Thursday, May 30, 2019

freakboy on film: PHANTASM (a 5 film freakathon)

If this one doesn't scare you...'re already dead. 

I originally experienced PHANTASM on VHS, recorded from late night cable.  I watched it more than a few times over the years and I knew of at least one sequel, but the opportunity to watch the second one, or the others, never occurred until...

I was stumbling around Wal-Mart, my Mad Scientist Glasses in tow so I could browse the dwindling, but surprisingly eclectic DVD selection.  There was all 5 PHANTASM films in one collection.  I hesitated at first because sequels to classic horror films can really suck sometimes, but I ultimately couldn't resist the temptation of The Tall Man and his deadly balls. 

The first is the best. The sinister Tall Man has gruesome plans for the recently deceased and it's up to brothers Mike and Jody, along with Reggie, an ice cream vendor, to stop him.  This film is atmospheric with its dream within a dream reality.  It's unsettling in a gets under your mind-skin way.  It's downright scary, especially Angus Scrimm as The Tall Man.  He exudes pure evil with just a glance.  The bug scene also totally freaks me out!  Putting all of that aside, the main reason PHANTASM drew me in was the relationship between brothers Jody and Mike.  It's the heart of this horror-fantasy film. 

Jody, Reggie & Mike 

My gut reaction to this first sequel was it was good but not great.  The first PHANTASM, in my opinion, must have inspired Wes Craven a few years later with A Nightmare on Elm Street.  Both films deal with similar themes of reality versus dreams, but each in their individual ways.  PHANTASM II feels like it takes more than a little detour through Elm Street in certain plot elements and especially in visual style.  The reason may partially fall on Universal Studios wanting a horror-fantasy franchise to compete with New Line Cinema's Nightmare juggernaut.  Also, it's a shame A. Michael Baldwin didn't reprise the role of Mike.  James Le Gros is acceptable but not the same.  All of that aside, the scene of Reggie and Mike walking through the emptied cemetery is disturbing and haunting. 

I typically dread it when a horror film franchise attempts to answer questions and add new characters, especially a kid.  I know -I know, Mike was a kid in the first one, but I was terrified that newbie Tim would be the Cousin Oliver to Mike's all grown up Peter Brady.  Thankfully, I was wrong.  Tim is great and brings out Reggie's good qualities.  Plus, Rocky, the baddest bad-ass woman in any horror franchise, is a welcome addition to the predominately white, male cast.  As for a particularly revealing answer about the killer, silver spheres, it made complete sense and elevated the stakes.  
SPOILER: I was bummed Rocky left at the end, but I was thrilled she survived!  

Rocky and Reg

As much as I enjoyed III, this one may be my favorite PHANTASM sequel.  The fourth film is an utter in the best way possible, which makes it close to capturing the eerie dream within a dream quality of the first film.  The plot takes what we think we know, flips and turns it around in our minds, and transforms it into a personal journey for the characters and the viewers. Plus, that quiet ending, so unlike the first three films, left me meditative, contemplative and forgetting to breathe for a moment.  I think I would be strangely fine if IV had been the final PHANTASM.

Here's the truth.  I was disappointed, but not completely.  Perhaps some of my disappointment is because writer/director Don Coscarelli stepped down from the director's chair and collaborated on the script with new director David Hartman.  Can V truly be called pure PHANTASM?  I don't know, but I did enjoy Reggie's mind-trip through different realities, especially the reality where it seems like Reg is in a rest home/psychiatric hospital.  It's the future (real?) reality that kind of disappoints me. It doesn't feel like PHANTASM to me.  It's bigger, even the killer, silver spheres come in extra-large, and it's computer special effects heavy.  Plus, and this is probably my biggest complaint, it's neither Reg nor Mike who once again defeats The Tall Man.  Chunk, an admittedly great new character, gets to do the honor, which was a let down because this appears to be the final PHANTASM since Angus Scrimm has now passed away.  I guess I was hoping for a more personal conclusion.  All my grievances aside, the very final scene made me geek out with unbridled glee because (SPOILER) Rocky turns up, still a bad-ass, and rides off with our heroes to fight another day.

Extra Large 

The PHANTASM series may have some ups, downs and all arounds, but the sequels were worth watching, albeit 20 years later.  One overall aspect that is also worth experiencing is the evolution of Reggie from an ice cream vendor to a middle-aged action hero.  It's a revolutionary transformation for any film franchise, horror or otherwise.

Now it's time to watch all 5 films again, this time with commentaries on! 

"You play a good game, Boy, but the game is finished.  
Now you die."  
- The Tall Man 

Freak Out, 

P.S.  Coming next month...
The Second Great Hammer And Amicus Blogathon!
Hosted by...
Cinematic Catharsis 
Realweegiemidget Reviews 
My books & blogs...

Thursday, May 23, 2019


Shadows were his eyes as he wandered through dimensions, seeking the one of understanding.  Seeking a semblance of permanence within the folding universes.  

Reality is never what it seems but always what it is, the shadows whispered through him.  His eye twitched as blood evaporated, allowing him sight of one reflected into understanding infinity. 

This has been a very short story based on an eye selfie.  Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words. 

Freak Out, 

Friday, May 10, 2019

freakboy on film: HOUSE (1985)

"You're pissin' me off, Roger!" - Big Ben 

Story by Fred Dekker 
Screenplay by Ethan Wiley 
Directed by Steve Miner 

Memory is a tricky thing.  I remembered watching HOUSE multiple times on HBO back in the day.  I even remembered the movie poster, but I would've sworn the tagline was Ding Dong, You're Dead.  The plot is also where my memory got tricky. 

