And here I thought I was done. I missed the Masters of Horror series when it first broadcast and never really got around to catching up on it. I always wanted to see the Carpenter one. The Coscerelli one never occurred to me, but it’s a good one to dive in with. During negotiations with Showtime, this episode was essential in getting the show on the air – and as such, it was the first one to be broadcast.
It’s a good story, beautifully shot and well made. But it also feels very by-the-numbers to me, and I just don’t see enough of Coscarelli’s fingerprint in it. This could be because the script was written by Stephen Romano, not Coscerelli, and even that teleplay was based on someone elses’s short story. It’s the tale of a lumbering humanoid monster in the woods stalking a young woman on the run from her survivalist husband.
I don’t dislike it per se. In fact, this story includes an absolutely arvelous performance by Angus Scrimm. It’s positively goofy and off – a complete departure from teh sinister demenor we are used to seeing, but far more lunatic than the actually nature of teh man himself. I saw flashes of this in Ravager and Oblivian actually. It’s Angus being flighty and so much fun.
Still, the whole thing isn’t quirky enough. I miss Don’s sense of humor and off kilter style. This feels like an episode of a TV series. It’s normal for an auteur’s personal style to get lost there. Essenetial that it does in fact. But it does make me wonder about the rest of the Master’s of Horror series. Still, I’m glad I finally got around to seeing what is one of Don’s biggest commercial successes.
I came in to Ravager with high expectations. It’s been a very long time since I anticipated a film with quite as much excitement as this one. It is the promised final installment of the phantasm series, it is the last on screen performance of dear Angus Scrimm. This film had dropped a trailer two years ago and had been generating buzz since then… It had a lot to live up to. I should’ve been worried, but I wasn’t – and I had no reason to be.
Phantasm Ravager is the sequel fans deserve. It is the sequel that we have been waiting decades for. Now mind you, I am a phantasm apologist, and I will happily explain there is at least half a good film in Phantasm three, and if you get rid of the Pink Cadillac Crew, maybe scruff up the orphan, you’d actually have a good solid entry into the series. I genuinely like Phantasm 4, despite the fact people complain that it looks and feels cheap. I think the intercutting of all the new footage with the old unused shots is surprisingly effective and Phantasm 4 does more to world build and push the story then most sequels do, particularly late series ones.
Still, I’ll admit that these are weaker films then the first two, though I’ll enthusiastically defend them to the death. No such defense is needed with Ravager. It comes out of the gate strong and does everything that Phantasm is supposed to do. It fufills all the promise and potential that I saw in the last two movies.
Ravager is the first Phantasm film not to be filmed by Don Coscerelli. While Coscarelli was still around, very much a hands on type a producer looking over the shoulder of director David Hartman, the very different directorial style shows. It makes me wonder if Don shouldn’t have handed over the rains awhile back. The fresh perspective of a 21st century director like Hartman and a fan of the series goes a great way towards reviving and refreshing this franchise. Watching Ravager, I felt very similar to the emotions I had during Star Trek 6 – the original crew’s final outing. It was a feeling of “this is finally great again… why does it have to end now that they’ve finally got it right?”.
Reggie is in rare form – even though the third film also focused primarily on him, the performance he turns out in five is far superior. The balance of humor and four, the more serious tone works perfectly.I’ve long said that the Phantasm films are more about Reggie than anyone else and he’s always been my favorite character in the series. Despite his advancing age, Reg is still very much an action star.
We’re in the 21st-century, and CGI abounds. Still, I really can’t complain about the CG balls. As much as I love the practical spheres (like the one Coscarelli is plunging into my skull here) The computer graphics allow them to do things with the balls they were quite able to do before – and we see a great deal more of the sentinal spheres than we have in any other sequel. Honestly, this is whata sequel is meant to be… to take what’s gone before and double it. More importantly, they’ve managed to make the Tall Man scary again. I’ve always said that the reason you go to Phantasm films is because it’s a reunion – it’s time spent with Reggie and Mike and Angus and Bill… Even Don, whose presence is still felt though he’s never seen on screen. But in the last couple of films, while the Tall Man has been made mysterious, he hasn’t seemed as scary as he once did – his obsessive focus on Mike, and whatever special talent it was that he needed to extract from him… It made him intimidating and etherial, but he never did anything to anybody else. He wasn’t the terrifying spectre of the first two films. With Ravager, that has all changed. The Tall Man is once again a malevolent monster. There is an iconic moment where the tall man is surrounded by the hooded dwarf lurkers, and the masked gravers. It’s terrifying and intimidating and everything that the Tall Man is supposed to be. It’s a sharp contrast from seeing him collaborate with the goofy pink Cadillac zombies of Phantasm 3. there is a moment of the tall man lurking outside a victims house. His eyes are all that are lit and silver sphere hovers at his shoulder before taking off to do it’s diabolical work. He’s not just a threat to Mike in this film. It’s an expanded cast, there’s more characters here and anyone can die. We don’t ceede any of the mystery, we don’t give up the familiarity, but man… Angus Scrimm is terrifying again! And that is as it should be.
