So… super underground investigative journalist comes across videotape of death cult. Girl shoots herself in head, comes back to life. Journalist follows story to Bucharest where, coincidentally I’m sure, it’s much cheaper to film a horror movie than it is in the States. Finds a nearly-dead girl with a hellraiser box in her hand

Deader 1

Gets the box. Solves it in about seven seconds.

Deader 2

But that was maybe a dream. Lotta people are in some kinda state of dead or living and maybe dreaming I’m not sure. Also the reporter has occasional flashbacks to her abusive father. Eventually, Pinhead ain’t putting up with this bullshit anymore, shows up, kills everyone.

Deader 3

And the twist: the reporter’s boss (also her ex boyfriend or husband) hires… yes, ANOTHER REPORTER! I don’t get how that’s a twist, but the movie seems to think so.

Whole movie has stupid jerky editing including, get this, the bootleg videotape of the death cult! It’s all grainy and low-light but shot with a buncha cameras and edited by the same spaz who did the rest of the movie. Unbelievable, that. Pinhead has little to do except summon a few chains and say some catchphrases. A confused buncha nonsense overall, not even a tight little small-thinking twilight-zone story like the last few. Makes me think Inferno and Hellseeker were actually kinda good.

EDIT JUNE 2018: This is a lousy overview of an interesting series, and I need to redo it some day. Two years ago I got to see Phantasm in theaters, which I briefly mentioned here, and now I’ve seen a 35mm screening of Phantasm II at the Alamo. The guy introducing the film made some sense, saying this was the cheapest Universal picture of the 1980’s and that the studio mandated a casting change, love interest, explanatory VO, and linear plot with no dream sequences. So it’s the most anti-Phantasm of Phantasm movies, but it still pretty much works, advancing the mythology while throwing in a couple of real nice explosions and the most horrible sphere-death of the series.


Best horror series ever? Maybe not, but let me hyperbolize. Totally consistent and original movies with a really interesting conclusion, even if I still think Don is being vague just so we’ll think he’s way deep. Might find out later on the commentary. This weekend, listened to Don talk about parts 1 & 2, and watched 3 & 4 for the first time since they came out.

Phantasm 1a

Phantasm 1b

Part one gets better every time. Obviously so low budget but you can see ’em putting their heart into it. Love how Don waits until Mike is struggling with the rubber fly monster wrapped in a jacket to talk about the excellent acting in this series… I laugh at first, but dude’s got a point in general. Weird how Reggie & Jody’s song on the porch is one of my favorite scenes. The British tagline for this movie was “Where The Dead Are No Longer That Way”. Too bad I missed this at the drive-in.

Phantasm 2a

Phantasm 2b

“The Ball is Back”. I used to think this was the best Phantasm movie, but now I see it’s just the slickest and most expensive (and not coincidentally, the one that was always on cable in 1988-90). James LeGros of Drugstore Cowboy and Living In Oblivion takes over the Mike role cuz Michael Baldwin was busy that week. Still might be the best Phantasm movie, I’m just not positive about it anymore. Best Tall Man death (exploding eyeballs!) and Balls and effects and stuff. Not much left to write about, since I’ve watched it a hundred times now. Don says the fans used to complain about this one a lot… until part 3 came out.

Phantasm 3a

Phantasm 3b

“Lord of the Dead”. I used to complain about part 3 a lot… thought it was silly, what with the kid with the killer frisbee and the feminist/lesbian with nunchucks. Watching all the movies together puts it in better perspective. They’re ALL kinda silly. Nobody ever really bought the rubber fly in the jacket scene, and you can almost see the stagehands lobbing metal canisters at Reggie at the end of part 2. It’s just fun with bursts of horror and some good storytelling underneath. The repeated bits in each movie (especially the mirror endings) are fun, too. Anyway, the kid and the drifters and the nunchuck lesbian aren’t bad, and it’s nice to see Mike back, and this is where the whole thing gets weird, what with Jody’s return from the dead and the Tall Man implanting a Ball in Mike’s head, then spending part four trying to get it back, I think.

Phantasm 4a

Phantasm 4b

“OblIVion”, or, The One Composed Largely Of Deleted Scenes From Part One Used As Flashbacks. Given about a third the budget of the last one, Don found a way to create a new story around old leftover footage rather than give up or sell out the characters. Hardly any peripheral actors/characters, lot of final-standoff Mike vs. Tall Man stuff and of course an origin story. No horror series makes it to part four without an origin story. The Tall Man gets a name (Jebediah Morningside, a funeral home director who builds portals to other dimensions at home in his spare time), Mike tries to control the Ball in his head (or something), Jody keeps popping up but I still don’t know why, and Reggie gets in some good bits. Watch these movies enough times and they start to seem like real people. I’m sad to see the story finally end.

The horrible thing is that the last movie I saw, just two nights before, was Black Narcissus, also starring Deborah Kerr. I knew it was her, and when she first showed up, I said “that’s Deborah Kerr” and I STILL didn’t recognize her. Looks totally different. What is wrong with me?

Starts out reeeal obvious, as super-rich guy hires pleasant woman to care for pleasant-enough kids at secluded estate and kids turns out to be spooky or house turns out to be haunted or something. But then gets downright creepy with boy trying to make out with Ms. Kerr and tons of great gothic atmosphere. High quality little movie. The Others was based on the same book.

