Phantasm II (1988)

Mike and Reggie are back on the trail of the Tall Man, the mysterious undertaker from the first Phantasm movie.  Mike was committed to a mental hospital for a few years and has transformed into an entirely different actor, but everyone else is the same, just ten years older.

This is such a huge improvement over the first movie that it is a shock.  Instead of a bunch of ridiculous "it was a dream" scenes, piling up to the heavens, dream scenes within dream scenes, you've instead got a cool action/fantasy/horror movie focusing on the much easier to understand theme of Reggie and Mike following the Tall Man, as he leaves devastation everywhere he goes.

It takes the cool stuff that happened at the end of Phantasm, and builds an interesting mythology of it.  And, as the movie poster promises, the ball is back!  This time, there are multiple spheres, each with different powers/weapons.  Man, these things never get old.  For Phantasm V they could just have scene after scene of spheres drilling and slicing people and I would just play the disc on repeat all day, until I was an old man with long fingernails and a general unkempt appearance.  Then I would die and people would say, "don't mourn him- he died doing what he loved, which was wasting his life watching this one stupid movie over and over and over like a fool."

The effects are RADICAL and there is even a thrilling chainsaw battle that is better than most sword fights in serious movies about sword fights.  There is some really gory stuff in here, especially for an American horror film from the late 80s.

The movie is really funny, and it even was meant to be funny.  Some great humor in here, most of it coming from Reggie, who is portrayed as this everyday guy in over his head and he knows it.  This Reggie guy must have taken a bunch of acting lessons or something, because he is so much better in this compared with the first movie that he really steals the show.

There are two stupid things in this movie:

First, the weird love story they have crammed in between Mike and Liz, who is this girl that is in the movie for no reason other than to have a telepathic love interest.  There is a whole scene where she and Mike communicate telepathically while sitting right next to each other, and it's just embarrassing to watch while Mike's voice over goes, "this is great!  We can talk WITH OUR MINDS" while onscreen he is making a happy, but wordless, face.  It just goes on and on.  And there is no point to it, because the telepathy doesn't go on to play any kind of role in resolving the story.

(The second stupid thing is the telepathy actually)

All in all, it's a tremendous improvement over the first movie, and I like it more and more each time I watch it.  Surprisingly, it just gets even better with the third movie, but that is a story for another time.

OR IS IT?!?!?!

*wakes up in a cold sweat*
Oh thank god, it was just a dream!

*zombies pull me through window*


Phantasm (1979)

A young boy named Michael loses his brother Tommy to suicide, shortly after losing his parents, leaving him with just his older brother Jody and friendly icecream man Reggie as support.  Terrified that Jody will leave him, he begins snooping around, only to find that there are some very strange things going on at the local cemetary... and maybe Tommy's death isn't so easily explained.

This is one of those movies that I remember really liking the first time I saw it and being disappointed with its sequels, but then ten years later liking the sequels a lot more.

I really like all the weird monsters in this.  You never know what to expect next, and some of the critters are quite unique.  The sphere never gets old, and it's easy to see why it went on to be used (and improved) in all the sequels.

I also really like Reggie, who is an interesting character because he is such an atypical hero.

Finally, I really liked the scenes at the beginning that focus on Michael snooping around trying to figure out whether or not his brother plans on abandoning him, and the part at the end where you get a glimpse of an alien dimension.

The middle and ending of the movie however have some problems.  It's impossible to tell what is going on in this movie, because people die and come back to life constantly and the only explanation was, "it was a dream."  It just seemed to me that the movie was cut down a lot, and while they did they best they could to tie it all up, not much could be done.  People praise it as having this nightmarish quality, but it's more like a patchwork of "nightmare scenes" from movies, rather than real nightmares you might have (Suspiria and The Beyond are much better examples of nightmarish horror films).

As it is, Phantasm laid the ground work for two really fantastic movies, and is not a bad movie on its own.  Certainly worth spending an afternoon on!


I Eat Your Skin (1964)

Writer Tom Harris is convinced by his agent to research his next trashy romance novel at Voodoo Island.  Along for the trip is his agent, and his agent's shrill wife.  Little do they know, that Voodoo Island is not as innocent as the name would lead you to believe!  Oh wait...

This movie is bad.  Not just for the usual reasons (acting, script, effects), but also because it feels like three bad movies squished together.  Also, it is so bad that the only way they could get people to watch it, was to play it along with the infinitely better I Drink Your Blood; in other words, by holding people hostage.

The first movie is some screwball comedy, with jealous husbands being pushed into swimming pools, and comically escaping from jealous husbands.  I guess you could say the general theme of the comedic parts is "things one does to jealous husbands."  These parts of the movie take up only the first and last five minutes or so (though they feel like hours).

The second movie is a decent zombie survival horror movie, with people trapped in bad situations and a surprisingly gory decapitation.  This part of the movie is pretty good, but it only lasts for twenty minutes or so.

The third movie is your typical "we've got no budget, stand around and talk forever" scifi movie from the late 50s.  Unfortunately this takes up most of the movie.

So what you end up with is like a tootsie roll pop.  On the outside is a thin layer of candy (screwball comedy).  Underneath that is a bunch of tootsie roll (the scifi parts).  Then in the middle you have... uh... more tootsie and that's like... hmmm

So what you end up with is like a Russian doll.  You open up your screwball comedy, and there's a boring scifi movie inside!!!  Then you open that, and there a zombie movie!  Then you open that and... you are back to the... scifi movie... because inside the smallest Russian doll is a... portal or vortex... that allows the scifi movie Russian doll to exist both within and without the zombie doll... hmm...

I'm not sure what it's like, but since the only way to find out would be to watch the movie, I don't recommend attempting this.


Bride of the Gorilla (1951)

Definitely the best gorilla-related movie on that disc that includes only this movie and Kong Island, Bride of the Gorilla is really a morality tale, which teaches us we shouldn't commit crimes or we may turn into gorillas.

Let's talk about this movie.  A guy commits crimes and turns into a gorilla.  I won't ruin the amazing twist ending that will tear your little world into shreds, but let's just say that when you stare into the abyss, the abyss turns you into a "gorilla" and then the "woman you love" gets "killed" "protecting" "you."

Like a lot of cheapo 1950s genre movies, you've got a LOT of scenes of people talking about the story, with very little happening until the struggle at the very end.  There are a lot of retroactively hilarious things about this one though.  Like the islander police chief who was formally educated, played by Lon Chaney Jr. in the most American of American accents, who goes around staring off into nowhere and just going on and on about how his "savage mind" conflicts with his rational policeman brain.  Or how you can't tell where the hell the island is, since every single character sports a completely different "ethnic" accent.

Having said that, it's not a bad movie.  If you, say, are standing on a subway train in oppressive heat, surrounded by dozens if not millions of sweaty people, the number increasing stop-by-stop so that you feel like you are being slowly crushed to death by sweaty rocks wearing suits and reading newspapers, and all you've got is your cellphone with this movie on it, you really have no reason not to watch it.