If I have one complaint, it is the over reliance on CGI. I realize I just praised it for their use in the silver sentinels, but this film uses an awful lot of green screen. This is understandable, the original plan was to make a series of shorts, and release them as web episodes. You don’t necessarily require the same high levels of resolution for internet content as you do for a film. I wouldn’t be surprised if part of the delay in getting this film out was having to re-composite some of those backgrounds with higher quality images. Still, sometimes it gets to be a bit much.
On the other hand, it provides us with a scope that Phantasm has never quite been able to achieve. If anybody out there is familiar with the Phantasm’s End concept, you’ll recognize some of those elements here. Back shortly after Phantasm 3, Roger Avery, the co-writer of Pulp Fiction presented Don Coscerelli with a script for a final Phantasm movie. It would be an expensive film… Far greater in scope and storytelling then anything that had come before. In many ways Phantasm 4 was designed to try and kickstart this – to generate interest and serve as a sort of prequel. You can see it in some moments, particularly when you see the scene of the tall man walking down abandoned streets on Wilshire Boulevard – remember Jody mentioning that there was a risk of infection? I had always personally assumed he meant infecting the timeline, corrupting the space gate… But now we know he meant infection from a disease that ravaged mankind… and we get to see the effects of it first hand, not to mention the world that it leads to. Mind you, Ravager is not Phantasms End, in all fairness it is an amalgam of Phantasms End and several other stories. But it works – it works better than it has any right to.
Don Coscerelli always aspired to make the Phantasm films a sort of dreamlike fantasy. He always insisted that there was an off-kilter quality and a surrealist philosophy. I’m not sure if I ever saw that – everything seemed reasonably straightforward to me, but then again I was introduced to the series by Phantasm 2 and perhaps I have the wrong perspective. In any event, if you want a very surrealist, dreamlike, fantastic feel to the phantasm story, this is where that really comes into play, jumping between timelines and realities with Reggie lost in the world of Phantasm’s end, wandering in what appears to be our world, and then the next moment, frail and delusional in a nursing home (not unlike the one we saw in Coscrelli’s Bubba Ho-Tep).
The end – it’s hard to describe. I think we see Reggie finally back where he belongs. It’s hopeful, in the way a Phantasm film never has been before. It’s a good place for comics and books to take over now – and they should. Even as it ends, Phantasm has given us a world ripe for exploration.
Goodbye and hello, as always.
We lost one of our modern horror icons this weekend. Head over to the Kreepy Kastle for my tribute to the Tall Man; Angus Scrimm
Again? I’m in Indinapolis again??? Why on earth am I making this trip for a third time in four months? I mean, I remember mentioning after my first Days of the Dead indy that I probably woun’t be back to this one…so why am I here TWICE this year?
Yeah, that’s pretty much the big draw for me. I mean, I said it last time – despite it’s size, I always ahve a good time at Days of the Dead, but it is a long five hour drive and this time I didn’t have the Dark Tower to plow through in the way down (Insomnia this time, but only about half of it) and if it hadn’t been for Angus, I would have skipped this one. I’m very glad I didn’t.
I got my tickets online, both for admission and my autograph ticket for Angus. $30 is actually less than he was charging at Flashback and they went out of thier way on the website to point out that you could take photos at the table with your camera (some guest won’t do that if the con is also selling professional photo ops, but Angus is far to classy for that). the pre-purchase was supposed to give you line jumping privileges as well, but forget that. I got in line a half hour before he was even supposed to be at his table. I had no intention of having a repeat of Flashback Weekend, where i waited a couple hours and the line shut down, missing my chance to meet him. I chatted with my line mate while we waited, and out of nowhere my friend Brandi tackled me while her husband grinned. They’d seen him yesterday, but it was still fun to chat with them for a bit. Mark and Brandi have been hitting a lot of the same shows I have this year – they’re regulars at Cinema Wasteland, but they were also at Motor City Nightmares on a different day as me this year, and Monster Bash last year.
About an hour later I got in. Angus’ line always moves slowly and you can kind of see the man slowing down a bit himself, but it was the highlight to the con for me – one of the best moments from con life ever. It was my fourth try trying to meet him….so happy.
