words, he’s about the use the old, “If you could go back in time and kill Hitler as a kid…” trick.

So Michael walks through a gate, which brings him to a very empty-looking city which is probably L.A. He notes that The Tall Man is there, and stalking him, and also that Jody is there. Jody says, “We can’t stay here, there’s a risk of infection.”

In a movie filled with “Wha?” moments, this one is the “Wha?”-est.

Back in the middle of nowhere, Reggie is driving along the highway again, when he sees a sign that says Funeral MTNS.

Shortly thereafter, he’s out of his car, loading up his four-barreled shotgun, and putting on his ice cream vendor outfit. You think I’m kidding? Heck, no. Dude is rocking the ice cream outfit. I’m guessing his plan is to make The Tall Man laugh himself to death.

Reggie walks down to the hearse, and spends a whooole lot of time wandering around it. He finds Michae’s ball made of car parts, and kills a bunch of dwarves.

Concurrent with this, Jody and Michael have left the city and walked through a gate that lets them stand around on a beach, until right after Reggie kills all those dwarves. Then they walk through the gate on the beach and step out by Reggie.

Mike tells Reggie not to trust Jody, and Reggie hands Mike his turning fork.

Jody leads Mike back through the gate, and they end up in Jebediah Morningside’s room the night he figures out how to operate his gate-which-is-kind-of-not-a-gate. Michael tries to stab him to death before Jebediah Morningside can step through the gate, only Jody patiently explains that they’re in some other dimension.

So Jebediah Morningside steps into the gate, and The Tall Man steps out. And sees Michael. So much for that other dimension thing.

Michael walks through a dimension gate, and arrives in a graveyard. Jody also appears in the graveyard, and attacks Michael.

Michael stabs and kills Jody.

He then walks away from Jody, only to be attacked by another Jody.

This ends with Michael in a mausoleum, strapped down to a table. Jody is holding him down. Jody is the worst undead brother ever.

The Tall Man arrives, and cuts into Michael’s head with a saw ball. So Michael pulls out Reggie’s tuning fork and hits it. This causes everything to kind of slow down, and Michael grabs the saw ball and jams it into Jody’s head.

This ends with Jody dying on the floor, stating, “I died in the car wreck.” Which hopefully means he’s really, really, really dead now, and not just semi-dead.

The Tall Man is suddenly able to move again, and he takes away Reggie’s tuning fork using his mystical Jedi powers.

Michael runs through the gate and ends up back on the beach with Reggie. Reggie tells Michael to get behind him, because he clearly knows what he’s doing. Or at least he knows how to put on an ice cream vendor’s outfit.

Seriously. Reggie has lost his mind. I have no idea why Michael just doesn’t run the other way when he sees the ice cream man clothing.

The Tall Man walks through the gate, grabs Reggie, and says, “Ice cream man, it’s all in his head.” Honestly, I’m looking at Reggie and thinking I want a creamsicle. Who’s with me?

Michael’s car parts ball suddenly pops up, reveals some blades, and flies toward The Tall Man and into his head. The Tall Man plucks it out and says, “A toy.”

And then Michaels’ eyes go silver, and the hearse (are you ready for this?) (no, really…) blows up.

The Tall Man is next to the car, and he is engulfed in flames. I’m sure this will work out. The cold was not the answer. No. It was actually fire that The Tall Man was afraid of.

Or not.

The Tall Man walks out of a nearby gate, thereby proving once again that killing the guy is really tricky. He walks over to Mike and pulls the ball out of his head, and then walks back through the gate.

Reggie tells Mike, who is still alive despite what should be a very large empty place in his head, that he’ll be right back. Then he grabs the four-barrel and heads through the gate.

And with that, we get one final flashback to Reggie and Mike back in the day. As they sit in Reggie’s ice cream truck, older Michael says, in voiceover, “I’m dying, Reg.”

Reg of the past says, “Did you hear something?”

