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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Phantasm - A Review

In recent years I’ve gone off the Horror genre. On one hand it’s a spiritual thing, as a Christian I have a natural disposition against most horror films. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not like a “Thou shalt not watch Horror movies” thing... its more like a feeling in my gut when something doesn’t feel quite correct. Movies like the Exorcist or Hell Raiser with their occult themes seem fun on the outside but vex my spirit as if there is something else in the room tormenting me while I watch. It’s hard to explain to someone who has never been exposed to the idea that in Christ you are a new creation but that’s it in a nut shell really.

On the other hand I’m sick of the same old recipe, especially in slasher movies, that goes like this:

*Young couple or group alone camping or baby sitting.

*Nudity or sex scene in the first 20 minutes to seduce male audience.

*Everyone gets massacred, especially the naked people, bar one survivor.

*Introduce next couple or group who are somehow smarter than the first group because they survive long enough to justify the next 70 minutes of fake blood and rubbish.

* Just as everyone thinks bad guy/thing is dead, bring him/it back for one more “fright”

* Leave massive opening for lame sequel with equally lame cast.

The truth is that the best and most terrifying horror flicks came out of the 70’s and 80’s when the monsters were so paper mache and terrifyingly fake that you had to rely on the actors actually acting to carry the scene; and if they failed at pulling it off, at least you could laugh at how bad it was. These days the proliferation of CGI, showing too much of the thing or whatever it is that’s supposed to be scary, using young hot teenage pin ups as the cast and the same old formula has ruined the franchise. So much so that now there is a disturbing trend in horror films to go well beyond the pale in films like Hostel or the remake of Halloween which incorporate gratuitous sexual escapades before (or sometimes during) the carnage; because nothing else seems to shock audiences anymore!

But having said that, I still enjoy various horror atrocities, especially Zombie flicks and have realized the more stupid a Horror movie is, the less evil.

And Phantasm was stupidly stupid.

Most of the actors were ugly, and given that modern day movie makers don’t understand the value of putting normal looking folk in their movies, this means a lot. By ugly I mean the main kid, Michael, reminded me of that kid from Malcolm in the Middle, except with lots of denim and a hair cut like the early Farra Fawcett’s. His older bro Jody feared no better with his boofy locks and finally, just for some balance, they run around with their bald chum, rockstar wanna be, Reggie who drives an ice cream truck for a living...

But before I complain about what an intellectual taunt this haunt was I suppose I should tell you what I think it was about. Jodie returns to his hometown for the funeral of a mutual friend of his and Reggies. We are introduced to the large white funeral home located on the cemetery where strange things are goin down. Namely the undertaker, a mysterious fellow simply known as The Tall Man, is stealing bodies from the grave yard and resurrecting them as bizarre midget minions. Michael seems to be the only one with any clue of fishiness until one night, during a scooby doo style investigation he is chased by a silver blade swinging ball through the long white corridors. Then in a desperate bid to escape he cuts off the fingers of The Tall Man after jamming them in the cellar door. He takes one of the fingers home to show his bro, where it mutates into a furry gremlin like thing, which he and Jody just barely manage to stuff down the insinkerator before it can do any damage. So now there’s nothing to it but to get some guns, go to the funeral home and take them all down. Makes a lot of sense.

Apart from bad cuts between scenes that leave you disoriented and wondering if maybe you missed something this film was more funny than scary. Especially considering the Tall Man’s slave army looked more like Jawas and seemed to suggest R2D2 was hiding round the corner, even more so when The Tall Man turns out to be an alien whose motive for being here doesn’t go much further than making a Jawa army from stiffs. Why not just let him take them, after all it is appointed unto man once to die... (Hebrews 9:27)

The story unfortunately breaks one of the golden rules of story telling, and that is never, under any circumstances, end a tale with “... and I woke up and discovered, it was all just a dream.” In fact I wondered if it was all just a dream myself after falling asleep several time over the three nights it took me to watch it on Youtube... and on that note, don’t try to watch it on You tube, there was a whole ten minutes of the film missing which didn’t seem to matter anyway because the editing was that dire, but then again who knows, maybe R2D2 did made his cameo in that ten minutes while the Tall Man explained that it was all because of a bad relationship with his mother that he started the whole grave robbing thing in the first place. Then they can all probably hug and live happily ever after in that other dimension where Jawas run free and bald men in ice cream trucks become rock stars. After such a nauseating and confusing beginning the movie could have gone almost anywhere so I wouldn’t be surprised.

So on a scale of 1 to 10, Total twaddle being 10, I would give this movie an 8 and for a quick way to end a sleepless night I would give it another 8, recommending that you view this before even considering a sleeping pill.

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