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.

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