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.

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