Saturday, October 14, 2017

Phantasm IV: Oblivion

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching.  Is the subtitle describing my desire to continue watching these after this one?

Phantasm IV:  Oblivion – 1 out of 5

I guess it’s all downhill from here.  I’ve come to the fourth film in the Phantasm series with Phantasm IV:  Oblivion.  It’s been a grueling ordeal but the finish line is coming up.  I’m kidding, it’s really not been that bad watching these movies.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like them but they’re fun in their own way.  So far, with each film, I’ve laughed at how poorly they were made and written but this fourth one was something different.  Yes, I chuckled here and there but this one accomplished what none of the others have:  It bored me.  This one was soooo booooooring!

Hey guys, we can see you in the reflection in the sphere.

After the events of the last film, Reggie (Reggie Bannister) was left alone with The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) while Tim from the last film is quietly forgotten and never mentioned again.  Because the creature from another dimension has some weird plan that no one but him knows about (and I’m guessing that writer/director/creator Don Coscarelli doesn’t truly have a clue either because it feels like he’s making the movies up on the spot as he calls “Action!”), The Tall Man lets Reggie go and do what Reggie does best…and that is be creepy as he almost immediately finds a woman in the every growing wasteland created by The Tall Man and then, because he’s an idiot, causes her to get in an accident.  Reggie rescues this woman and immediately puts into motion a reason to try and get her to sleep with him (I mentioned Reggie is a creep, right?) while Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) is off struggling to deal with the fact that The Tall Man has a plan for him that involves transforming him into one of his minions.  All seems hopeless for him until he, alongside Reggie, decides that it’s time to face off against The Tall Man once and for all.

Remember this character from the first film that really had no point?
Well, guess what?  She has absolutely no point here either!

Oblivion isn’t a huge departure in the series but it’s definitely one where it’s clear that Don Coscarelli is moving away from the attempts at dark comedy in the last two and more towards going back to the dreamy, horror vibe of the first film.  I honestly think abandoning the dark comedy route was a very good idea because the series’ comedic element rested solely on the shoulders of Reggie Bannister and, as I’ve stated in the other reviews, the guy is just not funny.  He has no timing and all he really could do was mug at the camera.  Yes, he gives lines that, in theory, could be jokes but Coscarelli isn’t really that good of a writer so the lines aren’t very well thought out and, when you combine that with Bannister’s bad comedic chops, these sequences just came off as horribly awkward and actually acted as a black hole for humor that sucked the laughs out of my body and obliterated them.  Finally, reverting back to the horror vibe isn’t a bad move either—although, I would argue that the first one barely had a horror vibe going for it in the first place because of how badly it was produced and its lack of atmosphere.  This one does, however, succeed in feeling like it is dream-like in a way the first film never could accomplish.  The first film just felt like bad editing and not like a dream.  This time around the editing is a little more competent so that issue is nonexistent.

They do try at points to make comedy with Reggie but this is the extent of it.
Look he's mugging!  COMEDY!

Gah!  The Dutch Boy paint kid grew up!
No wait, it's The Tall Man.
Like the other three films, this fourth addition to the franchise has all the familiar elements.  The writing is really weak, the characters STILL aren’t very interesting, the acting isn’t great but, at this point, it’s now serviceable, and the plot is a mess.  Even the positives are still the same as the gore effects are decent (however, they are not really that memorable this time) and Angus Scrimm still has that charisma that makes the otherwise unthreatening and uninteresting character of The Tall Man something to watch.  Honestly, I would think The Tall Man to be a great horror antagonist if there was some sort of method to the madness in his construction but just throwing plot-convenient powers at a man who is constantly doing The People’s Eyebrow and never really showing you how evil he can be (the man leaves entire small towns as wastelands and the films never focus on this?!?) really doesn’t make him feel that threatening.  Sure, he commands the chrome balls and sure, he’s strong and is telekinetic and if you cut off a limb it will transform into a weird puppet monster but we get such limited moments of him using these powers on people.  We see Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers kill the hell out of tons of people but what do we get from The Tall Man?  What we get is luck somehow intervening so he can never finish the job on Reggie and Mike…before he shows up again in order for the film to do the same ending it does in every movie…and then that ending is undone by luck once again in the next film allowing Mike and Reggie to leave.  Yes, I see the charisma in Scrimm that makes me want to watch him but the character itself just isn’t that great.

This part is supposed to be taking place in the last film...he must have aged
considerably in those few seconds.