And Michael of the past says, “Just the wind.” He does not mention that the wind he hears is the breeze passing through the hole in the head of his future self.

And we roll credits on the series, complete with Reggie singing a song about The Tall Man over the credits.

Oh yes, I am quite serious.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Phantasm III

Whereas “Phantasm II” picked up ten years after the first “Phantasm,” III begins mere moments after II ends.

This is somewhat hilarious, because this time around no one was under any pressure to bring in a big star. So they brought back the original Michael.

This means that the opening of III has to be very, very, very carefully shot and edited, because among other things, they didn’t bring Liz back to re-shoot scenes with Michael. So we never get to see the two of them together.

The movie fires up with The Tall Man sitting in a chair holding one those silver ball things. And believe you me, you’re going to learn so much about those little balls that you just will be totally sick of the word ball by the time you reach the end of this. I suppose I could alternate the word ball with the word sphere, but that isn’t going to help. Trust me.

So feel free to substitute the word ball with another word when you read it. Any random word. Chipotle. Hamdinger. Tortoise. Stapler. Whatever suits you. Really. It’s okay.

But I was talking about The Tall Man. He’s sitting there, looking at his ball (chipotle!) and we get some voiceover, but thankfully there’s just a little bit to catch people up who decided to go see “Phantasm III” but to skip parts one and two, because who has the time to follow a story logically?

Then we get a flashback to the end of I, followed by a flashback to the end of II with that careful editing I talked about. This flashback includes the bits where The Tall Man gets hydrochloric acid pumped through his body, but it adds a bit where The Tall Man’s corpse is lying on the floor, and The Tall Man steps out of that freaky gate, picks up his own withered corpse, and throws it back through the gate.

Which once again proves that while the dude is really neat and tidy, he just wastes so much time cleaning up messes that don’t really need cleaning. Perhaps he’s not so much evil as he is suffering from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. You could see where he’d be grouchy.

I mean honestly, what’s so bad about bringing the dead back to life? He’s recycling, right? Trying to be Green?

Right. Back to the plot.

The Tall Man attacks the hearse at the end of film number two, only this time it has Classic Michael in it. The hearse crashes (there are a lot of crashes in these movies) and Liz dies. Or rather, her head is separated from the rest of her body. Because a kind of fake-looking plastic head is cheaper than re-hiring an actress.

Reggie, as it turns out, is not dead. It’s just a flesh wound. Or something. He runs over to the crashed hearse, and tries to revive Michael. And also, he shoots a bunch of dwarves out of a tree with a four-barrel shotgun.

At which point, dwarves surround the two of them, and The Tall Man steps out of the shadows.

Reggie pulls out a grenade, to which The Tall Man replies: “I don’t want him in pieces.” This makes no sense whatsoever, since The Tall Man just subjected Michael to a massive hearse crash that ended with Liz in at least two and possibly more parts.

Either way, The Tall Man and his Short Buddies all leave, and Reggie takes Michael to the doctor, where Michael lies in bed and appears to be in some kind of coma.

So the movie cuts back to The Tall Man, because watching a dude in a coma is pretty boring, and we get to see a ball open up, and we learn that they have tiny brains inside them. As in, an actual tiny little brain. The Tall Man stroke’s the ball’s brain, and then we’re back with Michael.

Michael appears to be dreaming, and nurse comes into his room and tells him that he should go towards the light. I guess because she figures that if Michael dies, she can knock off early for the day and let a dude from the morgue take care of him.

Michael, meanwhile, is walking into the light, where he encounters Jody, who has aged about ten years. Which is interesting, because I can’t think of a system of belief that states that after we die, we continue to age. One imagines people dead for thousands of years, sitting in the afterlife, having young dead people spooning mush into their mouths because they have no teeth and can barely move their jaws due to ever-worsening arthritis. Talk about your horror movies.

