Death Machine (1994)

Death Machine

Directed by Stephen Norrington [Other horror films: Blade (1998)]

Generally speaking, Death Machine is both a well-made and moderately fun movie. My main question is, did it really need to be two hours long?

The story was good, the gore, when it popped up, was solid also. However, since the movie goes more an action route than it does horror, there’s not as many gory scenes as I would have liked to see, especially considering how dangerous and sharp Dourif’s Warbeast looks.

Brad Dourif was, of course, the stand-out here. His character was wacky, yet quite deadly and amoral, and I have to admit, his portrayal here reminds me a lot of Heath Ledger’s Joker. Dourif was just fun in every scene he was in, and his voice was always a pleasure to hear. The two others who really stood out to me were the main actress Ely Pouget and William Hootkins. Pouget does a solid job as the lead character, and Hootkins, though he didn’t have that much screen-time, had a good presence.

There were aspects of this film that didn’t do much for me. The battle suit was a bit too science-fiction for me, and I could have done without all of the fighting sequences. In a related note, this movie runs for just over two hours, and I really think that was ill-conceived. The movie can be fun, but at two hours a pop, who would take the time to rewatch it? I know I probably wouldn’t.

Death Machine is a decently solid piece of 90’s cinema, despite it being more an action science-fiction flick than a horror (make no mistake, though, there are many horror aspects within). But the length strikes me as rather uncalled for (the movie never feels as epic, for lack of a better word, as the length might lead you to believe), and there were a bit too many fight scenes. As it is, it’s a fine movie, just nothing overly special, despite Dourif’s strong personality.

7/10

Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994)

Phantasm III

Directed by Don Coscarelli [Other horror films: Phantasm (1979), Phantasm II (1988), Phantasm IV: Oblivion (1998), Bubba Ho-Tep (2002), John Dies at the End (2012)]

A definite drop-off from the first two of this cult classic series, the third entry still has a lot of solid stuff that makes it worth checking out still.

By-and-large, this film isn’t really that far removed from the second Phantasm. It’s another road-trip, chasing down the Tall Man-type deal, with a few new characters thrown into the mix. It is, however, a bit lighter in tone than the previous film. It takes some odd turns (what they do with Jody – and perhaps Michael – was, shall we say, an interesting choice), and feels somewhat disjointed toward the end. Not even the dreamy disorientation such as the first film, but a ‘I have no idea what’s going on’ type thing.

Before that, though, let’s talk cast: Unfortunately, the stand-outs of this movie are pretty much the stand-outs from the last one: Reggie Bannister and, of course, Angus Scrimm. A. Michael Baldwin came back, but I’m not wooed by his acting. And as fun as Gloria Lynne Henry sometimes was as Rocky, more often than not, she came across as over-the-top. The young Kevin Connors did fine enough, but his character struck me as moderately pointless.

So you put together a, on average, less-than-stellar cast with less-than-stellar plot points (those three zombies that popped up multiple times toward the end rubs me the wrong way), and you get a pretty flimsy Phantasm. Which isn’t to say the film is particularly bad – despite the lighter tone, some of these characters can be pretty fun, such as Rocky – but compared to the first two flicks, this has been a let-down each time I’ve seen it.

6.5/10