Who ever would’ve thought that I’d like a movie about nuns as much as this. Fucking incredibly amazing movie, one of the best I’ve ever seen, and I don’t think that’s just because I’m kinda drunk. Need to see this again and again. Would kill to see it in the theater. Maybe next year, 60th anniversary and all. Oughtta watch it again simply because I wasn’t paying as close attention as I should’ve… but still, seems like an extremely worthwhile movie.

Nuns opening school/hospital in the mountains with “primitive” people and a gruff, attractive male neighbor. One, maybe more of them, loses her mind. Plot and character don’t really need to be discussed, not that I paid strict enough attention to them to be able to discuss anyway, but even though they’re pretty great themselves, it’s the visuals that make the thing a fucking masterpiece. Wanted to cry at the end.

I like how some of the most beautiful shots (in terms of scenery, staging) are also some of the most fakey (obvious sets + backgrounds). Little praying, if any – surprising for a nun movie. Better than Nazarin probably… gotta see Viridiana next.

Also: a cockatoo and an african grey – in the same shot!

What I learned about life in the 50’s from watching The Day The Earth Stood Still:

Women scream and fall down when confronted with danger

Day The Earth Stood Still

In an emergency, army men ignore women entirely and let them get away.

If a spaceship lands in Washington DC, it’s okay to leave it guarded by two men and some police tape

Scientists necessarily have frizzy hair.

When you ask a US general to summon representatives from every country, the only one they’ll contact is Russia, whom they know will say “no” anyway.

Saying “klaatu barata nikto” can help in a lot of situations, not just when retrieving the book of the dead.

Day The Earth Stood Still

Even aliens believe in God. Lady: “He has the power of life and death” Klaatu: “No, that power is reserved for the almighty spirit”.

Kids say “golly” an awful lot.

The cold war was pretty serious stuff.

Aliens are well-mannered white men.

Day The Earth Stood Still

“The decision rests with you”

Not a good movie to watch when depressed, obviously. Patiently explains why the Iraq war and all the other countries we’ve had military dealings with since WWII are symptoms of the “unwarranted influence” of “the military-industrial complex” that Dwight Eisenhower warned against in January 1961.

Why We Fight

GW Bush and Cheney and Halliburton whatever. Saddam Hussein whatever. 9/11 whatever. A man whose son was killed and wrote to ask his name be written on a bomb dropped in Iraq. A woman who works at a bomb factory. Eisenhower’s descendants talking about Eisenhower. We’re all gonna die. Too bad I watched this, cuz now I can’t see Al Gore’s “An Undeniable Truth” without fucking killing myself.

Why We Fight

The movie Carol Reed made between Odd Man Out and The Third Man. I’d never heard of it before it opened outta nowhere at the Landmark.

The Idol in question is Baines, the butler, and the Idolizer is Phillipe, a typical shrill young movie kid who says “Baines” a whole damned lot. Baines doesn’t kill his wife, but she falls down the stairs and dies. At the end, I’m not sure if the kid is covering for Baines, “growing up” by claiming to be telling the whole truth while consciously not mentioning that he thought he saw Baines kill his wife… OR if the kid is smart enough to realize he didn’t actually see Baines kill his wife, and to trust Baines even though he realizes Baines has lied to him in the past. So the kid’s either learning to lie or learning to trust despite others’ lies… either way, that’s what the movie’s about.

Baines is having an affair and preparing to leave his wife, and shows no grief at all when faced with his wife’s death in front of the cops. One of those movies where you can see that everyone’s problems come from hiding something important and that all their troubles would clear up if they’d just stop being so secretive. A lotta movies like that.

But then, also one of those movies where everyone (except the dead wife, who died quite by accident so let’s not worry about her) gets away without trouble, where the movie doesn’t force any undeserved consequences on its characters to teach us a harsh life lesson… not all “Quai des Orfevres” feelgood, but nice nonetheless.

Cool looking part when the kid runs through the streets, terrified of Baines and the death, meets a cop… just the right mixture of low angles and shadows. Gets very tense towards the end, with Baines pulling a gun alone in the basement, threatening to kill himself over the false murder accusation.

Good enough picture but low, crackly sound made it hard to understand dialogue. Glad I saw it, but not gonna be a repeat fave. Movies with shrill British kids as protagonists never are.

Totally enjoyed it. Jim compares it to Neil Young: Heart of
Gold
in how the performances look + feel, and that’s about right (except
without the harsh video look of NY:HoG). Lotta performances and backstage
musings about life, death and endings. Except for the Tommy Lee Jones
part, it’s almost done mockumentary-style. If I didn’t know a little bit
about R Altman, I’d think they shot three times as much material and put
the thing together in the editing room. Tricky to make a fully-scripted
movie seem so free, but he always manages.

I don’t listen to the radio show and wouldn’t have recognized Garrison
Keillor’s voice before seeing the movie, so can’t comment on how it treats
the legacy of his show. Very well, I’d imagine, since he wrote it and
co-stars. I’ve read negative comments about Kline, Jones, Lohan and
Madsen’s characters, but I ate it right up… enjoyed all of them. Way to
combine humor with horror. I felt it was worth the ticket price right when
the opening credits started… all those names of some of my favorite
actors together up on screen. I’d happily call it Altman’s best film in a
decade, but I have sort of a soft spot for Cookie’s Fortune.