WRITER: Don Coscarelli
DIRECTOR: Don Coscarelli
STARRING: Michael Baldwin as Mike
Bill Thornbury as Jody
Reggie Bannister as Reggie
Kathy Lester as Lady in Lavender
Angus Scrimm as The Tall Man
QUICK CUT: Dealing with the loss of family and friends are never easy, but fortunately for Mike Pearson, he befriends the local mortician, who has some fun silver balls to play with.
Mike - A kid with no real friends his own age, who is ingenious, and fits in well with his brother and friends.
Jody - Mike's older brother, and while he's a good guy, you get the definite sense he would rather be doing anything else than looking after his kid brother after his parents die.
Reggie - Jody's best friend, the local ice cream man, and something of a musician. Surprisingly, these skills come in handier than one might think.
The Tall Man - A mysterious and imposing figure who runs the local mortuary, and you would think someone would have asked him his name at some point. Is he listed on the lease as "Mr. Tall M. Man"?
THE GUTS: Merry March, Triskelions! And for the first time in what seems like forever, I am free of all things Leprechaun in March. In fact, I am swinging wildly away from that to a classic of horror, as I usually do with the first of the month reviews, and finally tackling Don Coscarelli's Phantasm. This has been requested a few times. See how easy it is to get me to Trisk a movie? Just ask!
We open up on a great scene of...graveyard sex! Because there is absolutely, positively, zero way for that to go horribly wrong.
Of course, it promptly goes exactly horribly wrong when the blonde woman stabs Tommy in the chest. And as if that wasn't bad enough, she instantly changes into an old man. From worse to worser.
At the funeral for Tommy, we meet two of the actual stars of this narrative, Jody and Clint How...Reggie. Jody takes his leave to go visit his dead parents in the labrynthine mausoleum. He hears some squishy noises, but hey, it's probably just nerves and the creepiness of the place!
Hahahaha, yeah right. More on that later.
For now though, he just runs into the mortician, known only as the Tall Man, and he's also the dude who looked like a lady earlier. And to be fair, his presence is creepy enough.
Meanwhile outside, Mike shows up on his dirt bike to clandestinely watch the funeral from the shrubbery, because Jody didn't want to traumatise him with the events.
Oh, and Mike also sees the Tall Man lifting the casket up almost one handedly, so there's something not quite right going on here.
Now that he's nicely freaked out, Mike goes to pay a visit to the local fortune teller and asks a few questions. She gives him reassurances about his fears that Jody might leave him alone, and he also tells her about what he saw.
In response to that, the fortune teller pops up a fear box that he is told to put his hand in, and is immediately grabbed back. The grandaughter repeatedly tells him, don't fear, don't fear...and I want some more cowbell.
While Clint and Jody hang out and jam on the front porch, the granddaughter pays a visit to Morningside Mortuary...and completely disappears from the film. We're just gonna assume she dead.
Meanwhile, Mike continues to be a stalkery little voyeur and watches Jody head to a bar, and pick up a woman that I am 99% certain is the same Lady in Lavender that got stabby on Tommy.
She probably would've done the same to Jody, but Mike makes his presence known when the Jawas show up in the cemetery. Jody chases down his brother to see what's what, does the usual, "it was just the wind," schtick, and when he heads back to the cemetery, the lady in lavender is long gone.
After having a nightmare about Johnny Longtorso, Mike sees him the next day, wandering through town, and coming to a halt when he passes through a cloud of cold air spewing out of Clint's ice cream truck.
Later, Mike is working underneath Jody's car when the Jawas show up and drop it on him. Good thing he's travel sized, or he'd be a squished Mike. He hammers at one of their feet, but it's actually Mike returning home from trying to find the woman. Dude, do not go down that road, you dodged a huge knife.
So that night, Mike sneaks out and breaks into Morningside, because that's a brilliant idea. Oh, and some other rando wanders in for some reason. Mostly to die.
While Mike wanders around looking for answers, he runs afoul of, um...a floating silver ball. Because why not? The random dude grabs the kid, but the silver ball of death sprouts stabby blades and embeds themselves into his head, drills in, and empties him of all his goodness like Dracula tapped a keg.
The Tall Man shows up before Mike can escape, and gives him a chase through the mortuary. The kid hides behind a door, but half of the man's hand is grasping through.