Aside from my usual gripes with this franchise, this movie takes it one step further and makes it the worst film I’ve watched in the series and the only one of them that doesn’t have that magical “so bad, it’s good” charm like the other films.  The stories in Phantasm aren’t very well thought out or very dynamic—in fact, they always felt made up completely on the spot to me but this time the story felt like a single paragraph idea that would eventually and hopefully get worked on but, instead, is called upon and then stretched into a feature length film.  The whole movie feels like a first act setup that is padded out until it decides to rush through the second and final act. 

"I came here to act like a date rapist and be really bad at comedic relief...
and there's no ladies around to make uncomfortable and this film wants less
comedy so I put this suit on and I'm ready to fight The Tall Man in a very
unsatisfying way."

It wouldn't be a Phantasm film without Creepy Reggie
being creepy.  Remember that family you had that
was killed just for the convenience to the plot?
The film spends way too much time trying to make a mountain out of a mole hill that is Mike and Reggie’s separate journeys.  We watch as Mike takes several trips down memory lane while in the desert as they reused deleted footage from the first film and we have to watch Reggie stalk a girl, cause her to get into a car accident thanks to his arrival and then take her to an abandoned motel in hopes of getting laid.  Then the movie cuts to short scenes that show the origin of The Tall Man before it jumps to its needlessly convoluted and very disappointing finale.  The teasing of The Tall Man’s origin was actually pretty interesting and when the credits hit I kept saying, “You could have easily developed that more and got rid of at least one of Mike’s little memory trips.”  Instead, all the long, drawn out boring stuff that actively works against creating an atmosphere of tension and terror is around and what I was left with was a film that was too dry, bland and boring to even tease.

I don't say a lot of great things about this franchise but this look into The Tall Man's
creation was actually, of course, this series decides to go against
developing it.  Phantasm hasn't been making good movies so far, why
start now?

Phantasm IV:  Oblivion is, so far, the only film in the series that I actually had a hard time getting through.  Look, I don’t think any of these movies are particularly any good but the last three were still fun in their own way.  Oblivion was just a boring pile of nothing that kinda comes off a little bit pretentious despite its very clear messy writing and lazy presentation.  This movie marks the first in the series that I’ve found to be built on the “so bad, it’s good” foundation to be “so bad, it’s just plain bad.”  However, it does finally have a different ending than the rest of the films. So, there's that, I guess.

Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching. Phantasm III:  Lord of the Dead or, as I'll call it, Phantasm III:  Yep, Here's Another One.

Phantasm III:  Lord of the Dead – 2 out of 5

Well, I’m back again for another round with the Phantasm franchise.  I won’t say this series is beating me up because, as bad as I find the movies, they’re fun in their own unique way.  Granted, that way is me laughing at how bad they are but I’m getting some enjoyment out of it and that’s all that matters.  Now I’m up to Phantasm III:  Lord of the Dead and that means I’m at the peak of the series—not peak in quality but rather peak as in the halfway point.  Any-hoo, it’s some more of the same stuff done all over again with the same results.

Oh hai, crew members in the background that we can see in the reflection!

And Liz is never mentioned again.
The end of the last film revealed through The Tall Man’s raspy voice that it’s never over and it seemed that Mike barely survived the creature from another world appearing in the getaway hearse—although it does claim the life of Liz (remember her?).  After this ordeal, Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) is left in a weakened state before being rescued by Reggie (Reggie Bannister).  Together they learn that Mike’s brother; Jody (Bill Thrornbury), is still alive (in a fashion) as he was resurrected by The Tall Man and made into one of those silver spheres.  After The Tall Man is able to capture Mike in order to fulfill a sinister plan he has for him, Reggie is forced to find his way through the wasted ghost towns that the creature has left in his wake and rescue his friends.  This time, however, Reggie the ice cream man has help in the form of the badass Rocky (Gloria Lynne Henry) and the orphan Tim (Kevin Connors).

Hey look, more crew members!

Lord of the Dead is, honestly, not much different than the last two films.  It has all the usual things holding it back and only a very small amount of things making it okay to watch.  Once again, this movie is filled with very uninteresting and one-dimensional characters.  Mike has become as boring as his brother Jody, Rocky has potential but is never utilized, Tim is basically this film’s Kevin McCallister and, like Rocky, has potential because his backstory is very tragic but he’s also never utilized and The Tall Man is the same he’s always been—a character that has no threat-level to him, is portrayed amusingly by its actor, and is built entirely around plot-convenient powers.  This film’s convenient power is that he can just recreate himself in order to justify the previous movie’s ending.  Finally, this movie really wants to portray Reggie as the comedic relief but, like the last film, Reggie Bannister just doesn’t have the chops to pull it off because all he does is rattle off bad lines (that’s, of course, Don Coscarelli’s fault because he’s the writer/director/creator) and then mugs at the camera (he’s also even creepier in this one than he was in the last one).  It’s so awkward and I found these moments impossible to laugh at.  Luckily, all the unintentionally funny moments did make me laugh thanks to bad writing.

