It's four o'clock in the morning here and I am having a hard time falling asleep.
This isn't a new thing, actually - I have horrible sleep patterns that not even Ambien can set straight. But I think the reason I am still up tonight is because I am getting just too damn excited about Halloween!
A batch of decorations we ordered last week arrived today, and it just set me off in a bounding bout of pure All Hallow's Eve joy. We ordered some wall clings that go lovely with our Graveyard Disco theme - in fact, they are now utterly essential to the theme now. We took them out and held them up in various locations, trying to decide what goes where and when (some things have to wait until the last minute, like the .... well, let's not give it away). This, too, had me flipping and laughing hysterically - nay, maniacally! And once the family went to bed, it was all over. Like some filthy inner city junkie on a crack binge, except my crack was a rubber severed head and a foam chain; a fake plastic oversized butcher's knife coated in fake blood; a resin sign that reads "MORGUE" and a fake severed leg. It was blissful. I threw the "Bram Stoker's Dracula" DVD in the xBox and set about taking pictures of my madness (which I will soon post, but not this noche, kiddies), and arranging a few other collages of skulls, candles and whatnot both for pictures and to help generate ideas for the decorations in general.
And now, here I sit - my Halloween crack binge is over and I am spent. But all that sweet, sweet adrenaline and Halloween crack (not to mention like three Pepsi Throwbacks) is still coursing through my veins despite the fact that the body is no longer willing to go along with this behavior. But the mind is still sharp and the fingers are still nimble. The eyes are swimming and the ass is aching from this shit-ass unpadded wooden chair ... but the mind - and hopefully the wit and the insight - remains large and in charge.
Also large and in charge is the towering menace of today's film selection - Angus Scrimm from Doon Coscarelli's legendary "Phantasm" film series. Read on, you Ravers and play along with your Home Game Version, courtesy of The Price is Right! I, I mean ...
Phantasm (1979): Directed by Don Coscarelli. Starring Angus Scrimm, A. Michael Baldwin, Reggie Bannister, Bill Thornbury and Pat Roman.
The Skinny: Reviled in its time but now considered a cult classic, "Phantasm" follows two brothers living alone after their parents die in a car crash. When a series of strange deaths hits their small town, their investigations lead them to the local mausoleum and its creepy owner, "The Tall Man." When they step foot in the bizarre building, however, they become entangled with forces beyond their wildest nightmares.
What's Good: This is the second Don Coscarelli film on the list, after the inimitable "Bubba Ho Tep," and is the apotheosis of the low-budget cult film. As we've pointed out on this blog time and time again, that's a sticky wicket - it means that you either appreciate the low-budget or yo don't And if you don't, hoo boy you had better stay away from this one. On the other side of that coin, for a mere $300,000 (a lot in 1979, for sure) Coscarelli cooks up some decent special effects - in particular, those insane silver spheres that race down hallways and drill into people's heads. Man, I gotta move on to the next section for everything else I wanna say. So let's get on with ...
What's Bad: Oh dear god, plenty. While the Coscarelli-penned script is jam-packed with ideas, the actors aren't up to the challenge of ... well, acting. Plus, with much of the action taking place outside and night, the lighting is absolutely dreadful and, at times, nonexistent. I remember renting this on VHS as a teenager and when I watched in on my small set in my room, I could barely make out what the hell it was I was supposed to see. I thought it was from the tape being overviewed ... turns out to be a bit of that, and the goddamned shitty lighting.
Why We Like It: It has that certain naive charm that so many independent horror films do. Like I said, Coscarelli is ambitious and full of ideas, and that makes his movies fun. Yes, the acting is reprehensible and the lighting director should be dragged into the street and shot (actually, I think Coscarelli himself is the lighting director if I am not mistaken, along with about fifty other hats), but it is still a fun and dark romp. And Angus Scrimm is one evil, menacing motherfucker, He doesn't have much to say or do - he lets his strange dwarf monsters and silver globes do all his work - but his visage alone is enough to give you the willies.
Memorable Stuff: Aside from Scrimm's performance, the best part for me was when the intrepid teens find a room with a portal in it, and when slips inside he catches a glimpse of a nightmare world with a fierce red sky and a line of evil black dwarves and steel coffins and ... man, just see it for yourselves; it's a tantalizing glimpse at a much larger universe, and that's quality entertainment. There's also a twist ending that is a shocker and an undercurrent of absence and loss that can be a bit of a downer at times. It's still worth your time, however.