Film Review: Phantasm II (1988)

Also known as: Phantasm II: The Never Dead Part Two (Australia)
Release Date: July 8th, 1988
Directed by: Don Coscarelli
Written by: Don Coscarelli
Music by: Fred Myrow, Christopher L. Stone
Cast: James LeGros, Reggie Bannister, Angus Scrimm, Paula Irvine, Kenneth Tigar, Michael Baldwin (archive footage)

Universal Pictures, 97 Minutes

Review:

“You think that when you die, you go to Heaven. You come to us!” – The Tall Man

I saw this in the theater way back in 1988. I was 9 years-old. I about shit myself and my older cousin thought that the whole fiasco was hilarious. But really, I had already seen the first Phantasm before this and I thought I was pretty prepared. But that scene with the creature thing in the girl’s back really freaked my little brain out. But I’ll explain as I get into the review.

Phantasm II is a fairly good sequel, especially considering that there were 9 years between this and its predecessor.

To get this out of the way, I didn’t like the recasting of Mike but I understand why a larger studio like Universal did it, as Michael Baldwin (who would play Mike in all the other films) didn’t have a lot of acting experience. Still, he was good in the original movie and decent in the ones that followed this. I hold no ill will towards James LeGros but he just sticks out like a sore thumb. That’s not his fault and he did a good job here but he just doesn’t feel like Mike.

At least Reggie and the Tall Man weren’t recast though because I love both of the characters and they are the highlights of this film. Well, Reggie and his four-barreled sawed off shotgun and the Tall Man and his larger collection of killer spheres and minions.

What’s strange about this film, however, is that it was produced by a larger studio than the first film and therefore had a more substantial budget but a lot of the effects didn’t seem to be as good as the original film. The bits with the killer spheres had noticeable wires and the camera work wasn’t as clean. Also, the rehash of the sphere murder from the first movie didn’t look as good and it cut away at certain parts that the original didn’t. I don’t know if this was to save money on effects or if Universal was trying to tone down the gorier bits. Whatever the reason, the scene didn’t have the effectiveness as the original. And really, this is a sequel, you need to up the ante not tone it down.

There were some violent and gruesome reveals, like when the guy is turned over to reveal a buzzsaw sphere stuck in his mouth, but these were all just effects without the flourish of the gore happening in the moment.

I thought the best effect in the film was the one I mentioned in the first paragraph about the creature in the girl’s back. Basically, Mike finds a girl that’s been tortured, notices something moving on her back and then pulls back her shirt to reveal a demonic head that rises up out of her body. It was a message left for Mike by the Tall Man but it was probably the highlight of the film, other than the big final battle. The animatronics were fantastic and this is the moment that scared the crap out of me, sitting in a theater back in 1988.

Overall, this film is pretty solid and it enriched the Phantasm mythos. It added some new elements and kind of just solidified how cool these films are.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: The other Phantasm movies.

Film Review: Sorority Babes In the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988)

Also known as: The Imp (alternate title), Beast You! (Germany)
Release Date: January 1st, 1988 (Japan)
Directed by: David DeCoteau
Written by: Sergei Hasenecz
Music by: Guy Moon
Cast: Linnea Quigley, Michelle Bauer, Andras Jones, Hal Havins, Robin Rochelle

Beyond Infinity, Empire Pictures, Titan Productions, Urban Classics, 80 Minutes

Review:

“Old Uncle Impy is just a little bit cranky. No fun being locked up, especially in a bowling trophy.” – The Imp

How in the hell did I not know about this film’s existence until I discovered it watching Joe Bob Brigg’s The Last Drive-In? This stupid and insane horror flick is right up my alley, taps into the Gremlins ripoff craze and features Linnea Quigley looking hotter than she ever did. But maybe that’s just because I’m into bad chicks wearing spiked bracelets and ripped clothes.

Let me be clear, for the average person, this is a terrible movie. For the person that likes low brow cheese and absurdity with a good amount of boobies and violence, this is well worth your time.

The highlight of this, other than staring at Ms. Quigley, is the imp, who appears, grants wishes like a genie and has all sorts of magical powers that are tailor made to the plot and not the rules of the creature’s actual mythology. Also, he talks all jive-ish and shit, which is hilarious.

Now the special effects are terrible, especially in regards to the imp creature but it kind of adds to the film’s appeal and charm for me. I love that the bad guy is really just some rubber hand puppet. He reminds me of the puppet from that ’80s 900-number with that dancing freak in the commercial (see here).

For most people, this movie is a complete waste of time. For me, it was quite welcome coming into my life, as it is rare for me to discover some long lost horror picture, especially from the era where I was an astute student of the genre trying to get my hands on every movie to study and admire, as my aspirations to become a filmmaker grew.

