Kevin Strange’s Walking Dead Season 7 Premiere Review


*This post will, of course, contain spoilers for both the Walking Dead TV show and the comic book. So be warned, if you don’t want one or the other spoiled, stay away from this review*

Now, I’ve been a fan of The Walking Dead since around the 3rd trade paperback which collects issues 13-18. So I got into it pretty early. I devoured those comics. They were so fucking brutal and gut wrenching. The decisions that Rick and the other survivors of the zombie apocalypse had to make were so raw and not at all the kind of wussy things most zombie survivors do in the movies.


The thing that hooked me was the preface in the front of each collected volume. Series creator Robert Kirkman says more or less that he was always more interested in what happened after the zombie movie ends. The world’s gone to shit. There’s no going back to normal life. Now what?

He kept the series in black and white to keep costs down so that the comic could be told sequentially in perpetuity. This intrigued me to no end. It was a story that I could invest in. A story that I was confident would be around for a long, long time.

And now here we are, a decade later and the damn thing is still going. Only now, in addition to the awesome comic book I love to read every six months when a new trade paperback comes out, it’s also a TV show. One of the most popular television shows of all time, actually. And boy does it suck!

Or it used to, anyway. The series premiere, when we meet Rick Grimes and only minutes later he plants a bullet into a little girl zombie’s head? Yeah, that was fucking awesome. The series premiere stands as one of the best zombie movies of all time, in my opinion.

But after that, something happened. I’m not going to recap the whole damn show, but suffice to say, series creator Frank Darabont, AMC, and Robert Kirkman all had different ideas about what kind of show they wanted The Walking Dead to be. And this part is very important to my season 7 premiere review, so bear with me, if you would be so kind.

The first two seasons of this show were nearly unwatchable. With Jon Bernthal’s Shane and Norman Reedus’s Daryl (with a helping of Michael Rooker’s Merle Dixon when he made an appearance) being the only things worth watching for a whole, whole lot of episodes.

But somehow, this crappy zombie show that hardly ever had any zombies–and had in their place a shit load of crappy, overly dramatic monologues about survival and sacrifice that paled in comparison to the kind of deep moral struggles the characters of the comic book had to go through–kept going. See, The Walking Dead isn’t about zombies, neither in the comics, nor the show. We’re the walking dead. The survivors. Only the TV show was trying to cover up a shitty budget and a lack of artistic direction with its scant zombie action.


Season 2 moved into season 3 and then we got into what is still to this day my favorite comic arc of the series. The Governor. Now, in the comics, The Governor is the most sadistic piece of shit this side of the apocalypse, and Rick and his friends happen to end up on his bad side.

In the comic, Michonne  is captured, tortured and raped by this wonderful fellow and in return, she gouges out his eye, cuts his arm off and castrates him once she escapes. Yes, she chops this dude’s fucking dick and balls off in the comic book.

This resulted in a batshit crazy tank battle which saw The Governor storm the prison and shoot Rick’s wife Lori and their newborn baby with a shotgun!

In the TV show? Fuck even talking about how watered down and embarrassing this story was. It’s like AMC and the new show runners didn’t know what kind of show they wanted to make. A sort of dramatic survival story, or a zombie action show. Because by now, Greg Nicotero’s zombie effects were hands down the absolute best zombie effects that have ever been shown on screen. TV show or Movie. Just the best.

But the story was still pulling all its punches to the point that several of the actors (who played Dale and Andrea respectively) asked to just be killed off.

The show lost me there. I did not start watching the show again until just before the survivors finished their long walk to Alexandria. But I will admit that when I watched that reveal, seeing Rick’s face when they get off the road and find real shelter. Seeing how much of an effect everything (even the watered down stuff) had on them when they reach real civilization, I felt like they’d finally, for the first time, captured the magic of the comic book.

I honestly felt like The Walking Dead TV show had finally caught up to the comic book in terms of quality of story.

So fast forward through all the drama in Alexandria and Carl getting his eye blown out. Now it’s time for The Walking Dead to make another decision. In the comics, Negan is a foul mouthed son of a bitch who smashes Glenn’s head in with a baseball bat the very first time we meet him.

This scene in the comic left me so mad, so disgusted, that I quit reading the book for more than a year. I felt like they’d gone too far and were just killing people off to shock their audience. Killing Glenn in front of pregnant Maggie AND the kids? Too much. Too far. Fuck you, Walking Dead.

