Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Bangers n' Mash 53 and 54: The Phantasm Series and Little Monsters

I sometimes treat posting Bangers n' Mash episodes to this blog as an afterthought. I really shouldn't, as I know Film Thoughts is the primary way some fans listen to the show. My thought process was something like I didn't want to interrupt the flow of this month's Catch-Up reviews. Now, here we are, on the last day of November, and I haven't posted any Bangers n' Mash episodes.

So here's a two-fer. The first of the episode went up a week or so ago. As you'd expect, I'm still recycling my various Halloween 2014 reviews. JD and I delve into the mysteries and myriad eccentricities of the four "Phantasm" films.

The month's second episode, which went up just minutes ago, is about what I like to call Little Monsters movies. Those various horror films, usually from the eighties, about whole armies of diminutive creatures causing mischief and wrecking havoc. We start with the two "Gremlins" films, obviously the definitive examples of the subgenre, before moving on to the rip-offs and would-be successors: Critters, Ghoulies, Troll, so on and so forth. It's a bit of a messy episode but, considering how many movies we cover, I think it turned out all right.

Here's the part of the podcast post where I give you a general update on what's going with the blog. Remember that Director's Report Card I promised? It's well under way but obviously won't start going up until December. I hope to squeeze in some seasonal festive viewings, a few other Recent Watches reviews, and more podcast episodes. All of this before my year-end retrospective, which I still have to see a bunch of stuff for. As always, the end of the year is a hectic time for Film Thoughts. Rest assured, I'll be back soon with more stuff. 


whitsbrain said...

Sorry. I should know that commenting needs to be my highest priority.

It's been a long time since I've seen "Gremlins". I like it, but I've always liked "Gremlins 2" more. It's an absolutely insane sequel. It's out of control with all kinds of inside jokes, special appearances and vintage Looney Tunes sound effects. It’s senseless and a little bit gross. It really plays like a live-action cartoon, if that's possible. They do a lot of slapstick and poke fun at a lot of old movies and TV shows.

"Critters" is one of those movies that you just sit back and chuckle at. And you don't laugh because it's bad or funny, its just got a goofy charm that you can't help but smile at. The simple way in which the special effects are executed, the basic story of a family terrorized by little furry smart-asses from's all good. But it's far from great or even very good. "Critters" is just an enjoyable little romp. It's a movie that would never be made today without being turned into heartless CGI-fest. I've never seen any other"Critters" movies.

No "Ghoulies" or "Troll" on my movie-watching resume.

The original "Don't Be Afraid Of the Dark"...I remember other kids talking about this movie when I was just a wee lad, but I never saw it until about 3 years ago. I use the word creepy a lot and I can say that this lived up to it. It wasn't scary, but if I had seen this at age 9, I wouldn't have slept for a week.

The little creatures are distinctly other-worldly, the sound of their voices and the way they peek from around corners and from behind books is effective. I liked the music by Billy Goldenberg. It helped to set the mood well, even if it was a little corny.

There is a moment when we get a full body glimpse of the creatures and it is a perfect example of how not having a pause button saved older movies from being not so scary during their original runs. I pressed pause at the second we got the full creature shot and it showed three of them standing in front of what appears to be a cloth backdrop. The creatures are just three guys wearing masks and what appear to be furry suits, like ape costumes. Funny stuff.

I really liked the ending. I was very surprised by it, especially due to the fact that this was a made-for-TV movie.

This "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" remake is a bummer overall. The scenery looks great. The house, the surrounding grounds, shadows, cobwebs...everything looks incredible. The little CGI-beasties, however, do not. They are not scary because we see too much of them and it all feels a bit like "Who Framed Roger Rabbit". They don't really ever mix into the live action. They reminded me of the little under-grounders from the old '80s horror movie called "The Gate" In that movie, the demons came up from down below only a couple of times. They were stop-motion animated and looked a lot like the ones in this movie but the filmmakers managed to keep them creepy. In this remake, that isn't the case.

The biggest downfall is the stupid things the characters do or don't do. If the little creatures are sensitive to light, then leave the lights on. If bad things keep happening to your child when your not around, don't leave the kid alone in a room two floors away from you. If your kid starts finding teeth and very old silver coins lying around, don't just shove them in your pocket and tell her to go to bed. Take a look around. Try to figure out where she is getting all of the stuff. If one of the handymen comes up from the basement with razor gashes and stab wounds from scissors, don't consider it an accident. Even the police say it's an accident. The idiotic decisions abound. I do like the ending which is a twist, but there isn't enough revealed in the story for it to make much sense.

whitsbrain said...

"Phantasm" is a surely a cult horror classic. I've seen it a number of times, but truthfully, its not a very good film. It makes no sense whatsoever. To this day I don't know if Mike dreamed the whole thing or not. I've never been able to figure it out (just like the majority of people who have seen it).

The Tall Man and the Silver Sphere are what I think people enjoy about the movie. The characters of Mike, Jody and Reggie do the stupidest things throughout the entire run time...and just where again did the mine shaft come from?!?

There are some pretty decent ideas sprinkled here and there but I think my fondness for "Phantasm" is just related to how off-the-wall it is.

I've never seen any of the sequels.

whitsbrain said...

By the way, your Little Monsters podcast was very enjoyable. I like the way that the YouTube video provides a "title card" for the movie you are talking about.

Bonehead XL said...

Thanks for the feedback, as always Whit. I'm mostly sarcastic when I badger our listeners for feedback and you're the one leaving most of it lately so don't feel bad.

Considering most people listen to the show audio only, I probably shouldn't even bother with the title-cards in the Youtube videos. (And sometimes don't.) But I'm glad you enjoy. One of these days, the show will transition to a real podcast, I promise.