This is incredible ’80s cheese of the highest/worst caliber. It’s reminiscent of that terrible film Hobgoblins but this is a better movie than that. Maybe not by a large margin but it isn’t as easy to write off as shit. It has something interesting and weirdly alluring about it. This isn’t a Troma picture but it’s as good as their best offerings from the ’80s when they were at their best.

Sorority Babes In the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama is a film that only works for a certain kind of old school horror fan. It has a home in a really small niche market and while it isn’t a classic, it should maybe be more known than it is.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: Any ’80s Troma movie or early Full Moon stuff.

Film Review: Poltergeist III (1988)

Also known as: Poltergeist III: We’re Back
Release Date: June 10th, 1988
Directed by: Gary Sherman
Written by: Gary Sherman, Brian Taggert
Music by: Joe Renzetti
Cast: Tom Skerritt, Nancy Allen, Heather O’Rourke, Zelda Rubinstein, Lara Flynn Boyle

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 98 Minutes

Review:

“Carol Anne! Carol Anne! Carol Anne!” – the whole damn cast, the whole damn movie

Fuck.

Sorry, this made me angry.

Yes, I have seen this film before but it has also been a really long time. While I re-watch the first two every few years, I just remembered this one being so terrible that I never had the urge to see it again. However, it is actually much worse than what I remembered. But since I wanted to revisit all three of these movies for review purposes, I had to tough it out and try to get through this 98 minute mess.

Let me start with the positives of this film to quickly get them out of the way. Surprise, surprise… there is only one positive: the special effects.

Now the general creature effects are actually worse than the two films that predate this, but there are some really good optical effects in regards to how mirrors were used in this picture. There are several scenes where a character is moving on one side of the mirror and evil haunted shit is happening in the reflection. These effects were pulled off magnificently for being done in an era where this couldn’t be achieved through CGI or other easier modern means. There are a few spots were the effect doesn’t work because there are two different actors having to mimic the same movements, like when Nancy Allen’s back is turned away from her evil reflection, but for the most part, this stuff came off great.

But seriously, that’s it for the positives.

I should mention that Tom Skerritt was pretty okay too but I miss Craig T. Nelson.

The rest of the film is plagued by an atrocious script that should have been bird cage liner. Then there is just a slew of unlikable characters who give the audience a clinic on terrible acting and line delivery. Most importantly, this is, by far, the most unimaginative film in the series. The mirror idea was cool to explore but this is all that the movie has going for it and they do it to death. There are literally walls of mirrors and glass in just about every fucking room in this film.

The third act of the movie is just actors running around screaming each other’s names over and over and over and over and over again. Fuck, the final act of this film is mind numbingly repetitive and infuriating.

Plus, this undoes the whole point of the second film, which was about the family’s love for one another overcoming evil. Now Carol Anne’s parents shipped her off to an aunt’s house in Chicago and the family isn’t together. So… yeah, what the fucking fuck?!

It’s terrible that Heather O’Rourke died before this film came out and that it probably ruined any chance for another sequel but regardless, this film alone killed the franchise anyway. I mean, it didn’t just kill it, it took a big ass hippopotamus shit on it.

Man, did this franchise fall into the murky depths of awful.

I think it is best to just ignore this chapter in the franchise and to see the ending of the second film as the true ending of the story. This was just some terrible fan fiction.

And Jerry Goldsmith is terribly missed because this movie’s score sounded like a drunk ape pounding its fists onto a Radio Shack keyboard.

I have to go puke now.

Rating: 3.25/10
Pairs well with: The other two Poltergeist films. Ignore the remake. And really, you should probably ignore this one too.

Film Review: Hot to Trot (1988)

Release Date: August 26th, 1988
Directed by: Michael Dinner
Written by: Hugo Gilbert, Stephen Neigher, Charlie Peters, Andy Breckman (uncredited)
Music by: Danny Elfman
Cast: Bobcat Goldthwait, John Candy (voice), Dabney Coleman, Virginia Madsen, Tim Kazurinsky, Mary Gross, Burgess Meredith (voice)

Warner Bros., 88 Minutes

Review:

“[about the atrium in his new apartment] What is this a little yard?” – Fred B. Cheney

When Bobcat Goldthwait handed this script back to his agent, he wrote on the cover, “Why would I do this?” His agent returned the script after writing “$”. Needless to say, the script is terrible and the movie bombed but it was the most money that Goldthwait made at the time.

Many people will tell you that this is a terrible movie and it mostly is but it is a stupid movie with some solid comedy players and you don’t watch a film about the weirdest guy from Police Academy and a talking horse and expect to see Terms of Endearment.