Jody tells Michael not to go towards the light, and Michael wakes up in his hospital bed. Unfortunately, the nurse has turned into an evil-possessed hag who is going to try to kill him. One assumes this has something to do with The Tall Man, so I guess it’s okay if Michael dies, as long as he’s not dismembered.

Michael fights back and stabs the nurse, and Reggie walks in just in time for the nurse to fall on top of him and bleed yellow all over him.

Then a ball {stapler!) pops out of the top of her head, and floats over to Michael’s bed. An eyeball pops out of it, takes a look at Michael, and flies off. Reggie decides that now would be a good time to leave.

They go to Reggie’s house and start gearing up, only they hear a noise, which they go to investigate. And there’s Jody, who wants to explain some stuff, only in the middle of explaining he CGIs into a silver ball, which we will call J-Ball, so you know when we’re watching Jody and when we’re watching a little silver ball with Jody’s voice.

The Tall Man shows up, and J-Ball tries to defend Reggie and Michael, only he doesn’t, because The Tall Man damages him somehow. The Tall Man then throws Reggie against a wall and takes Michael away through a gate that is suddenly located in Reggie’s hallway.

Reggie wakes up sometime later, and there’s a huge black mark where the gate was previously. Reggie clearly has no idea what to do, so he picks up the damaged J-Ball, which says, “Holtsville.” Which Reggie finds on a map, and then figures he might as well go there.

On the way, he stops for gas, and the creepy man who runs the place tells him not to go to Holtsville. But Reggie does anyway. Because there is not fear in an ice cream man’s heart.

The town is totally deserted, except for a fairly scantily clad woman who is going through cars looking for cool abandoned stuff. Some hijinks with a gun ensue, and then Reggie gets his noggin bashed in by a pair of thugs who are working with the woman.

They throw Reggie in the trunk of his own car and head out of town.

The three thugs end up at what seems to be an abandoned farmhouse. They split up to investigate, and the woman thug and one of the guys go in the front door, where they can see the backs of a pair of elderly couples sitting in chairs. So the thug shoots one of them, and discovers they aren’t real people after all – they’re dolls.

At which point a steel door slams behind them and a creepy doll’s head hanging from the ceiling informs the unwelcome guests that they’re in trouble.

A small person in a red sweatshirt and a mask scampers out of hiding – only he’s grabbed by the other male thug, and his mask is pulled off. It turns out that we’ve got a kid on our hands.

The kid, in turn, has a hatchet in his hands. First he buries it in the knee of the guy who grabbed him, and then he throws it right into the head of the female thug, and that’s pretty much it for her. Until she comes back as an undead minion. But that’s later.

The kid runs outside and the thugs give chase. So the kid throws a frisbee with razor blades attached to its edges at one of the thugs, and it cuts up his neck, rendering the thug dead. Until he comes back as an undead minion.

You’re seeing a pattern here by now, one assumes.

The final thug starts walking towards the kid, which ends with him falling into a hidden pit the kid made. Then the kid shoots the thug with the thug’s own gun.

Reggie pounds on the trunk of his car, and the kid comes and lets him out.

Various events happen, and bits of information are shared. The thugs are buried, but the kid and Reggie awaken to find their graves dug up and the people missing. We also learn that the kid’s dad was a cop, and also the first one taken by The Tall Man.

The kid’s name is Tim, by the way.

Reggie decides to hit the road, and Tim wants to go with him. But Reggie, always one to run away from a problem, stops at a farmhouse and convinces the woman who lives there to take care of Tim, by offering her some money.

But Tim don’t play that, so when Reggie drives away “without him,” Tim opens the trunk to reveal to the audience that he’s stowed away.

Reggie heads to the Holtsville mausoleum, where he’s attacked by a silver ball. By a stroke of sheer luck, Reggie opens a door in front of the speeding ball and it bounces off, rolling on the floor.

