Monday, May 15, 2017

Don't Crush that Dwarf!

Phantasm (1979) is the latest in the horror retrospective, sponsored by Ms. Spenser. We've enjoyed several of Don Coscarelli's movies, especially Bubba Ho-Tep and John Dies at the End. But we hadn't seen his classic horror, so I queued it up.

It starts with a guy getting laid in a cemetery. The beautiful woman on top of him them proceeds to kill him with a knife, momentarily turning into a tall ugly man (Angus Scrimm) in the process. the next day we meet Bill Thornbury, the dead guy's buddy, and his teen brother, Michael Baldwin. Their parents were killed and Thornbury moved back home to raise his kid brother. Now his buddy died and he is getting ready to go to the funeral. Little Michael spies on the ceremony and sees the tall man lifting a coffin into the hearse as if it weighed nothing. That's his first clue that something isn't right. Also, that coffin was supposed to be buried.

He decides to investigate further, and breaks into the the funeral home to check it out. He is attacked by tiny people in Jawa robes, but fights them off. Then, in a marble-lined columbarium (look it up, that's the word), the tall man spots him and sends a horrible weapon after him: a flying chrome ball with hooks on it that latches onto your face, drill a hole in your head, and drains the blood out a spout in the back.

If you know anything about this movie, you know about the chrome ball thing. It is one the posters, along with Scrimm's face. But notice that we have now seen several menaces from the tall man:
  • Super strong
  • Turns into a sexy lady and kills guys while having sex in the graveyard
  • Attack dwarves
  • Flying kill-ball
I kind of fell like that is too many threats, with no central theme.

There are some other weird deadends in the movie. For ex, the kid goes to a fortune teller who basically gives him the Gom Jabbar test from Dune - "Fear is the mind killer". Since big brother hangs out at the Dune Cantina, you think this is leading to something, but it isn't. Still, it's kind of cool.

I guess the series is most famous for it's semi-surreal, dream-like quality, and maybe also it's extreme cheapness. Fair enough, but my favorite parts were Thornbury just being a guy, maybe a little rebellious, dreaming about leaving town, picking up out-of-town women at the Dune, playing music with his friend, Reggie Bannister. Actually, they play pretty well together - I wouldn't have minded a few more scenes of that. At least, we get plenty of Reggie, who plays an ice cream man, and wears a natty bow tie for a lot of the movie.

Another nice point is that the kid has real proof of the whole thing, and Thornbury and Bannister believe him pretty much right off.

Ms. Spenser's favorite part, however, was the sweet, black 1971 Hemi 'Cuda that the brothers are restoring. She digs them muscle cars.

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