BARE BONES BOOK REVIEW: FURTHER EXHUMED-THE STRANGE CASE OF PHANTASM RAVAGER by DUSTIN McNEILL

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FURTHER EXHUMED-THE STRANGE CASE OF PHANTASM RAVAGER by DUSTIN McNEILL

Sequel book to Phantasm Exhumed tells the indeed strange tale of how Phantasm: Ravager first started out as a Reggie (Reggie Bannister) centric web series that grew over a course of eight years into the final chapter(?) of the Phantasm film series. It’s an interesting book, although at times it does feel like there is some filler in getting this chronicle to it’s 160+ page length. The first quarter of the book is a repeat of material from Phantasm Exhumed concerning Phantasm: Ravager and then we finally get the start of the story of how Don Coscarelli and new series director David Hartman, began what started as a web series in 2008. Then it details how the footage for the intended Reggie’s Tales was integrated into and became part of the story for Phantasm: Ravager. A film that would take another eight years till release. We get details of the release and reception and then McNeill goes into a lengthy analysis of the film itself. It is here that the material feels mostly like filler, as it is basically the author trying to give a lengthy counterpoint to those negatively criticizing the film. It is still an interesting book, but one that struggles hard to be feature book length, ironically, much like Phantasm: Ravager itself being pieced together from an episodic web series. Still worth having if you are a “Phan.”

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES BOOK REVIEW: PHANTASM EXHUMED by DUSTIN McNEILL

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PHANTASM EXHUMED by DUSTIN McNEILL

Book is a fun and informative love letter to one of the most beloved horror franchises of all time, Phantasm! It traces Don Coscarelli’s entry into filmmaking with his first features, before beginning a look back at the making of the original, classic Phantasm film, with a host of stories, anecdotes and pictures from many of the cast and crew. McNeill then discusses the erratic and sometimes lengthy periods of time between each sequel and the making of those sequel themselves. It’s a fascinating look at low budget filmmaking and big studio interference, such as the replacing of series regular A. Michael Baldwin with James LeGros in Phantasm II. There are even shared entries from the personal journal of The Tall Man himself, Angus Scrimm! The author ends his tale right as the rumblings began for the fifth and final (?) entry Phantasm: Ravager…but that is another story and book! Overall, it’s an entertaining and in-depth look at the making of this legendary film series and of the passion of it’s creator in getting his movies made. A must have for fans…or should I say Phans!

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY PHANTASM!

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MonsterZero NJ wishes a very happy 40th anniversary to one of my all-time favorite horror films and a true horror original… Phantasm! The Don Coscarelli classic was released on March 28th, 1979 and spawned not only a beloved franchise, but added The Tall Man (the late, great Angus Scrimm) to the list of immortal horror icons!

-MonsterZero NJ

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY PHANTASM!

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MonsterZero NJ wishes  a very happy (belated) 38th birthday to one of my all-time favorite horror films and a true horror original… Phantasm! The Don Coscarelli classic was released on March 28th, 1979 and spawned not only a beloved franchise, but added The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) to the list of immortal horror icons!

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: PHANTASM RAVAGER (2016)

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PHANTASM RAVAGER (2016)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Phantasm is a unique horror classic that has never really been equaled and not only spawned one of the most original franchises in horror, but gave us the iconic Tall Man (the late, great Angus Scrimm), the equally iconic knife-edged flying spheres and a monster fighting ice cream man (Reggie Bannister) who is a horror icon as well. Now after 37 years, creator Don Coscarelli is bringing his series to an end with this climactic installment. The story finds Reggie (Bannister) still searching for Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) while being hunted by the Tall Man (Scrimm) and being haunted by dreams that this is all been a product of his own old age dementia. Real or imagined, Reggie unites with allies old and new to take on the Tall Man one last time, as the world itself has fallen into his grasp.