Mike reacts, slicing off all his fingers, and um...revealing the guy is filled with tasty, tasty mustard. What? Did the Condiment King make this movie? Are we gonna meet someone next who's filled with relish?
He steals one of the fingers and escapes out the broken window he came in through, but not before a Jawa grabs him and takes a shoe. Is that the going rate for fingers these days?
Mike tells Jody everything that happened, shows him the still moving finger, and I love the plain, simple, deadpan, "I believe you." It doesn't need to be a big moment, and they just sell it.
They decide to go to the cops, but when Mike goes to grab his evidence, the finger seems to have stopped moving. He opens the box, and out comes a teeny little Sectaur puppet thing.
He grabs the creature in his shirt, because it's easier for actors to flail themselves around like they are fighting a critter rather than try and do actual puppetry. They shove it down the drain, and nope, that didn't stop it.
Reggie shows up to see if Mike wants to hang while he sells ice cream, and that's when he gets introduced to the world of weird, and the batsect flies in his face. Welcome aboard, Reggie! Your life is never gonna be the same!
With their evidence gone, Jody arms up to take care of things himself, and leaves Mike at home with a shotgun just in case, and tells him not to follow. Surprisingly, he actually listens.
So Jody sneaks in, and is immediately assaulted by one of the dwarves. He shoots it in the face, and runs away, because gunshots are gonna draw attention.
A car chases him down, and actually, Mike didn't listen as he shows up with Jody's own car for an escape, which is good at least. The other car returns to chase them, and it looks like no one is driving. Oh my god, bear is driving! How can that be??
Mike keeps driving Jody's car, and Jody uses the shotgun to take out the lack of driver. When they check out the crashed hearse, they find one of the Jawas in the car. And when they unmask him, he turns out to be old man Smithers from the amusement park! I mean, uh, Tommy. It's Tommy. Who has become fun sized.
So they call Reggie to come and bring his truck, so they can keep the creature on ice, for more evidence. The trio regroups, and comes up with a plan. A plan that is largely "Stomp the Tall Man's face" but there's nothing wrong with simple plans.
They drop Mike off at the antique shop, whose owner is a friend I guess, to keep him safe. We'll see how long he stays put.
For now, we get the mother of all coincidences, as Mike is wandering through the piles of old stuff, and finds some photographs. One of which just so happens to be of the Tall Dude himself.
Oh, and the photograph even is nice enough to zoom and enhance on his face, so we get the point, as well as moving. A gag that Pennywise would swipe years later.
Since this is in the age before cellphones, Mike demands he be taken home, because Jody needs to know this. Not that "He's not just a tall dude, he's an old tall dude!" would be of much help, but okay.
As Reggie is heading back though, Tommy Dwarf wakes up in the back, causing the truck to flip. Oh, and while he's waiting, Jody gets bored, dozes off, and has a nightmare.
On the ride home, Mike sees the truck, and a lack of Reggie or Dwarfy. The minions start clawing at the car, and the two ladies just kinda sit there doing nothing, until they get yanked out of the car. They...kinda get what they deserve for their slow thinking.
In the ensuing fight, Mike gets thrown out the back window and left behind, as the car drives off. And at this point, it's safe to assume they're dead.
Mike runs home, clues in Jody, and once again Jody decides to go it alone, and tells Mike to stay home. Have you not seen how well that's worked the last dozen times? Carl Grimes stays in the house better than this kid.
So, Jody locks the kid in his room, but he crafts a weapon from a hammer and a bullet that he uses to explode a hole in it so he can open it from the other side. I'm not sure how possible that is, but moving on...
Fortunately, Mike doesn't have to run the whole way there, as the Tall Man is already at the door to give him a ride. Awww, how nice!
Mike uses the gun to shoot out the back window of Tallton's hearse, as well as a tire, diving out onto the road. This kid car defenestrates more times than I can count. Anyways, the car crashes, bursts into flames, so yay! The Tall Man is dead, right? A clue: No.
The Pearson brothers team up in the mortuary, just in time for the round things to appear. I guess it got sick and tired of being poked with sticks in Galaxy Invader, because it is piiiissed.
Oh, and Reggie is somehow alive, and he got the girls out off camera. Thanks for clearing up that little plot cul de sac.
They go up to a door that's been hinted at for awhile, finally open it up and it is filled with...black barrels filled with the dwarves. Okay, that was not what I would have guessed.
