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.

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