Eventually I came back to the book and I can honestly say that current post-Negan war story arc is my second favorite arc of the whole series. But this review isn’t about the comic. It’s about Negan, really.

How does the show Negan measure up to the comic? Did they fuck it all up again like they did The Governor?


Well, first of all, the casting is pitch perfect. Jeffrey Dean Morgan was born to play the scourge of the apocalypse, Negan. But in the comics, this dude struts around wielding Lucile and dropping F bombs like they’re going out of style. How are they going to translate that to screen? Make him say shit every other word? That’s gonna get old…

But no, in fact, they don’t. They give him great dialogue and they let the cursing come naturally when it fits. They let Morgan act his ass off and let his actions speak for him. And about those actions… Does The Walking Dead pull a Governor and skate right past the most shocking moment in the entire comic series?

No. In fact, it outdoes the comic book! I’m not shitting you! Not only is Glenn’s brain busted, eye popping screaming session left intact, showing mercilessly and in harrowing graphic detail one of the most beloved characters of the entire series’ death, but show-Negan actually one-ups comic-Negan!


And no, I don’t mean by killing Abraham. Poor Abraham was a gonner either way. (Suck my nuts!) Negan’s goons killed him just before he bashed Glenn’s brains in in the comic. No, the series premiere actually uses a brilliant device from the comic to fuck with TV fans.

You see, in the comic, The Governor cuts off Rick’s hand. Yes, Rick has been running around leading his ragtag group of survivors for years now with only one hand. Comic-Rick is a badass motherfucker who will chew dudes’ throats out to protect his people. Show-Rick moans “Cooooraallll!” a lot. (A LOT!)

So they’ve got a hand axe and they keep showing Negan dropping this motherfucker and we’re just WAITING for him to finally cut Rick’s hand off. But no. No, no, no, that’s not what Negan has planned at all. He actually fucking wraps Carl’s arm up with a belt, draws on it with a marker and commands Rick to cut it off sending Rick into the slobbering, whining mess that TV-show-Rick is, breaking his will and spirit, and turning him into Negan’s lap dog the way killing Glenn and Abraham never would have.

Wow! Wow, wow, wow! As a long time fan, I would have NEVER guessed that TV-Negan would actually out-Negan comic-Negan. Hell, I wasn’t convinced this shit-show would LAST long enough to even GET to Negan.

But here we are. And it is glorious. I’m all in. 5 out of 5 Strangeheads, gang. Buckle up. I have faith that the TV version of the Negan war is going to be fucking AWESOME!


Vampire Guts In Nuke Town Chapter 1


Vampire Guts in Nuketown was originally published in 2013. It is available to purchase in full via Kindle or paperback by clicking here.

Chapter 1


Guts woke up in the dark. He rolled to his left, immediately regretting it. He moaned aloud. His body ached. His head pounded.

Just another day in paradise, he thought as his eyes adjusted to the nearly pitch black surroundings. He reached up, rubbing his hand across the stubble on his smooth, bald head, letting his hand travel all the way to the back of his neck.

It throbbed.

Still disoriented from sleep, he sat up and looked around. He was lying on the floor next to a filthy, piss-soaked bed. If the bed looked like that, he didn’t want to think about what the floor looked like…

Further inspection showed yellowed, cracked wallpaper with graffiti sprayed across the walls, a tiny bathroom door half open, a wrecked TV set stripped of all its copper tubing and metal knobs, and an air conditioning wall unit in much the same condition.

Guts picked himself up off the floor. A motel room. He must have been delirious in the fading light of the afternoon. For the life of him, he couldn’t remember how he got there. At least he’d had the presence of mind to pick a room that still had a functioning door. The days… hell, the weeks blended together anymore. He was starting to crack up, lose his edge. He couldn’t even remember the last time he saw a human. A real one, anyway. Somebody not grotesquely malformed by radiation, or worse, driven totally mad by it.

The loneliness. The loneliness was the worst part. It started playing tricks with your mind. Made things seem real that maybe weren’t and made real things seem… weird.

He’d been on the road too long. How long had it been since he’d spent any meaningful time at a trading post? Twelve months? Fourteen? Sometimes Guts wondered if he’d strayed too close to a spent nuke himself and just hadn’t realized that he’d gone batshit insane. It would certainly explain a lot about this fucked up world…

It was getting steadily worse. The virus. The plague. How long before every last human on earth—what was left of them, anyway—was infected? As if nuclear fallout wasn’t bad enough. If there was a god, he had a fucked up sense of humor. Feral mutant vampires and a planet poisoned by radiation? Talk about getting fucked at both ends.