Props to the man who doesn't apologize and wears dollar sign jewelry he bought
from a Halloween Express.  And, yes, Reggie leers very uncomfortably at
the woman.  Remember that family you had, Reggie? 

Oh, The Tall Man has a face that looks like he didn't
know the milk turned until he took a sip.
On the acting front, things haven’t changed much as Reggie Bannister is kind of all over the place as the former ice cream man who, for some reason, has a ton of cash on him at all times (seriously, in this film and the last he has a lot of money and I’m fairly certain it’s drug money—ice cream vendors don’t make that kind of scratch) and Angus Scrimm still has that undeniable presence I talk about in each review.  The newcomers of Gloria Lynne Henry and Kevin Connors are decent for what their characters are.  Connors isn’t too shabby as a kid actor and Henry clearly can pull off the badass role but neither character is really given the screen time they deserve and the writing isn’t doing them any favors as it seems Coscarelli doesn’t want to develop them that much—which is a shame because Tim is ripe with a backstory that could be interesting and could have some play on his general arc and character development.  One thing I did note was that the returning player of A. Michael Baldwin is a little more subdued than he was in the first film.  Yep, gone are the days of the wide-eyed Mike and, sadly, A. Michael Baldwin isn’t nearly as good as James LeGros is on the talent spectrum—who, of course, portrayed Mike in the last film.  It’s kinda of a shock to the system seeing the character go from really good to just kinda adequate so quickly.

Gawd dammit, Rocky is an awesome character and she's ruined by basically
having her as Reggie's target for his creepy behavior.  Seriously, Reggie had a
family that The Tall Man killed but you would never know it because
this crappy franchise doesn't use that to build him as a character and just
keeps him as this disgusting excuse for a man.  (Sorry, I really hate Reggie.)

Seriously, how cool would it have been to have a
film without Reggie or Mike and we got to see
The Tall Man just destroy a small town?
Phantasm III:  Lord of the Dead isn’t really doing much to improve the franchise.  I still find myself wanting to see The Tall Man actually decimating these small towns rather than see the aftermath…especially since it seems like his process did take a long time—or, at least, that was my take away from the first film—and now it appears he’s greatly streamlined the whole thing.  Another thing is the film has the same ending as the last two movies.  On one hand this is the franchise’s own inside joke but on the other it just feels super lazy.  Also, the movie does have some decent gore effects working in its favor.  Holy guacamole, the end moments as they battled The Tall Man looked awesome.  The gore effects were just fantastic during this scene.   In the end, however, the film still has merit as a bad movie that is fun to watch.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Phantasm II

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching. On to the second film, boooy!

Phantasm II – 2 out of 5

Alright, I sat through the awful (but, in a unique way, fun) first film and now I’m on to the second one; Phantasm II.  I mentioned in the last review that I never watched any of the other films in this franchise because the first one was so dull and didn’t have any interesting characters or even a captivating antagonist that made me want to see any further adventures.  However, since I like to occasionally latch onto a franchise during the month of Halloween and see the films through to the end (if there ever truly is an end to horror franchises…for as much as people complain about sequels, prequels, remakes and reboots, the horror genre has had that trend on lockdown for decades).  Well, here I am now at the first of the sequels and I found something that was pretty much equal to the last film…but did have some noticeable advantages over its predecessor.

Hello Camera!

On the weekends, The Tall Man's minions hang out
with the Goblins of Nilbog.
Moments after the first film ended and it looks like Mike is about to be taken by The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) and his Jawa-looking minions, Reggie the Ice Cream Man (Reggie Bannister) saves the day and fights off the monsters and escapes with Mike in tow—but not before blowing up the house.  Mike is placed in a psychiatric hospital and, after eight years, is released.  An adult Mike (now played by James LeGros) reveals that he has had a psychic connection with a mysterious girl name Liz (Paula Irvine) and that she has also been the target of The Tall Man.  Reggie tries to convince Mike that none of this exists and that it was all a dream but as the two head to Reggie’s home, an explosion kills his family.  The tragedy convinces Reggie to join Mike on his mission.  Finding Liz, the trio starts the hunt for the mysterious, otherworldly man and discovers that he is carving a path of destruction along the country as he leaves every small town he visits in ruins and the population killed and resurrected as one of his slaves.

