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Phantasm II (1988)
A fine example of how a good sequel should be
After watching the Phantasm movies again and again for years, I've always thought that this second installment is the best.
First of all, it starts the saga as it is. Don Coscarelli has stated many times that he never intended part I to be followed by a sequel, so if you check out the continuity between the two, it's incredibly perfect and accurate in this one. (In my opinion, it's got the best prologue of the saga). Phantasm II picks up the best things of Part I and takes the plot onto a whole new direction (a path that will be followed by the other sequels). Guys, if there's a Phantasm Saga it's because of Part 2.
Apart from this, all ingredients and characters are very well balanced and developed (horror, sci-fi, action, humor, Alchemy, the priest). If, for example, you compare P2 next to P3, you'll realize that sense of humor goes over the top in the latter. Also, P3 seems to forget that the real main hero of the story is Mike. OK, Reggie is my favorite character, but I've always thought that he works better as a sidekick (P2) rather than as the leading guy.
Another important reason is that, to me, this is the darkest and most adult entry in the series: it's got the goriest moments and the creepiest atmosphere, and takes the plot very seriously. Special effects are great too (although being a low budget B-movie, and the cheapest film produced by Universal in 1988, it looks like a super-production).
And what can we say about the girls? Liz is the best partner Mike will ever have, and Chemy the most dangerous and sexiest chick Reggie will ever meet. Next to these characters, the other girls in the series look terribly under-developed (Lady in Lavender in Part I, Jennifer in part IV) or too far out (Rocky and Edna in Part III).
Some people complaint that this sequel, unlike its predecessor, spells everything out for you. No doubt P2 is the most linear installment in the series, but that doesn't necessary mean that spells everything out for you. OK, more dream sequences wouldn't have been bad, but I prefer a standard plot well developed and executed rather than a twisted story full of holes, forced elements and unsatisfying explanations (P3 and P4).
P2 is separated from P1 almost 10 years in time. Universal Pictures planned that the target audience for P2 should include people who never saw the original. They didn't want to take too many risks with the sequel of a movie that wasn't a huge success at the time and was released a decade before. That's the main reason why Universal executives forced Coscarelli to cast somebody else for Mike's part and write a more linear plot without mixing dreams and reality. Because of this, P2 is the only installment in the series that you can watch and understand without having seen P1.
Now, James LeGros is THE BEST Mike EVER. He portrays a strong, tough, grown up Mike. But he can also look sensitive and fragile. Michael Baldwin was great in Part I, but sometimes, when an actor grows up, he doesn't fit in the same role as good as in the past. In P3 and P4, Baldwin looks weak and lost, and his lack of charisma and sex appeal is what makes Reggie take the leading part. James LeGros is a better actor, and a better choice for Mike.
The Fog (1980)
Perfect to be seen in a rainy day.
This is an interesting but minor addition to John Carpenter's filmography. Directly inspired on H.P. Lovecraft's "The Doom that came to Sarnath", and the sea horror tales written by Hope Hodgson, this movie is a good exercise of thrill and scariness, but not as excellent as everybody says.
The atmospheric setting and the insane photography are the best qualities of this humble production. Although you can enjoy Jamie Lee Curtis, Hal Holbrook, Janet Leigh and Tom Atkins, their characters are not charismatic at all and the film lacks of the chilling and claustrophobic rhythm of Halloween. Despite all of these matters, "The Fog" is a good example of well done horror B-movie.
A modern classical.
This horror film is one of the most important of his genre of the last 30 years. John Carpenter built a masterpiece of thrilling and terror, partially inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Everything in this movie is memorable: the claustrophobic and frightening filming, the music (composed by Carpenter and influenced by Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells), the performances of Jamie Lee Curtis (how sexy!) and Donald Pleasance (excellent), the character of Michael Myers (impressive, a modern myth)... etc. Much better than Friday the 13th, A Nigthmare on Elm Street and Scream.
Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)
An urban western
A tribute to Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo. This John Carpenter's early film demonstrates his skills behind the camera. Not as good as everybody say, but much better than other films of the same period. Memorable Darwin Joston in the role of Napoleon Wilson.
One of the best movies ever made in cimena history. Great story and filming, powerful characters, incredible performances of Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier, perfect script... and much more. An excellent film, a classical... a MASTERPIECE. What else can I say???