Fuck it, he thought as he crossed the small room. The more Fangers there are, the more I get to kill.

Naked, Guts stretched his massive back as he stepped into the pitch black bathroom and pissed into the decaying toilet. He was suddenly glad the electricity didn’t work. He could hear the scurrying and clicking of insects frantically trying to escape his stream of urine. He hated the way the new nuked-up cockroaches looked. Their little black faces looked far too human.

He suddenly became concerned that he couldn’t remember how he’d gotten to this particular cesspool of rot and decay. Guts was usually very careful about picking shelter from the Blood Fiends. This motel could be crawling with Vamps as thick in number as the roaches and beetles picking at his toenails.

Stupid. Dumb mistake.

It’s mistakes like this that are gonna get you killed, Guts thought, finishing in the dingy bathroom.

Before he could assess the situation further, a frantic pounding at the motel door jolted him back to reality. Couldn’t be vampires. Judging by the light coming in from the shredded up blinds, dusk was still at least 3 hours off. Had he really slept through the night and the whole day? The pounding continued.

“Is someone there?” It was a high-pitched, frantic voice. A girl?

“Please! Is somebody in there?” Her tone was desperate, near hysterical.

It had been twelve years since The Infestation. Ten since the nukes. “The Infestation” is what survivors called the viral outbreak, the epidemic that ended life on earth as we knew it. The larger cities had been overrun early on. That’s where the biggest concentration of Fangers nested. It was a death sentence to travel through them. Now most people huddled together in little shanty towns where they traded drugs, trinkets, and their bodies in exchange for the relative safety of numbers, even if those numbers were dwindling daily, picked off at night by Fangers clever enough to slip past the few brave men willing to stand watch, or dumb enough to think they stood a chance against the monsters. Guts preferred to take his chances by himself. On the road…

In the early days, Guts saw a lot of activity on the road; survivalists finally living out their fantasy life, small communes of idealistic hippie types thinking the infestation was a sign from God to live more simplistic, back-to-basics lives. Mostly he saw loners like himself. Till all the big animals died, food started to run out and power grids failed. Then the survivalists banded together, forming gangs of roving, desperate savages who would do anything for a can of irradiated green beans. The communes quickly turned into cannibal cults, worshiping new flesh gods, performing unspeakable acts upon the innocent in the hopes that their new gods would reward them with an unsuspecting traveler to roast alive on the ritual altar to keep the vampires away for another night. The only way to truly survive in this new world was to understand that all decency and morality was lost when the thin veil of civilized culture washed away in a sea of bloody violence, fangs, and radiation.

But even in those early days, Guts never met a lone girl…

“I saw you moving around in there. I need your help! Please!”

After another moment’s deliberation, Guts made his decision.

“Who’s with you?” He kept his voice calm, but authoritative.

“It- It’s just me! Let me in, please. I’m scared!”

“You’re lying.”

There was a long pause.

“It’s my brother, sir. He’s sick. He needs help.”

Guts opened the door.

She was young. A teenager. Not a day over nineteen; a fact made obvious by her cherubic features, smooth olive skin, and pouty, rose-colored lips.

Guts was instantly taken aback by her beauty, but there was something else, some air of familiarity that he couldn’t quite place. Where did he know her from? That was a silly question; he couldn’t possibly know her. He didn’t know anyone anymore. He’d been on the road so long, everyone he ever knew from any outpost was long dead. The more he thought about it, the more the back of his neck throbbed…

Her eyes grew wide as she scanned the battle hardened man before her. She hesitated at the twin ram horn tattoos—bizarrely adorned with centipede legs—on the sides of his bald head. Tattoos that made him look like a creature out of old Greek legends. Her vision crept down past Guts’ sculpted chest, past the jagged scar that ran horizontally across his chiseled stomach. Down even lower…

Her face turned red. Her eyes quickly darted away.

Guts had forgotten he was still naked. The situation was made all the more awkward by the fact that his thick member had become slightly engorged by the sight of her; even more so by the second. It’d been too long since he laid eyes on a woman not horribly disfigured by fallout. In fact, he didn’t see any extra limbs, skin disorders, or anything at all wrong with her.

