Murder Weapon (1989)

Not too long ago, my dad and I were at a horror convention and stopped at a Vinegar Syndrome booth to pick up some new movies. A blu-ray edition of Nightmare Sisters was a must have but another movie caught our eye. A double feature of Murder Weapon and Deadly Embrace, two movies starring the lovely Linnea Quigley. They looked kind of like exploitation slashers but they’ve got Linnea so there’s at least one saving grace. So we happily left the convention with three new Linnea Quigley blu-rays in our arms (plus a whole bunch of other stuff). It wasn’t until recently that we actually sat down to watch Murder Weapon. Lots of other movies had occupied our time, such as Jack Frost, Black Christmas, and Phantasm, which all seemed to take precedent over both Murder Weapon and Deadly Embrace. Once we actually put on Murder Weapon, it was a joyride into exploitation city that was well worth the wait.

This movie was everything you want from an exploitation slasher. Good amount of nudity, pretty funny kills, a really thin plot that doesn’t really make sense. You certainly don’t have to think too hard about this one. That doesn’t mean that I wasn’t screaming questions at the screen almost the entire time. Almost nothing made sense and the movie was so incredibly low budget that some scenes were actually hard to watch. The audio was so bad we watched it with subtitles. There are a lot of scenes that take place outside and the birds, cars, and music from a radio all were louder than the dialogue. This meant that we got to see hilarious descriptions of the music in each scene such as “suspicious jazz” and “upbeat hip hop tune”.

The best part of this movie was actually the special effects/makeup effects. They were surprisingly good for a low-budget movie. All of the kills looked really good and I was pretty impressed. Another great part of this movie was realizing one of the male actors was the lead in Silent Night, Deadly Night II who said the infamous line “Garbage day!”

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*spoilers*

The movie opens with a bizarre 15-minute long silent sequence. I was actually really afraid the whole movie would be silent (which might have been preferable to the chaotic audio the movie had). I think this was actually a dream sequence (??). Then it’s revealed that Linnea Quigley (Dawn) and another woman, Karen Russel (Amy) are in a mental institution and are trying to get approval for release. They might’ve killed someone or maybe someone close to them was killed (??), it was pretty unclear. Anyway, they end up blackmailing the doctors into signing their release forms. There are a bunch of flashback scenes to therapy sessions with Dawn and Amy that are pretty clearly meant to stretch the running time. After they’re released from the hospital they’re living together in a huge house (I believe it’s actually Amy’s family’s house) and decide to throw a party and invite all of their ex-boyfriends.

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There are some mentions of both Amy and Dawn’s fathers being in the mob, being a hitman for the mob, being a mob boss (pretty sure all of these things were said at different times so it’s unclear what the back story is). Dawn’s parents are both dead and that’s why she’s staying with Amy. Amy is also like narcoleptic or something because she falls asleep at the drop of a hat throughout the movie in order to see her weird dreams/flashbacks of the mental hospital. We’re lead to believe that Amy is the killer because some of the guys mention messed up things she’s done in the past like set their cars on fire and stab them (??). She seems to be more of a loose cannon than Dawn is.

While everyone is hanging out more and more people are being killed without anyone knowing. Dawn and Amy sleep with I think just one guy each but maybe two? Like I said, this is absolutely an exploitation movie. Lots of boobs and bikinis in this one. The guys eventually figure out that people are being killed. In this way, this movie is kind of unique. Instead of a group of scantily clad women being killed off its the men being killed. I’m sure this has been done in other movies but it was still kinda cool. Anyway, the guys proceed to freak out a little bit, realizing that there’s nowhere to run and assuming the phone lines are down. They end up finding some guns and running into the basement where the killer is attempting to murder Amy. Amy dumps a thing of gasoline onto the killer and one of the guys shoots it, setting the killer on fire and revealing it to be….Dawn!

And that’s the end of the movie. A lot of fun, decently paced, delightfully confusing and low budget, and just enough nudity. On an exploitation scale, it’s like a solid 3.5/5. I couldn’t put this on par with other movies.

Sincerely,

Your Final Girl

PS: sorry for the low-quality pics in this one, it’s all I could find

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Phantasm (1979)

I recently sat down to watch Phantasm, knowing absolutely nothing about it except for the name and vaguely what those silver ball things look like. After watching the movie, I can safely say that I didn’t come out of it with a much better understanding. This was a movie that left me with a lot more questions than answers, not that that’s a bad thing. I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on most of the time and the ending was more than a little confusing. Was it all a dream? Was the Tall Man fucking with Mike the whole time but is still real? Were they aliens? What does the Tall Man need all those midgets for? Is the Tall Man just another worker for some larger alien scheme? Why didn’t the Tall Man just kill Mike and be done with it??

Now, like I said, having a lot of questions doesn’t make for a bad movie. In fact, I think the opposite is true. If your movie doesn’t make me think at all then what’s the point of watching it? Not to say that Phantasm has any notable philosophical, political, etc. themes being posed. I like to be a little confused sometimes watching movies. I like to be engaged with it and want to know more. I don’t want everything simply laid out in front of me. If you enjoy being a little in the dark, then Phantasm is for you. If you want “there’s the killer, here they are killing, bam, now they’re dead”, this just isn’t your movie.

(Side note: this movie had a pretty awesome soundtrack. Lots of organs and synth stuff mixed to capture the 70’s as well as the funeral home aspects of the film. You can find some good recordings of it online if you’re interested in that sort of thing.)