Ravager is the first film Coscarelli has handed over to another director, his co-writer David Hartman who does do a good job trying to recreate the Phantasm feeling, though it’s not quite on the nose as if Coscarelli had done it himself. Still, the duo deliver one of the best entries of the series to say goodbye to this beloved horror franchise, even if there ae a few speed bumps on Reggie’s road to reunite with Mike and send the Tall Man packing one last time. Getting the minor gripes out of the way first…the main one being the limited screen time for Scrimm in his final performance as the alien undertaker. The actor was in his late 80s at the time this was filmed and possibly wasn’t up to a lengthy shoot, either way we do wish there was more of him as he plays the role for the last time before his death earlier this year. There is also Dawn Cody’s Dawn/Jane. The actress first appears as Dawn, a woman Reggie picks up when her car breaks down and she seems like she is going to be important. She leaves the film only a few scenes later and then is re-introduced as freedom fighter Jane about twenty minutes after that. She claims to not know Reggie who certainly recognizes her. Is she the same character? Is she a completely different person? Even Jane never really adds up to be someone crucial, so what was the point other than the traditional Reggie pick-up scene? It’s a shame as she was likable in both parts.

All that is minor as there is still so much to enjoy in this farewell chapter. When Scrimm does appear he is as menacing as ever. It’s a delight to see him as this legendary horror icon one last time. The spheres are back and see a lot of bloody action including newer and much larger ones in the desolated Earth sequences that have an amusing Mad Max vibe, which is new to the series. The narrative is less traditional and follows the dream within a dream structure most of the series followed and despite a very low budget, the FX and action work well enough for us to enjoy, even if not up to Hollywood standards, which was never Coscarelli’s style anyway. The sequences of old Reggie in a retirement home being visited by Mike worked really well and add to the notion that maybe this was all imagined from the start…or was it? There are some really fun sequences that take place in the Tall Man’s dimension, too and some really great cameos from series characters that haven’t been seen in a while, like Kathy Lester’s Lady In Lavendar from the classic original. The film has a moderate pace which works with the surreal nature and there is an atmospheric score by Christopher L. Stone that works in the original theme from Fred Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave and is effective on it’s own.

I really enjoyed this send-off to one of my favorite horror franchises. The original cast returned to their roles without missing a beat and it was bittersweet to see Scrimm one last time as one of horror’s greatest icons. There were a few hiccups and director Hartman had his own style which gave the film a slightly different flavor, but overall he did a good job especially when things crank up in the second half. There were some amusing cameos and all the elements one expects from a Phantasm movie, like spheres, dwarves and gun-slinging ice cream men, are there for fans to enjoy. Watch through the credits as there is a great mid-credits cameo that really adds to the film’s “the gangs all here” approach. A fun finale that ends the series with dignity and nostalgia.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 silver spheres.
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PHANTASM: RAVAGER GETS A POSTER AND UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS GETS A TEASER TRAILER

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The fifth and final installment of the Phantasm franchise is headed to theaters and VOD on October 7th and a cool new poster has been released!

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The fifth installment of the Underworld franchise is also headed to theaters, on January 6th 2017 and a new teaser has been released for Underworld: Blood Wars!

source Arrow In The Head/Youtube

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SUBSPECIES (1991)

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SUBSPECIES (1991)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

As it was the birthday of the late, great Angus Scrimm recently, I decided to revisit this flick in which he stars in a small role as Vampire King Vladislav. This is one of Charles Band’s Full Moon direct to video productions and actually has a bit of a cult following, spawning three sequels and a spin-off. This first film tells of the approaching of the Festival of Prejmer in which the locals celebrate a time when, as they believe, vampires saved them from the invading Turkish army. The Vampire King (Scrimm) is going to use it to pass his crown and the powerful relic, the Bloodstone, onto his younger son Stefan (Michael Watson). His evil eldest son Radu (Anders Hove) is not happy about this and returns from his banishment to murder his father and take the powerful Bloodstone for himself. Now Stefan must find a way to stop him and help two American college students (Laura Tate and Michelle McBride) and their local friend (Irina Movila), who have been targeted by his bloodthirsty brother.

Flick is an OK vampire yarn elevated by some nice Romanian locations where it was actually filmed. The plot, as per Band and Jackson Barr’s script, plays it safe and doesn’t stray too far from the traditional vampire story. It has it’s fiend pursuing innocents and turning some into his own kind and a Van Helsing  type character, which here is represented in the form of local man Karl (Ivan J. Rado). There is a romance between Stefan and Michelle (Laura Tate) that seems added to satisfy the Anne Rice crowd, but otherwise it’s very old-fashioned. The film does have some atmosphere, though even at only 80 minutes director Ted Nicolaou moves things at a very moderate pace. There is the expected bloodshed and some nudity to appease the intended target audience and some brief stop motion animation from the legendary David Allen, in the portrayal of Radu’s diminutive demon-like minions. Being direct to video, the cinematography is sadly TV-like and the film’s sumptuous Romania locales deserved better. Aside from the always delightful Scrimm and Anders Hove giving his raspy voiced Radu some menace, the cast is fairly wooden all across the board. There is also a bit of a physical resemblance between Watson and Tate, including similar hairdos, that adds an uncomfortableness to their vampire/human romance. Too bad producer Charles Band couldn’t have given this flick a little more effort on a production and creative level, as it had potential to be something with a bit more weight had it not been targeted for direct to video sales.