“I-I’m sorry if I interrupted you.” She chanced another quick glance at his penis. “It’s just that I’m really scared for my brother. He’s diabetic. He hasn’t had insulin in a long time. Usually, he can keep it in check, but we haven’t been able to find any food for three days. I-I think he’s going into shock.” She finished, meeting his gaze, tears welling up in her eyes.

Guts felt both lust and pity in equal measure. He stepped aside. “Come in. I’ll get dressed, then we’ll see if there’s anything I can do to help.”

The girl gave a tentative glance back the way she’d come, then followed him inside. Before she could shut the door, Guts was on her. He slammed her hard against the door. His silver blade was against her neck.

She let out a terrified whimper.

He reached up and latched the flimsy motel lock, trapping her inside. His face was inches from hers.

She breathed in sharp, shallow gasps, sweat beading up on her forehead.

He spoke between clenched teeth. “Now, I’ll ask you one more time, while you still have the benefit of speaking with your vocal chords intact. Who else is with you?”

Eyes wide with terror, the young girl shook her head quickly from side to side.“I-I told you, sir! I promise. I’m not lying. It-It’s just me and my big brother!”

Guts pressed the blade harder against her small throat and stared bore holes into her terrified eyes. “I swear to Christ, if you’re lying to me… there are things worse than death waiting for you.”

He relaxed the blade, only then realizing that his full erection was pressed against the girl’s bare stomach. This hadn’t gone unnoticed by her, either. Her breath steadied. Slowly, she pushed back against him. She gently took his member in her hand and looked into his eyes.

“If you help my brother, I’ll take care of you.” She looked down at the floor. “I’m real good.”

Guts pulled away. His cock pulsed. He wanted badly to take her right there in that rotting motel. It was the steady throbbing at the back of his neck matching that of his boner that snapped him out of his lustful haze. He reached up again, massaging the spot.

The girl slid down the door into a seated position, eye level with his hard cock.

Guts turned from her, quickly dressing.

The girl gasped when he pulled his sleeveless vest on over his bare chest. Affixed to the back of its leather was a dried out and stretched vampire face, immune to the affects of the radiation sun due to some arcane chemical treatment. It was awful, Guts knew. A horrific reminder to all bloodsuckers that he was not the man to fuck with, and an equal warning to any human or mutant that might see him as an easy target out on the road.

“What’s your name?” he asked, finally, slipping into his steel-toed combat boots, adorned with rows of silver-tipped spikes.

“Shelly. Yours?”

“You can call me Guts.”

“Guts? That’s a weird name.”

He turned back to her, buckling his pants. “Yeah, well…” he said, tracing the long scar across his belly with a finger. “This world is a weird place.”

Guts opened the door and looked out into the weird pink and green light that made up what people still tried to call daylight in some feeble attempt to hold on to a past that became more and more a distant memory with each passing day. The fallout had caused some fundamental shift in the light spectrum that changed the way sunlight filtered through the upper levels of the atmosphere. That was some brilliant scientist’s way of combating The Infestation. Some geek who’d watched too many Sci-Fi and horror movies as a kid, or something.

The vampires weren’t allergic to normal sunlight. In fact, the infection was closer to Lycanthropy than traditional Vampire folklore. When a person was bitten, they transformed into a giant, bloodthirsty, bat-like monster. Ugly fuckers. Totally mindless aside from the instinct to feed, fuck, and kill. Their resemblance to bats and their tendency toward drinking their victim’s blood is what gave the scientists the idea to irradiate the atmosphere.

It worked… sort of. The Fangers straight up exploded in this new pink and green light, driving them into hiding during daylight hours, supposedly making their containment easier. The President gave an address on the one remaining public TV channel back in those days, urging vigilance and patience in the face of this disaster. He said the infestation that had destroyed our civilization would be controlled and eradicated within twelve months; that the world as we knew it would begin to rebuild itself just as quickly as it had fallen apart. After the station cut the transmission, there were no more presidential addresses. Hell, there was no more TV. Ever.

The thing the late president failed to tell people (maybe a thing the scientists neglected to tell him) was that the new sky didn’t just affect Fangers. Before long, all sorts of grotesque mutations started popping up on the roads: men with babies growing out the sides of their heads, women with eyeballs in the palms of their hands, things too hideous to even call people anymore scuttling in the shadows. The New Light wreaked havoc on our DNA.