I wonder if Roger's aunt is still hanging around the house. 

Parting the mists of time, aka the fog in my brain, I recalled The Greatest American Hero moving into a haunted house and being terrorized by a decaying Bull from Night Court, if he had been a soldier in Vietnam.  The shocking thing is I wasn't completely wrong.  I had just forgotten a lot of details.

That sweater is the real reason Roger's wife ditched him. 

Roger Cobb (William Katt, with more controlled curls than in CARRIE) is an author in search of solitude so he can write his autobiographical book on the Vietnam war.  Nothing says solitude more than the large house his aunt recently hung herself in.  Besides dealing with his aunt's passing, Roger is also suffering through flashbacks from his time in Vietnam.  Cue Richard Moll as Big Ben, (a name that wouldn't need tweaking for a porno version) who is haunting Roger's nightmares and reality.  As if all of that wasn't enough, Roger is also struggling with the disappearance of his son.  The latter is presumably why his marriage to a famous actress crumbled. 

When bad hair happens to good ghouls. 

Yeah, there's a lot of emotional baggage for Roger to unpack, but this adds to the suspense.  For a 1980's horror film, it's surprisingly not a splatter fest.  There are serious psychologically disturbing components to the plot.  For better or for worse, depending on how you view it, crazy humor keeps the film from fully exploring these components.  George Wendt as next door neighbor Norm,, I mean Harold, provides several of the comedic moments.  Not that I'm seriously complaining because I really enjoyed filling in the filmic gaps in my tricky memory.  A lot of the humor is legitimately funny, just as a lot of the horror is legitimately suspenseful.  


While HOUSE may not be as iconic as other horror films from the 1980's, it definitely deserves to be remembered.  

Big Ben uses industrial strength moisturizer to keep that youthful glow.

Freak Out, 

P.S.  Coming soon...
The Second Great Hammer And Amicus Blogathon!
Hosted by...
Cinematic Catharsis 
Realweegiemidget Reviews 
My books & blogs...

Friday, May 3, 2019

Reverse Engineering Inspiration

April was a shit month. 

I had to say goodbye to Mr. B, the sweetest, roughest ol' tomcat I've ever known.  He had been abandoned by his mother many years ago, and he adopted me & my sis.  It's a quieter home without him.  Then I was confronted by the failure of VISION BENT in finding library readers, which said a lot about how my small Nebraska town views this half-blind freakboy.  As insignificant.  As a failure.  As shit.  Yeah, I'm probably projecting my own insecurities onto the population of my town, but small American towns aren't all Andy Griffith and apple pie, if you know what I mean.  Oh, and there was also an abundance of Spring snow to bury any good mood threatening to bloom.

Yet, despite the negative vortex, I can honestly say not all of April was shit. 

I spent the first Saturday of the month with my Dark Excursions muse and her sister.  On the second Saturday, a cousin and I took a much needed road trip.  A good deal of fun was had on both Saturdays.  

At Penny's Diner in North Platte, NE.

Then, as the month drew to a close, a bit of inspiration blew in my general direction.  I jokingly mentioned that my next book would be a coffee table book of orange underwear pics.  The idea amused me so much that i snapped a photo of my orange underwear on the kitchen table.  Suddenly, a title popped into my head and I set about designing a cover for this ridiculous book. 

Once finished, I half-looked upon my visual creation and realized this was potentially more than a fake cover to a cheeky peek into my orange obsession.  This was a real cover to a book i had not yet written.  The gears in my head began to creak to life, blowing the dust and cobwebs out of my mindscape. 

Dropping, um...2020?  Maybe? 
Hopefully sooner. 

I studied the orange and brown cover of A STUDY IN ORANGE, zooming in and out while adjusting my Mad Scientist Glasses.  My initial impression was that I captured a 1950's dime store paperback vibe.  Then the sharp edges slicing through the cover, fracturing the image, made me think of a crime drama or mystery in a film noir vein.  Last but certainly not least, the orange underwear added a lurid romance angle to the mix.

So, writing a lurid mystery-romance is what I've been doing lately and it feels good.  The process is reminding me of writing Dark Excursions.  As the words spring from my fingertips, I want to get to know these characters better, learn what aspects to their personalities they are hiding from me.  I want to inhabit their tantalizing world and explore what's around each corner. 

I may have a basic idea of the plot, but my fictional writing process is like a flexible sponge, soaking up and incorporating random elements into the story.  I know how the book begins and I have a general idea of the ending, but there's a lot of uncharted territory in between.  I enjoy allowing the characters a certain amount of freedom to reveal themselves and potentially alter the plot. 

I originally didn't intend for Crop to be romantically inclined to Dinkel in Dark Excursions.  It wasn't until I wrote Chapter 6 that I realized Crop had feelings beyond friendship for the one-armed gardener.  I can't even imagine how different DE would be without that romance at its core.  

I hope the cover for A STUDY IN ORANGE, which I think is my best fiction book cover to date, will keep me inspired and motivated.  I have a bad habit of losing interest in a project, but I hate the idea of letting the cover go to waste.  We shall half-see what happens, and I'll occasionally update you on my progress.

In conclusion, April may have generally been a shit month, but perhaps amazing things can grow from excrement. 💩

Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words. 

Freak Out, 

P.S.  A video about my orange obsession...

My books & far.😉