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TomJoad survives Roger Avary's PHANTASM

AICN's resident expert on Wet Horror, ex-Oklahoma dental school honor student Tom Joad, just turned in his report on Roger Avary's entry into the PHANTASM universe. What's he think, "well you know the horror's intense when you have to wear a rubbercoat to read the script." This report is just what Father Geek needed to prepare for the next month at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema here in Austin. You see on March 25 Tom Savini is coming to be an "Undead in person" guest at a Savani triple feature with behind the scenes film to boot. And Tom is going to Blowup some lucky geek on stage, hope its Quint, he contains enough gore to cover the audience, hope Tim was able to score those raincoats for us all.

Then on March 30-1 the Alamo will be showing all the PHANTASM flicks with several guest stars including the Tall Man himself. Just way tooooo cooooool!! And I know Tim has horrific surprises dreamed up for us each and every night of this little fest too.

PHANTASM 1999 script review by Tom Joad

A screenplay about the Apocalypse and Hell on Earth by Roger Avary

I'll be honest: I love reading scripts, all scripts. ANY scripts. Being a screenwriter myself, I am able to see how various writers work their various tricks on the written page. I can then gauge the power of the written word against the power of whatever visual realization a particular director had in mind. I love to read the scripts to my favorite films - films that I have long loved - to discover things that have always existed, yet the director chose to modify, trim or leave out altogether. Things that we as a viewer may or may not deem important, but to me are invaluable.

Let me also preface this review by letting the world reading this know: This review requires SPOILERS!!! And you know what? Anyone NOT wanting to read about said SPOILERS should go away now. The bottom line? If you don't like the PHANTASM series, then you don't give a good goddamn about this review. But if you enjoy the hyper realistic series as much as I do, you also felt your interest wane a bit with the release of the fourth chapter: OBLIVION. This is the shot in the arm you need! The only SPOILERS you'll read will make you begin slobbering at the chance to see this flick! For you fans of the Tall Man out there, I have a treat for you!

I heard about this script long ago. In fact - I have been looking for this script for some time. You see, this is the first thing Roger Avary wrote since receiving his Oscar for writing Pulp Fiction. And that excited me tremendously. I thoroughly enjoyed Roger's directorial debut, KILLING ZOE. His second effort, MR. STITCH, had some great ideas and some good execution, but I understand Rutger Hauer made the shoot unbearable and nearly wrecked it entirely. Making a movie is an incredibly tough mission to accomplish, and it just kills me to hear about strong creative minds being forced to limit themselves and roll with the punches.

So it was with great anticipation that I opened the first page to read: "A screenplay about the Apocalypse and Hell on Earth by Roger Avary." My huge grin instantly doubled in size as these first twelve words filled me with the hope that we would be able to see the Tall Man's havoc wreaked on the entire world. You see, these twelve words addressed the major problem still missing from any PHANTASM sequel: scale. By scale I mean the size of the potential story being told. This series is founded on great ideas and fun characters, but at some point or another, the topic of how the Tall Man affects the world and the world's reality HAS to come into play. I have been waiting years to see this, and the horror film geek in me is bubbling over with the excitement of this being made into a feature. Fuck Jason X, fuck Freddy vs. Jason, of all the horror films and horror sequels spawned by the eighties, THIS IS THE ONLY ONE THAT SHOULD BE TOLD TWENTY YEARS LATER. I have read three drafts of the Freddy/Jason movie and they all blow. I've read enough about Jason X to know that Sean S. Cunningham should reconsider producing until he sees a REAL script. The problem with writers being hired to churn out a sequel is that these writers are not FANS. They just don't get the material. They don't dive into their job with the excitement and fervor any self-respecting genre fan writer should have on his side. But not Roger. He knows the story - he's added to the structure and legend of the Tall Man in ways that we as fans WISH we could have come up with. His script reads quickly and he knows what buttons to push and when. He is truly a gifted writer and his talent and originality shine here.

We begin the story in the year 1999 (this draft is dated June 26, 1997) so the timeline may or may not be modified. The American flag is host to only three of our original fifty stars: California to the west, New York to the east and Plague Zone which exists between the two, separated from poverty-stricken society by walls armed with soldiers.

The plague zone is filled with those citizens of the U.S. which have become infected with the Bag Plague. Unstoppable, untreatable & one hundred percent fatal. The Bag Plague will cause the head of the contaminated to swell with infected cells, leading them to pulsate and swell with pus before exploding. Problem is, once they explode, they rain out a swollen head full of pus, infecting everyone who comes in contact with the Plague. Worse yet, their exploding skulls rocket bits of skull fragments out in a 360 degree spray, going so far as to pierce car doors. Basically, don't be anywhere near these unfortunate individuals when they take it to the house.

Top government officials have knowledge of the Tall Man, who resides in the Great Mormon Mausoleum building, in the center of the Plague Zone. They also know of his portal room (from the first PHANTASM) and that it will allow one to gain access to his world. They send in a high-tech troop of military personnel to detonate a ''universe-destroying'' bomb in his dimension.

Simultaneously, good old Reggie has been having continual dreams/nightmares about his buddy Michael who the Tall Man has imprisoned back in his Negative dimension. Reggie sets out into the Plague Zone to find out whether or not Michael is still alive after all these years and if so, try to find a way to rescue him.

The Tall Man is the absolute man in this script. He gets his due as the ultimate badass in this one and Roger knows this character very well. He's taken a fantastic idea and run with it. He's thrown in elements of some of the best and his script echoes such greats as Escape from New York, Aliens & Dawn of the Dead. Roger has crafted an incredibly kickass and entertaining read and hopefully will be attached to helm so he can make an incredibly kickass and entertaining movie!

This script ends better than even the best fan could possibly imagine and I can only pray that this falls into hands that will both recognize what they have and get this film made!

Tom Joad signing off and out.

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