Aaand this is when things get weird. There's also a pair of silver poles, that Mike sticks his hand between and it disappears. He remembers his fear drill from an hour ago, and blithely steps right through the goal posts because no fear!, and falls into a red, desert planet. Great. Mars. I can't believe I'm back on Mars. But seriously, this is WHY we have fear; so we don;t get stuck on alternate Earths. Fear is important.
He does manage to see the Jawas trudging along single file, and deduces they're being used as slaves to do work for some unknown purpose. And they're crushed to work in the high gravity and heat. Because sure, why not? Like I said, it gets weird.
The lights go out just then, Reggie pulls out his lighter, and they realise they are not alone in the room any longer. At least Tall, Pale, and Gruesome isn't there. Yet.
When the lights come back on, Reggie finds himself alone in the White Room, and because he's a musician, he recognises the goalposts as a tuning fork.
So, what? Are we going along with the idea here that multiple Earths are separated by different vibrational frequencies, like the Flash? Is Reggie gonna step through into Earth-2 and meet his evil female self with a fetish for leather?
Fortunately no, because when he grabs the posts, something goes Horribly Wrong. The Lady in Lavender stops short of stabbing Jody, realising something has gone pear-shaped. Also, the portal goes from blow to suck, and starts dragging the canisters and Bannister in.
Reggie manages to get out of the house, just in time to get stabbed by the Tall Woman and before the funeral home checks out of this reality.
But we're not done yet! The Tall Man is still here, I guess, and Jody comes up with the plan to dump him down a mine shaft we've never heard about until now.
Jody drives off to get the shaft ready, and tells Mike to stay at home. And this time he actually does! Until the Tall Man shows up.
He runs out of the house, being chased by Mr. Longcat, who plays illusory mind games with the boy. But Mike uses his power of don't fear the moritician, and keeps running.
Fortunately, this works well into Jody's master plan, such as it is, and Mike leads the guy straight to the mine shaft. He falls into the pit, almost taking another of Mike's shoes with him, and for some reason, the avalanche has already started, filling the pit with boulders.
Suddenly, Mike wakes up, and...um. What? Jody is now dead from a car accident, Reggie is somehow alive with no memories of anything that just happened.
...And I have no idea of what all that is that just happened myself.
This movie is...frustrating. What's a dream, what's real, which reality is which? Did Reggie break something fundamental when he grabbed the giant tuning fork? Who knows!
But after all that death and/or bad dreams, Reggie decides they need to take a vacation, so Mike heads upstairs to grab his stuff.
With one last twist, the Tall Man shows up again, creepily waiting in Mike's room, and the Jawas bust through the mirror, cursing us all to five movies of bad luck, and dragging the kid off into the credits.
Video: Looks solid enough, and of the time period.
Audio: Sounds good, no complaints!
Sound Bite: "Warning shots are bullshit." Sound advice from Jody.
Body Count: A respectable showing.
1 - Not even 2 minutes in and Tommy gets stabbied by the Tall Manwoman.
2 - The blonde girl fortune teller's granddaughter dies off camera in the mortuary.
3 - The orb claims its first victim and empties his head of blood most vigorously.
4 - Reggie dies thanks to the Tall Blonde, for a few seconds.
5 - Jody dies in a car wreck?!
Best Corpse: Well, when a forehead geyser of blood is all you got, that's the death we go with!
Blood Type - C: And for such a fountain of blood, it gets a LOT of bonus points.
Sex Appeal: The Lady in Lavender does go topless on occasion, but that immediately gets subverted when she becomes an old man.
Drink Up! Every time someone tells Mike to stay, and he immediately does not do that.
Video Nasties: A short clip of some fun nightmare times.
Movie Review: On the one hand, this is a well made movie, with some decent acting and effects, but it has some serious logic flaws. This movie is very dreamlike, to the extent that the dream logic evidenced in this movie is better than most of the dreams on the Elm Street films. If you take that into account, and are okay with a LOT of questions and things not making sense, it remains a solid movie, it just doesn't adhere to typical storytelling rules, which can become frustrating. Three out of five deathballs.
Entertainment Value: But that's half the fun, innit? And this movie IS fun, even in its random silliness. I mean, there's dwarves in barrels, stabby silver balls for no reason, an amazingly imposing villain that is most memorable, and even if it leaves you scratching your head, it is a movie that sticks with you, and is pretty fun. Four out of five black barrels.