That’s pretty much where Reggie’s luck ends, however, as moments later he’s handcuffed by two black girls. At which point the ball recovers and comes speeding at one of the black girls, who apparently never learned that when an object is coming at your head, and it has spikes on it, you should get out of the way.

So black girl number one exits the movie moments after she entered.

The other black girl fights off the ball with a set of nunchucks, which doesn’t work all that well. But lucky for everyone, Tim shows up and shoots the ball until it explodes.

Reggie and Tim ask the girl, whose name is Rocky, to join them on their noble quest. But Rocky wants to stay behind and bury her friend.

No one sees fit to mention that burying the friend will in no way prevent anyone from using her corpse as a dwarf-slave.

But no matter. Tim and Reggie head out, with J-Ball offering directions. Eventually, they stop to pick up a hitchhiker: Rocky.

All I can figure is that J-Ball gives terrible directions and has been having Reggie basically drive in a circle.

The crew stops at a motel for the night, and Reggie gets a queen-sized bed and convinces Tim to sleep in the car. He also convinces Rocky to sleep in the bed with him. However, when he tries to convince her to “try vanilla” (I did not make that up) she handcuffs him to the bed and goes to sleep.

The next day, the three of them drive to Boulton, which is also empty. Except for the parking lot with the 12 hearses in it.

Reggie and pals drive away in a big hurry, and end up sleeping under the stars. As the night wears on, J-Ball goes for a float and ends up hovering over Reggie.

Reggie, meanwhile, is dreaming about giving the business to Rocky. At which point Jody shows up in Reggie’s dream and tells him that Reggie needs to follow him.

Long story short, they go through a gate. Which is located in Reggie’s mind.

They end up in a hallway, which is maybe also in Reggie’s mind, but maybe not.

In the same hallway, The Tall Man makes part of a brick wall invisible, and there’s Mike, trapped behind it. The Tall Man says, “You know the way out. Use your brain, boy.”

Only, of course, Michael doesn’t know what The Tall Man is talking about, and the wall becomes opaque.

The Tall Man wanders off, and Reggie and J-Ball go to the wall. And then J-Ball uses a laser to cut through the wall and free Michael. At which point they all run away, with The Tall Man in hot pursuit.

Reggie wakes up, and discovers that there is a gate near his sleeping bag. And Rocky and Tim are there. And also the scarecrow and the cowardly lion. Okay, that’s totally not true. But Jody is there, keeping the gate open.

Michael runs through the gate that was formerly in Reggie’s mind, or maybe not (seriously, was Michael in Reggie’s brain the entire time?) and then The Tall Man jams his hands through the gate as well.

Reggie places his hands on top of the poles that make up the gate, and that chops off The Tall Man’s hands. Which turn into little monsters, which have to be destroyed by our little band of Merry Men. Er, Merry People. Because Rocky is a girl. Er. Woman.

I’m totally going to get letters about my lack of sensitivity.

Reggie, Michael, Tim, and Rocky all get in the car and drive away. Only they end up being pursued by a hearse that contains zombie versions of the folks Tim killed. The thugs are back.

Or at least they’re back until Reggie runs them off the road and the audience is treated to a truly spectacular hearse flip.

Upside: Zombies are nowhere in sight.

Downside: Reggie’s car has two flat tires.

Michael suggests that they all go hide in a mortuary. Because The Tall Man won’t look for them there. Except, of course, he will. Because of his awesome thoroughness.

At any rate, they head over to the mortuary, where they discover a cryogenics freezing chamber. This sends Michael off into a nostalgia trip, where he remembers that The Tall Man stopped to sniff the air near Reggie’s ice cream truck years ago.

Michael deducts that The Tall Man does not like cold. Because he sniffed the air near the ice cream truck. Because we all sniff things we fear.

Which means, I guess, that I’m afraid of vanilla, my wife, flowers, my daughter’s head, and Cinnabon.

Reggie heads off to keep watch.