Yes, Mike, that's the perfect mask to wear into battle.  Who needs peripheral
vision anyway?

Mike has the "Yeah, I see that everyday" look for
something that one shouldn't see everyday.
For the most part, Phantasm II isn’t really much different from the first film.  It suffers from really bad and lazy writing, the plot makes very little sense, the characters aren’t very interesting and The Tall Man still has all these powers that really don’t feel like they fit under one umbrella of a character and continue to come off like writer/director/creator Don Coscarelli just wrote down a bunch of random ideas and decided just to go with all of them.  Finally, this one has the exact same ending as the first film—granted, this complaint isn’t too bad because it’s obvious that Don Coscarelli wanted to have the sequel mirror the first but I won’t deny that this element also felt a bit lazy and like he couldn’t come up with anything else.  However, despite these problems, the film does have some minor improvements that showcase how Coscarelli has improved as a filmmaker…but these improvements don’t make this film a good movie watching experience, however.

The Tall Man always looks like he's talking to a child that is lying to him and he
knows the kid is lying and is trying to catch him in said lie.

Liz is sensing that she won't be in the next installment.
One thing I noticed immediately is how a lot of the filmmaking aspects were much better this time around.  Shot composition and camera work was noticeably improved (although, I suspect production had no access to tripods because moments that were meant to be static were very shaky and had a habit of swaying back and forth).  Another vast improvement in this film is the gore effects.  I was genuinely surprised at how good they were—well, relatively good.  For example, there’s a moment when Mike and Reggie visit one of the towns decimated by The Tall Man and find who they think is Liz but, in reality, it’s a trap left behind.  A macabre visage of The Tall Man rips out of the minion’s back and spits words of grim despair at the duo.  It’s a very cool use of practical effects that were the norm back in 1988.  However, as cool as it is, it feels fated that something about it would be really wonky as the eyes of the creature chaotically dart back and forth.  The gore and the monster look great but this one element of the eyes destroys the whole illusion and it’s hard to not laugh.

Even with the crazy eyes, this thing is still cool.  Gross but cool.

One HUGE improvement I saw in this film was having James LeGros replace A. Michael Baldwin as Mike.  As I stated in the last review, I thought Baldwin was decent in the first film but I genuinely think LeGros is a great actor and he was doing a hell of a job making the very one-dimensional character of Mike work.  As it concerns the rest of the cast, not much has changed.  Angus Scrimm still isn’t threatening or scary as The Tall Man but his screen presence can’t be denied.  Finally, this film decides it wants Reggie to be the comedic relief—possibly this is Coscarelli capitalizing on how Bannister can’t quite seem to nail down the right level for each reaction and emotion he was portraying on the screen in the first film.  

I'm going to hazard a guess that the hat was something Reggie Bannister
already owned and brought to set.

The only problem here is Coscarelli’s writing isn’t strong enough to successfully pull off comedy, the tone and atmosphere can’t even get a horror vibe going so mixing in some humor is even more impossible, and, here’s the big part, Bannister isn’t funny.  It was just awkward watching him fumble around and mug at the camera.  Not to be cruel but had he played his scenes straight, things might have been funnier but, as they were, they were just difficult to watch.

Reggie looks like he's never seen a chainsaw in his life.

From a story perspective, Phantasm II doesn’t really feel like it is trying to do much different.  It is pushing the narrative forward slightly but I feel like it is focusing on all the wrong things.  For example, The Tall Man is basically decimating every single town he comes to and I really wish that would have been at the front and center of this tale.  Instead, we just see the results with our main characters.  Additionally, I know this series has its very passionate fans but I don’t see Mike and Reggie as that interesting of characters.  Reggie is really creepy and Mike is too lethargic—and both are one-dimensional with little-to-no depth and neither really has any intimidation factor working for them that make them any kind of challenge to the over-powered Tall Man (of course, The Tall Man is a lethargic bad guy who really never does anything with his abilities so I guess it equals out).  Similar to the first film, I found nothing about this movie genuinely entertaining but rather another example of being “so bad, it’s good.”  It’s a really dumb movie but one that is kinda fun to watch and giggle at.