Not only do you have Bobcat Goldthwait, who was a comedian I absolutely loved as a kid, but you get the voices of John Candy and Burgess Meredith playing horses, the always stupendous Dabney Coleman, Bobcat’s heterosexual life partner (at least in the ’80s) Ted Kazurinsky, as well as Virginia Madsen and a small part for Mary Gross.

The plot is about this dimwitted son of a rich woman who passes away. His stepfather (Coleman) is a slimy shyster that wants to weasel Bobcat out of his half of a lucrative financial firm. Bobcat also inherits a horse who goes on to give him amazing stock tips that makes Bobcat a superstar in his company. The majority of the plot deals with the rivalry between Bobcat and Coleman and ends with Bobcat playing a jockey, racing his John Candy voiced horse in a derby against Coleman’s prized steed for control of the company.

Yeah, the plot is friggin’ ludicrous but I still enjoy the picture because Bobcat and Coleman have always made me laugh, even in their dumbest moments. I also really love their scenes together which are accented by the absurdity of Coleman’s mouth prosthetic that gave him buckteeth throughout the entire film.

Originally, Elliot Gould was the voice of the horse but the test screenings went so poorly that the film was delayed for about a year and the horse’s lines were re-dubbed by John Candy who ad libbed his lines and ignored the script. Also, it’s worth noting that Bobcat’s role was originally intended for Joan Rivers and the script went through rewrites when Rivers turned the film down and Bobcat was cast.

Most people hate this movie. I just can’t. It’s completely asinine but I guess that’s what I like about it.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: The classic TV series Mister Ed, the Police Academy movies with Goldthwait and Kazurinsky in them and the John Candy films Armed and Dangerous and Who’s Harry Crumb?

Film Review: License to Drive (1988)

Also known as: They Live and Drive in L.A. (working title), Daddy’s Cadillac (Germany)
Release Date: July 6th, 1988
Directed by: Greg Beeman
Written by: Neil Tolkin
Music by: Jay Ferguson
Cast: Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Carol Kane, Richard Masur, Heather Graham, James Avery

Davis Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, 88 Minutes

Review:

“Les, that license in your wallet, that’s not an ordinary piece of paper, that is a driver’s license, and its not only a driver’s license, it’s an automobile license, and it’s not only an automobile license, it’s a license to live, a license to be free, a license to go wherever, whenever and with whomever you choose.” – Dean

The world and all of its cultures are diverse enough to provide us with countless types of cheese. In fact, I love cheese. Who doesn’t love cheese? So being that I am a cheese connoisseur with an incredibly diverse palate, there is still just one cheese that I have to put above all others: ’80s cheese.

License to Drive is ’80s cheese that is so robust, with a beautiful texture and a richness to it, that it’s place in history can’t be denied. Is it the best example of ’80s cheese? Well, no. But it is still a good, solid example of its flavors and characteristics.

In the late ’80s, there was a powerful union that nothing could stand against: The Two Coreys, or just simply, The Coreys. While both of them were uber popular on their own, the Earth’s gravity sort of shifted when they started teaming up to do movies. This was their second film. The first was The Lost Boys, which is considered by many to be a classic. License to Drive isn’t quite a classic but it is still a fun romp with The Coreys that doesn’t pit them against vampires but instead pits them against the fascist system that makes it hard for slackers to get their driver’s license.

Frankly, Corey Haim’s Les is quite the shithead. All he cares about is getting his license but won’t put in the work to study for it. He doesn’t even know basic stuff and completely bombs the written test. However, he lies to his family and friends but that backfires. So what does he do? He steals his grandpa’s car because all he cares about is wooing Heather Graham. The film plays on and Haim doesn’t seem to learn anything or grow up. But it’s an ’80s teen movie that puts more emphasis on materialism and being cool than it does on life itself.

It’s the wacky adventures that make this work though. Haim and Feldman are good together and both have charisma. Heather Graham is also fantastic in this, even though she is drunk and passed out for a big portion of the movie. The real highlight for me though, was the sequence of Corey Haim taking his driving test with James Avery a.k.a. Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I’ve always enjoyed Avery but this is one of the best things he’s ever done. I mean, he’s perfect in this, even if he only has a few minutes of screen time.

The Coreys were once the epitome of teenage cool and this was a cool movie, even if it was nonsensical and sort of soulless.

Plus, I loved his parents, as Carol Kane has always made me laugh and Richard Masur is just fun to watch in these sort of roles.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Other movies featuring both or just one of the Coreys: The Lost BoysDream a Little DreamNational Lampoon’s Last ResortLucasThe GooniesThe ‘Burbs.