Not a great movie by any lengths, but it has it’s entertainment value and even filmed unflatteringly, the Romanian locations are atmospheric. The vampire tropes are all paraded out for fans and our lead fiend is memorable and deserved a better film to be in. Angus Scrimm adds class to his pre-credits role as the Vampire King and might have been even more impressive if not for that silly wig they make him wear. Worth a look, but don’t expect too much. Actress Denise Duff would replace Tate as Michelle for the next three flicks.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 fangs.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANGUS SCRIMM!

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Today marks the birthday of horror film legend Angus Scrimm! Renown to fans worldwide as Phantasm‘s Tall Man, he has terrified and delighted us with his legendary performances as one of horror’s greatest icons for over three decades with a 5th Phantasm film on the way!

MonsterZero NJ’s Movie Madhouse celebrates the legacy of Angus Scrimm and his contribution to horror and fantasy cinema on this, his birthday!

For a review of the coinciding Angus Scrimm film, just click on the poster

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john dies at the end lost empire

-MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE LOST EMPIRE (1983)

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THE LOST EMPIRE (1983)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

The Lost Empire is a fun B-movie exploitation flick from writer/director Jim Wynorski (The Return Of Swamp Thing, Chopping Mall), who made a career churning out comic book-style cheese like this. In his first film, Wynorski spins a James Bond-esque yarn with hot girls and evil bad guys, with some supernatural elements as well. An attempted robbery in a Chinatown antique store brings hot inspector Angel Wolfe (Melanie Vincz) on the case. As her policeman brother Rob (Phantasm’s Bill Thornbury) was mortally wounded during the incident, this one is personal. The trail leads to the mysterious and powerful jewels, The Eyes Of Avatar and to the island fortress of Golgatha where cult leader Sin Do (the legendary Angus Scrimm) is building an army. Wolfe needs to infiltrate the island and find out why Sin Do wants the Eyes Of Avatar so badly. She brings Native America warrior Whitestar (Raven De La Croix) and ex-con Heather McClure (Angela Aames) along with her, to even up the odds. Once there, the three women must somehow stop the mystical Sin Do’s diabolical plan and get off his island fortress alive.

Obviously, this flick is not to be taken seriously for one minute and Wynorski knows this and flaunts it. He has a fun time with his 007 style plot with it’s island fortress and megalomaniacal villain and instead of a dapper British agent, throws in three gorgeous stripper types instead. He fills the island with beautiful women and evil henchman…all seemingly played by movie bad guy Robert Tessier…and gives us a delightfully over the top villain from Scrimm. The sets are 70s TV show cheesy, as are Ernest D. Farino’s SPFX and Steve Neil’s make-up, but it’s all in good fun, so who cares? The acting by our three babes is fairly wooden, but they give it their all and the delivery of the cheesy dialogue…Raven De La Croix’s constant Native American puns are hysterically awful…makes one giggle in spite of one’s self. Wynorski takes any opportunity to show some skin from some of our female players, but evens things up by having his hotties kick some bad guy ass as often as they shed their clothes. It’s all in exploitation movie fun and and even comes wrapped in a very 80s electronic score by frequent John Carpenter collaborator Alan Howarth. It’s a B-movie good time and a good example of exploitation cinema at it’s most fun.

This is an entertaining, goofy B-movie that makes no apologies for it and revels in it. It has a silly sci-fi/spy movie plot that is a flimsy excuse to get it’s three beautiful leading ladies into flimsier outfits and less. It’s got low budget action, cheesy SPFX , over-the-top villains and a horde of hardbody hotties and just simply has a lot of fun with it all. Very 80s and sadly the type of movie they don’t make anymore.

MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA: Actor Blackie Dammett who stars as the evil Prager is the father of Red Hot Chili Peppers lead singer Anthony Kiedis!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) butt kicking, clothes shedding hotties.

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