It kind of reminded me of Hellraiser in a way, in that it felt like it lent itself to becoming a series that goes more in-depth (and more ridiculous) with the lore. This is true, of course, since Phantasm has five movies in the series now (Hellraiser has countless sequels – I think there’s nine by now).With that said, I don’t know how Phantasm works as a stand alone. It left me a little too confused and didn’t give me enough to work with. However, I did enjoy the imagery, the weapons, and the characters, and the story/setting was interesting enough to make me want more.

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*synopsis time, but mostly just the beginning of the movie at this point*

In Phantasm, we follow a 13, maybe 14 year old boy, Mike, as he pieces together the weird things going on in the local cemetery/funeral home. His parents have died a year or two ago and he’s living with his older brother, Jody. Jody is kind of distant but caring and is considering leaving Mike with their aunt. Through the film, Jody is kind of weird and has strange reactions to everything but I think this might just be bad acting. There are scenes where he tells Mike to stay home so he can go fight the bad guy and when Mike inevitably shows up anyway, Jody is just like “oh hey”. It’s also possible that some of the elements of this movie (like Jody’s non-reactions) are done on purpose to make the film a little more schlocky. I’m not certain how this movie was received by audiences or how it was conceived by those who made it but it really does balance on the line between schlock and not schlock. Anyway, we start the movie with a man getting killed by a woman while they have sex in a cemetery but the woman turns into Angus Scrimm in some shots (our villain of the story). The man turns out to be a friend of Jody and Mike’s and though Mike was told not to go to the funeral he hides in the bushes anyway and later sees Angus Scrimm (known only as Tall Man in the movie, Angus Scrimm is the actor’s name) taking the man’s casket and bringing it back up to the funeral home instead of burying it. Through the beginning of the movie Mike tends to follow Jody around, but far enough away that Jody doesn’t really notice. While following Jody, Mike is attacked by some midgets in cloaks and draws Jody’s attention (which is good because he is with the same woman their friend was with when their friend was killed). Now Mike starts to really get involved in trying to figure out what’s going on at Morningside Cemetery.

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*actual spoilers from here*

Thus begins a series of running back and forth between Mike and Jody’s house and Morningside. First Mike goes in alone and manages to cut the fingers off of Tall Man and has the presence of mind to take a finger with him. That’s how he manages to convince Jody that something weird is actually going on. The finger is still moving around and oozing weird yellow fluid. It then turns into a bug-like fuzzy spider looking thing and attacks the two of them, just as their friend Reggie comes over to check on them. Now it’s Mike, Jody, and Reggie ready to fight the Morningside creeps. I think Jody and Reggie go over first and manage to capture one of the midgets. (Honestly, there was so much running back and forth between the two locations that it’s hard to remember what happened when.) That’s when they realize that the midgets are actually the bodies of the dead people that have been brought to Morningside because of course the one that attacks them happens to be the friend that died at the beginning of the film.  After this, I don’t think much happens until the final battle at Morningside. Actually, Jody does lock Mike in his room so that he won’t try to fight Tall Man and Mike blows a fucking hole in the door with a shotgun shell and a hammer. Mike is awesome, probably the best part of the movie. Then the three guys get to Morningside and try to figure out what’s going on. They find a weird room with stacks of barrels that contain midgets that are being created (??) and in the center of the room are these two silver cylinders.

Then the three guys get to Morningside and try to figure out what’s going on. They find a weird room with stacks of barrels that contain midgets that are being created (??) and in the center of the room are these two silver cylinders. Mike goes up to them and realizes that in between the poles is some kind of invisible portal. He ends up getting sucked in but is saved by Jody. Mike sees in the portal a strange world with a red sky and a long line of the cloaked figures stretching on for miles. He says that they’re slaves and the reason they’re midgets is because of the gravity and the heat. Sure…why not? Reggie looks at the two poles and thinks back to his tuning fork that he conveniently used earlier in the film. He puts his hands on top of the two poles and stops their vibrations, causing the portal to collapse (??) and everything to start getting sucked into it. The three guys escape with their lives somehow (except I think Reggie gets stabbed somewhere in this sequence of events).

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The ending is a bit weird and I don’t understand it. So Mike manages to kill the Tall Man by throwing him into a mine and Jody blows up a ravine so that tons of rocks and boulders fall into the mine on top of the Tall Man. Right after that, Mike wakes up in bed, walks into the living room, and says he had a bad dream to Reggie (not Jody, the brother). Reggie explains that everything is fine, Mike is just stressed because Jody died in a car accident a few weeks earlier, but Reggie is here not to take care of Mike. This is where I’m like “wait so it was a fucking dream the whole time??”. But wait, Mike goes back into his room where Tall Man is waiting for him?? Then the movie ends???? Was it all a dream? Is the Tall Man an imaginary figure Mike made up to cope with the death of his family? Or is the Tall Man real and is fucking with Mike’s mind? Has Jody really been dead the whole time? I haven’t seen any of the other films in the series so maybe this is cleared up (or made much more confusing) later. If any of you have theories or different perspectives, let me know in the comments.

Overall, I’d have to say I enjoyed Phantasm. It was entertaining and kept my interest. It had fun characters and a good score. It definitely left me wanting more. I think I’d give it a 3/5.

Sincerely,

Your Final Girl