Of course there were other guests I was eager to meet as well. I’ve been wanting to hit a con with Felissa Rose for a while now. I know it’s shallow of me, but wow…she grew up to be unbelievably beautiful! I mean, way hotter than the Springsteen chick that played the character in the later Sleepaway camp films…
But the the thing about Felissa is how remarkably friendly and effervescent she is. She was SO happy and SO outgoing, greeting me with a hug and talking with delight about the movie. I discovered that her real name is Felissa Rose Esposito! I mentioned that Dave, the person in charge of programming Cleveland Cinemas Late Shift is OBSESSED with the film – Felissa wants to come to a screening some time.
Kane Hodder teased her from across the isle with an empty whisky bottle.
“You finished it without me?”
“Yeah well,” Kane replied. “I had another signing later last night…in one of the hotel rooms….with my penis….”
Felissa laughed and rolled her eyes at me
“Because we all know I have penis envy….”
If you’ve seen Sleepaway camp, you’ll get that joke. If not…go watch Sleepaway Camp.
More hugging and then I was off to see Imogen Boorman – the little girl from Hellraiser 2. Another remarkably happy person, and really pleased to talk about the movie, and what it was like workign with everyone. She seems to have genuinely good memories of this film, and it’s remarkable that this was her first con appearance.
Finally, off to see Tony Moran before the Angus Scrimm Panel started. Tony was the unmasked Michael Myers in the first Halloween, and man is he a chatter. He reminds me of Robert Englund in the way he tells stories constantly, entertaining the entire line as he does. I loved hearing about his disbelief that donald Pleasence was going to be in the movie and that being his main reason for taking the role. It was funny that he never told anyone he did the film and his family was surprised when they saw him on screen – years later!
PJ Soles had a panel with him but there’s just one problem…..
The next day she lost her voice! She’d been coughing all con long and it finally caught up with her. Saturday she posted this sign at her table.
Angus’ Panel was fun – I never realized that he played Abraham Lincoln in a short educational film. Apparently it’s on the Phantasm 2 blu ray which is a good reason fro me to go and find that. He gave soem interesting insight on Phantasm 5 as well, something I can’t wait for. But his hearing isn’t good, sometimes he’d have probelms hearing the questions and perhaps get a little lost in his answers. I love hearing him speak. He has a great presence and you really feel how much of a career he’s had.
I caught Tobin Bell’s panel as well, another very humble person talking about working his way up in Hollywood. Fascinating to hear about his scenes in Goodfellas being almost comepletely cut out, Scenes with Sharon Stone in the Quick and the dead being trimmed down, and this happening again and again until saw – where NOTHING got cut! Fun listening to his surprise about hearing someone call him a horror icon for the first time…
They had him settled in a little side room which I found curious. His traffic never seemed as heavy and Angus. The Scrimm line wound all the way down the hall and around the corner all day. For some reasons, conventions seem to consistantly underestimate the turnout for Angus Scrimm. If anyone should have a side room with barriers and a twisty line it should have been Scrimm.
I ran into my friend Jeff from back here in Cleveland, a couple times actually and each time he was wearing a different face. Days of the dead has more cosplayers than your average horror convention and it’s something they encourage by bringing in groups like monsters amoung us and doing both costume and make up contests.
They really went the extra mile this time around, by creating a bunch of environments and settings for photo ops. Empty rooms, open coffins, the local haunted house created an asylum in brought in a cage and populated them with their own monsters as well that you could pose with. It gives the car on a distinct flavour, and a much more fantastic atmosphere.
I really do like days of the dead, and a lot of that has to do with how even though they’re big con, they try very hard to put on a great show. I got my little girls gremlins and fright flicks trading cards from the “don’t eat the gum” booth, which they loved.
the autographs I got this weekend were my prize, that I and the time spent with some great people, in particular my line mate whose name completely escaped me…Brian?
He’s another one of those guys who shares with me just as much love for the Phantasm films as you can imagine. We talked about meeting the rest of the cast – he actually got in to see Angus at Flashback. He plays in a KISS tribute band which led to us talking music, and discussing Reggie Bannister’s CD. I asked if he ever heard Bill Thornbury’s music, but he hadn’t. I’ve got one and he did tell me he knew Bill played – he’d see his country stuff and his religious stuff. Bill plays music in the worship band at his curch, just like I do at mine and we enjoyed talking about that. Brian recalled that Bill was very genuine and sincere about his faith – it had impressed him. He’d gotten a bad crack in his windshield on the way to a con that Bill was at, and Bill had prayed over him for a safe trip home.
Yes. I’m that guy – the one that still talks about Jesus even when he’s at a horror convention.
Anyhow, we were in lines for both Angus and Tony, and bumped into each other by the cage, then took pictures for each other. You made my con a lot more fun dude, and I hope I see you again.
Oh, but I have more pictures….of course I have pictures…..