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It's a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad Movie

Phantasm (1979)

[2.0 turkeys]

I shouldn't have watched this movie again. I used to really like this movie -- I mean, actually think it was a good movie, even a scary movie. It's not. It's not good, and it's not scary. There are definitely some cool parts, and Angus Scrimm as the Tall Man is one of the coolest villains there is in the horror movie genre. And who can forget The Ball? But taken as a whole, it's just sort of silly and somewhat boring. There aren't even any really big bad movie laughs to save it from extreme mediocrity.

It's even a hard movie to review and lampoon, since in reality very little actually happens. Sure, there's lots of running back and forth from the hero's house to the local funeral home/mausoleum, and there's lots of sneaking around inside the mausoleum and getting attacked by evil midgets. But other than that, what can I say?

We start out with a guy getting killed by the Lavender Woman. She's actually the Tall Man's alter ego, as we can see by some bad cuts between her face and the Tall Man's face.

At the guy's funeral, we meet our eventual heroes: Reggie, Jody, and Jody's younger brother Mike (who is hiding in the bushes). Reggie and Jody mourn their friend's death, then take off in their Hemicuda. For anyone who doesn't know, a Hemicuda is a 70s muscle car. The car is as much a star in this series as the people. Originally the Hemicuda belongs to Jody, but through the rest of the series, it's Reggie's car.

Mike, still hiding in the bushes, watches as the Tall Man picks up the casket all by himself and puts it back into the hearse. Naturally, Mike then goes to see some old lady and her granddaughter. Who these people are is never explained, but they teach Mike an important lesson, namely that fear is his only enemy. Or something like that. Actually what they did was fleece him out of a couple bucks with their mumbo-jumbo. Later, after hearing Mike's story, the granddaughter goes to the mausoleum and screams.

Mike then goes home and works on his brother's car. I think they said Mike was 13, but they let him drive around in the Hemicuda, and he seems to know more about the car than his brother does. While Mike is under the Hemi, Jody and Reggie talk about him like he's in a soundproof booth.

Later that night, Jody goes to a bar, and Mike tails him and watches as Jody picks up the Lavender Woman after about two seconds of small talk. Man, I wish I was that smooth. Jody takes the Lavender Woman to the cemetery, which for whatever reason seems to be the local make-out spot. While Mike is spying on them in the woods, some evil midgets attack him, and he runs screaming past his brother and the Lavender Woman. "Wait here, it's my brother. I think he's got some kind of a problem," says Jody. Such an astute observation. Unbeknownst to Jody (but knownst to us), Mike just saved his life, since the Lavender Woman was of course about to kill him and make him an evil midget.

Some other time, Mike is working on the Hemi again. It's up on jacks, and he's underneath. Some evil midgets start jumping on the back of the car, and it falls off the jacks. Mike crawls out from underneath and finds his brother standing there, but no midgets. "You sure it wasn't that retarded kid Timmy up the street?" Jody asks when Mike tells him again of the evil midgets.

Mike decides to take matters into his own hands and goes to the Tall Man's mausoleum. He spends forever looking at a basement window, then finally kicks it in and jumps inside. He heads upstairs and nearly gets caught by the Tall Man In Training, who seems to be wearing PJs and a silly hat. Then he is caught by the TMIT, and The Ball makes its first appearance.

The Ball, for those who don't know, is another one of the non-living stars of the Phantasm series. Unlike the Hemicuda, however, it actually gets to kill people. It (and later in the series, they) are small silver spheres that fly around. They have knives that extend when they get close to someone and then get slammed into the flesh of the victim. Once the knives are engaged, a little drill comes out from between them and drills into the victim.

Mike is being held by the Tall Man In Training while the ball is homing in on him. However, he bites the TMIT's arm and gets free, just in time for The Ball to arrive several seconds later. The TMIT actually has to stand and wait for The Ball to arrive. But arrive it does, and it drills into his head and pumps the blood out in a steady stream from the other side.

Mike hangs around a bit himself, just in time to be nearly caught by the Tall Man. The two face each other down the hallway, then slowly walk toward each other. Then they stop, wait a bit, then start walking toward each other again. Then they stop, wait, and then Mike takes off running down a connecting hall. What the heck was that all about?

The Tall Man chases Mike into the basement, but Mike slams the door on his hand. Mike takes his knife and hacks off the Tall Man's fingers. Yellow goop comes flying out of the dismembered fingers. Mike drops his knife, picks up one of the fingers, and runs home.

After seeing the still-moving finger, Jody finally believes Mike's story. So that night, he goes to the mausoleum himself. Nobody has bothered to fix or even board up the busted window, so he goes in that way. An evil midget attacks him immediately, and Jody shoots him and runs away. Mike meets him at the front gate in the Hemi, and the two speed off while they're being chased by a hearse.

Ok, wait, hang on. None of what is about to happen should happen. Here's what would happen in any real chase that involved a Hemicuda and a hearse. The Hemicuda driver would put the pedal to the floor, rocket off at about 140 MPH, while the hearse would burst into flames trying to get above 85.

Instead, the hearse keeps pace with the Hemi, so Jody hangs out the sunroof and blasts at it with a shotgun. The hearse swerves off the road and crashes into a tree, so naturally instead of speeding away, Mike and Jody go back to the accident scene. The find that there was a midget driving the hearse, and he's been run through with a tree limb or something like that.

They go off and find Reg, who brings his ice cream truck. They load the midget into the refrigerated truck and drive away.

So after some other stupid stuff happens, we finally get the last trip to the mausoleum. They meet up with The Ball again, but Jody blows it away with the shotgun. Finally, they find The Door. It's at the end of the hallway they've been going down all movie, but this is the first time they go in. Inside are a whole bunch of small black drums with little windows in them and two metal rods sticking out of the floor.

So suddenly, after all of this nothing, we get thirty seconds of plot. Mike figures out that the two rods sticking out of the floor are actually a gateway to another world. The Tall Man is taking dead bodies, crunching them down to half size, somehow reanimating them, and then shipping them off to the other planet to work as slaves. That's it. The entire plot, covered in about 30 seconds. Three trips to the mausoleum, countless attacks by evil midgets, and a whole bunch of scenes involving the Tall Man walking, and this is all that really matters. And it's kind of stupid.

Anyway, Reg turns off the portal to the other planet, the whole house sucks itself into oblivion, and then it turns out that everything was a dream and the Tall Man wins. The End.

Scene to watch for: 1 1/2 hours of setup for 30 seconds of plot.

Best line: "He's only three feet long -- he must still weigh over 200 pounds!"

Things that make you go "Huh?": Standing around waiting for The Ball.

View this movie's entry at the Internet Movie Database.

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