Monday, June 28, 2010

Tall Tales: Phantasm II

A mere nine years after the original film was released- 11 years after it was filmed though-, a sequel was finally made.  Why do some movies take so long to get a sequel out?!?  It's a shame that there isn't a giant nerd who makes lists about stuff like that!  The first problem that comes from this is that the film begins with a scene that takes place right after the first film ends.  Don Coscarelli- master of the macabre and lacker of foresight.  Another thing that came up was that A. Michael Baldwin went through a 'change' between the making of the two films and retired from acting to pursue religion.  Don't worry- he comes back for Phantasm III.  In his place is James LeGros, an actor who's much more interesting and- no pun intended- engrossing.  So what's new here?  Well, The Tall Man is not dead and is after our not-so-young-anymore hero.  Why?  Well, we'll get to that over the next couple of films, but don't look for a super-clear answer.  What this movie does have, however, is new characters, new locations and a more cohesive plot.  Will it be The Godfather II of the series or The Howling II instead?  Find out in my four-barreled review of...
The film begins with a flashback to the first one, which is mostly there to summarize it for people who weren't legally-allowed to see the original when it came out.  At the real beginning, The Tall Man's midget henchmen are attacking Reggie and trying to run off with Mike, the young boy.  Remember the 'time gap' I spoke of earlier?  Well, that becomes apparent when the midgets attempt to steal the child I like to refer to as Stunt Mike.  Desperate and concerned, Reggie sets his house (which was apparently not his when the first film ended- oops) to blow up by turning on the gas and his oven.  He beats up a midget and runs out with Stunt Mike, escaping through a second floor window unharmed as his house blows up.  Yeah, that's not how bones work, buddy.  Cut to ten years later and Mike is now being released from an Asylum, but only because he 'admits' that the whole story was made up.  That was a clever plot point when it showed up in Fright Night, Part 2!  Anyhow, Mike and Reggie reunite and head towards a family reunion, only to have the house blow up Lethal Weapon-style before they get there.  Apparently, Don Coscarelli is a pseudonym for Michael Bay!
In the wake of this tragedy, our heroes choose one stage of grief to focus on: anger.  They purloin a bunch of gear from a hardware store, including a chainsaw, a welding torch and some assorted tools.  The big thing to come out of this, however, is Reggie's soon-to-be-trademark four-barrel shotgun (two of them welded together).  Of course, he never fires the damn thing until the last ten minutes of the movie, but it's still cool.  They go out driving for a bit, giving Don a pretense to write in some narration to fill the time.  See, it's not filler if you talk over it!  We get a scene of the pair breaking into a morgue and trying to find The Tall Man.  Unfortunately, all they find is a man who grows a face out of his back before Mike puts him out of his misery with the torch.  Later on, Mike has a dream about a female hitchhiker, only to see her (Alchemy- really!) in the car with them when he wakes up.  While the pair are taking a piss, they discuss Mike's vision of her, which matches up to a vision he had of her in a morgue earlier.  Taken in context to him picturing the house blowing up earlier and you have one worried lead.  Reggie, however, just wants a woman around to possibly sleep with.  They get to Alchemy's town, only to find it deserted.  After using a chainsaw to break into her uncle's deserted B&B, they settle in.
They cram so much plot into this thing that I have completely ignored the other half of this movie!  A blond sees visions of Mike, while he dreams about her.  When her grandpa dies, he ends up buried by The Tall Man, who has a priest under his sway...somehow.  Tall Man turns her grandma into a midget and tries to capture her- just because.  Thankfully, Mike and Reggie show up to save the day, since Alchemy lives in the same town as the woman.  We get a showdown between the duo of Mike and Reggie and The Tall Man, his army of midgets, the flying orbs and his pair of evil morticians.  Hmm, I'd say that they are boned.  To make matters worse, the orbs have a shit-ton of new add-ons, including side-blades, a targeting laser, a heat ray and a blood pump.  Ease up on the Apps, Tall Man!  Reggie has a chainsaw duel with one of them before giving him a saw-blade to the nuts.  Ease up on ripping off other horror sequels, Don!  The other one gets killed by one of the orbs, even getting it stuck in his chest.  The defeat of Tall Man is very intense, including having one of the orbs plop his 'brain' out, having acid injected into his blood stream and getting melted.  In spite of this, he still finds time to take over Alchemy and give us a second bleak, twist ending.
This movie is good, but there are some noticeable issues lingering about.  First off, the focus on more horror, including bloody deaths and brain drills, is welcome.  Considering the weird, dream-like atmosphere of the first film, it's unique.  On the flip-side, this is a 180-degree shift from the first movie, which probably scared off all of the 'art house' fans of the first one.  The movie introduces a ton of new characters, but most of them don't last long enough to really do anything.  The evil morticians are neat, but get no back-story or explanation for their actions.  Are they possessed or just evil freaks?  In addition, the orbs become a more important part of the story and get a ton of upgrades, as mentioned above.  With that, however, we get the questions of how this happened, who did all of this outside work and why he needs them?  No answers here.  James Le Gros does a good job as 'Mike' and Reggie Bannister is, well, Reggie.  The sudden addition of James is a change for the better, but is a bit distracting.  Ironically, restoring status quo will have the same result!  As a whole, this movie is the big, angry brother to the thoughtful, dreamy Phantasm.  If you hate the original, that's good for you.  If you love the original, you may just want to enjoy your favorite parts of that 1979 film- they're not coming back.
Up next, the Phantasm series becomes a trilogy and officially jumps the shark.  Ironically, they do this while also bringing the cast back together!  Stay tuned...

1 comment:

  1. I rate the films in the order in which they were released, I like this one for the expanded scope and bigger action, not so much for Reggie's continued antics.