Film Review: Robo Vampire (1988)

Also known as: Robovamp (Spain)
Release Date: 1988 (Hong Kong)
Directed by: Godfrey Ho (as Joe Livingstone)
Written by: William Palmer
Music by: Ian Wilson
Cast: Robin Mackay, Nian Watts, Harry Myles, Joe Browne

Filmark International Ltd., 90 Minutes

Review:

“Now that Tom is dead, I want to use his body to create an android-like robot. I’d appreciate you approving my application.” – Soldier #1

This is easily one of the worst things I have ever seen, hands f’n down. This makes all of those other Godfrey Ho movies look like Fellini films.

To be honest, I don’t even know what the hell I watched. This is a Godfrey Ho movie but his pictures are much better when he just throws a bunch of ninjas at each other. This saw a fake Robocop take on vampires dressed in ornate Chinese garb that bounce around like pogo sticks with their arms outstretched. I’m not shitting you. The threat is bouncy zombie dudes dressed like a maître d’ at a super fancy Chinese restaurant.

The fake Robocop suit is so damn bad that it made my head want to explode with confusion and bewilderment. But not a good kind of bewilderment. I think I made a better Robocop suit out of tin foil and duct tape when I was nine years old.

This pile of donkey dung was terrible in every way. The acting was atrocious. The dubbing was deplorable. The directing was reprehensible. The cinematography was nonexistent. The music was barf inspiring. Nothing about this worked in any way whatsoever.

You know how a bad movie can be sort of good because it is so bad? Well, this is so bad it made me want to take a rotary sander to my face just to hide my eyes from it.

One time when I was in third grade, I did what I thought was a fart while I was in class. I got a little surprise though… it was more than a fart. It was a fart with a wet, physical friend. That experience was less horrifying than this one.

So let me use that analogy to segue into what we all know must happen. Robo Vampire absolutely must be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Fuck you, asshole! I am not analyzing this cinematic calamity! – Sincerely, the Cinespiria Shitometer”

Rating: 0.25/10
Pairs well with: Bowel cancer.

Film Review: Ghosthouse (1988)

Also known as: La Casa 3 (original Italian title), Evil Dead 3 (informal Italian title), GhostHouse (alternate English title)
Release Date: January, 1988 (Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival)
Directed by: Umberto Lenzi
Written by: Sheila Goldberg, Umberto Lenzi, Cinthia McGavin
Music by: Piero Montanari
Cast: Lara Wendel, Greg Scott, Mary Sellers, Donald O’Brien

Filmirage, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Who are you? What do you want? For God’s sake… somebody help me… help… aarghh!” – Jim

This is a terrible, terrible film. However, I still like it because it is too damn bizarre not to appreciate.

It’s directed by Umberto Lenzi, who is no stranger to horror with films like Cannibal FeroxNightmare City, and Eaten Alive! under his belt. Like one would expect from a Lenzi picture, it is a low budget bonanza that features some gore, albeit not as much as some of his other bloody affairs.

As Italian films typically do, this didn’t concern itself with other country’s copyright laws and borrowed heavily from a few successful films. You have the house, which can be said is similar to the house of the House films series. Then you have a clown doll that is blatantly a ripoff of the clown doll from Poltergeist. There are a lot of other little things in the film that are borrowed too and really, there’s nothing about this that comes off as original.

The house interiors look like they were on a closed set with a ton of overhead lighting. This was the best lit haunted house I have ever seen in history. Daytime and nighttime looked the same and it was like walking through a grocery store, that’s how bright it was.

While the house is haunted by what seems like a lot of ghosts at times, the only real monster is the creepy little blonde girl that clutches her clown doll. She and the doll both smile creepy and then bad shit happens. For instance, a girl in a bedroom is attacked by paper Easter decorations, an inflatable Mickey Mouse and feathers violently filling the air.

Granted, there is a cool guillotine death but they never show the girl cut in half, they show a head to the far left and feet to the far right with furniture covering up the middle because god forbid they get creative or spend three bucks cutting holes in a wood floor to create the effect.

The music in this film is initially creepy but man, it wears thin pretty quickly. There are only two songs in this entire picture, the creepy one and then the weird electro-jazzy theme. One or the other are playing constantly throughout this picture. Sometimes you get a break but it only ever seems like its just for the film’s DJ to cue up the other record.

Ghosthouse was ripped to shreds by the RiffTrax guys and deservedly so. It is derivative, strange as hell but surprisingly yet confusingly endearing.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: Other horror films by Lenzi: Cannibal FeroxNightmare City, and Eaten Alive!