Michael lies down on a mortuary table, sticks J-Ball on his head, and asks for answers.

J-Ball shows Michael The Tall Man working on a naked dwarf. This includes The Tall Man pulling the brain out of the dwarf and sticking it into a ball. Apparently, this leaves enough brain in the dwarf that it can act on “instinct.”

The Tall Man sees Michael, and pursues him, which ends with Michael waking up back on the table. Only he’s been strapped down by The Tall Man.

In another area of the building, Reggie fell asleep (nice watch-dogging, Reg!), only to be attacked by a Zombie Thug.

And in another-another area of the building, Rocky and Tim are attacked by the other two zombie thugs.

Tim is captured by one of the thugs, and he’s strapped onto a table next to Michael. By The Tall Man. Who then wheels Tim into another room. And then takes a portable saw of some kind and goes back to Michael and starts carving into his head.

Reggie and Rocky, meanwhile, are fighting various and sundry zombie thugs, sometimes comically, and sometimes not. Oh, and J-Ball offers some assistance as well, in the form of drilling into one zombie’s head. Finally, they break away and go to rescue Michael.

They attempt this by sticking a poker into the cryogenics chamber, and then ramming it into The Tall Man’s chest, and using said poker to shove The Tall Man into a walk-in freezer. This works great, right until a gold ball bursts out of The Tall Man’s head.

The gold ball heads after Tim, and Rocky tries to help him. Only she gets attacked by the still-undead Zombie Thug Woman. They fight right up until Rocky does a little dodging that causes the gold ball to punch through the head of the Zombie Thug Woman.

The gold ball then heads after Reggie, who catches it on the end of a plunger. Rocky and Tim help him to shove the gold ball into the cryogenic chamber.

Michael, in the interim, has checked out his sawed scalp in the mirror, and discovered he has a ball under his hairline. By the time he finds the rest of his crew, his eyes resemble silver balls.

He runs outside into the graveyard, telling Reggie to, “Stay away from me.”

Then Jody appears, and says, “Reggie, don’t believe everything you see.” And also, “Be patient, Reg. We’ll be in touch.”

Then Michael and Jody wander off somewhere. Reggie does not follow.

Then Rocky pulls up in a hearse, and basically says, “Um, fighting the undead isn’t my scene.” Then she drives off, leaving Reggie and Tim behind. And Reggie does not follow.

Reggie and Tim go back into the mausoleum, because of course all the evil has been vanquished…

No, wait, what I meant to say is that Reggie is not all that goal-driven, and clearly is also not concerned about the safety of his charge, Tim. Or about Michael. Or about Rocky.

So, we get a nice panning-up shot, where we get to see a bunch of balls on the ceiling, and then Tim heads into the cryogenics chamber. Where, naturally, the cryogenics tank is lying on its side, with an open inter-dimensional gate next to it.

Tim runs back into the previous room to tell Reggie, only Reggie already knows something is amiss, since he’s been herded into a corner by silver balls.

Tim grabs a gun and prepares to go down fighting as The Tall Man walks through the door.

Reggie says, “It’s all over.”

The Tall Man says, “It’s never over. And I’m not afraid of the cold. Or Cinnabon. Michael is a nitwit.” I might have added the last three sentences there.

And then a pair of hands smash through a window and pull Tim into the night.

So, for the record, Reggie’s job started out as, Find Micael, and Keep Him Safe.

Then it added: And Deal with Jody. And Keep Rocky Safe. And Keep Time Safe.

Only by the end of the movie, Michael is turning into a ball, Jody already is a ball, Rocky has left because she knows quite well that Reggie is about as useful as ice cubes in a snowstorm, and once again a kid in Reggie’s charge has been pulled through glass.

I suspect that the further entry in the “Phantasm” series will feature Reggie working in a day care built inside a greenhouse, so that several people can be yanked through glass one right after another. After which they’ll all spend the remaining minutes of their lives in spectacular car crashes.