People were forced to choose between hiding from the light or hiding from the vampires. They chose to walk in the light; the ones that lived, anyway.

Guts grabbed Shelly and pushed her out the door first.

“Ow. You could be a little more gentle, you know? Jeez!”

“Shut up.” He scanned the parking lot for movement, trying to spot any sort of ambush. He saw nothing. “Where’s your brother?”

“It’s just over there. Room number 17.”

The motel was a real piece of work. It was a long, single story structure set in a C shape, with the office on one end and a storage shed on the far side. Both had been razed long ago. Again, Guts wracked his brain for the memory of finding this dump. Half the rooms had already caved in. Gnarled Technicolor vegetation, mutated into bizarre shapes, crawled across the half that was still standing. It wound its way up the sign next to what was left of the street, threatening to pull it down, too. The name of the motel had long been obscured by the weird vegetation. The vines seemed to writhe threateningly. Not wanting to contend with the hungry plant life, Guts stayed near the middle of the parking lot, which spanned the length of the dilapidated motel. Only three rooms still had doors: his, Shelly’s, and one room in between.

That’s when he saw movement out of the corner of his eye from inside the husk of a burned out car twenty yards away in the middle of the street.

Guts grabbed Shelly in a headlock and spun around, blade to her face. “Come out, or I’ll fucking kill her right now!”

Shelly gasped, clawing at his arm.

“How many are there? Tell me right now or you die.”

She gagged. “I-I have no idea! I told you the truth, I swear to God I did!”

Guts shuffled forward several paces before he saw the head poke out again. He stopped cold. He could see what it was now. He relaxed his grip.

“Pogs,” he said, pushing Shelly behind him.

Pogs were…well, nobody was quite sure exactly what Pogs were. But they were by far the most annoying aspect of this vampire-plagued apocalypse. They weren’t mutated humans, that much was clear. They were called Pogs because their little squat, three foot tall bodies resembled frogs, with huge eyes that sat on top of their big round heads, and wide, disgusting mouths that constantly dripped purple mucus, but their skin was hairless and pink, like pig skin.

So, Pogs.

The Pogs were scavengers. They picked through the remains of the wasteland that even the most desperate humans found useless. What made them so unsettling to look at (beyond their bizarre bodies and grunting, anxious nature) was their tendency to cut off the faces of the dead human bodies they encountered across the wasteland and wear them like masks to try to blend in with people, as though an overgrown pig-frog, constantly grunting and eating human shit, was ever going to blend in.

They were passive little things. They never tried to hurt anyone. The bones and flesh they scavenged were products of The Infestation; the bodies that the vampires devoured for food and left in too mangled a state to turn into blood-hungry beasts themselves.

The worst part about Pogs, though, was that somewhere along the way, some desperate lunatic had decided to snort a bunch of Pog blood, maybe out of boredom, maybe out of some need to re-create his long dead junkie lifestyle. Regardless of the why, the fact of the matter is, it worked. Pog blood, when snorted, smoked, or shot up, got people high as fuck. It was some kind of hallucinogen that also possessed the same euphoric qualities of a drug like Heroin. In a world this horrific, with death hiding around every bend, people flocked to a drug like that.

Then the rumors started.

Since vampires never attacked Pogs, they must be immune to the virus. If they were immune to the virus, then their blood must make people immune to the virus. Guts had always been skeptical. It sounded to him like desperate junkie bullshit. Just like any other virus, you were either immune to it, or you weren’t. It was as simple as that. There were no scientists working on a cure; all the scientists had become vampires.

Guts had never done Poog, as it was called; mainly because he’d already found out he was immune to the virus after he didn’t change into a ravenous, bloodthirsty monster the first time he was bit, but also because he liked to keep his senses sharp and focused. He’d seen Poogers, high as fuck off of Pog blood, strip naked, pull Pog skin over their heads, and run right out into the night, hollering about being invincible. Those people never came back. Drugs were for the weak.

There were two Pogs in the twisted wreckage. Both wore decaying faces over their gumdrop-shaped heads. Their bulbous eyes stuck out from the tops of the flesh masks. The one in the front seat let out a high-pitched, “Woop!” noise and ducked into the back seat with the other. Pogs were generally skittish around people, what with people’s tendency to skin them and bleed them out for drugs.

Guts turned, pushed Shelly forward. “Come on, they’re not hurting anything.”

The Pogs wooped again. Guts ignored them. When they wooped a third time, Shelly turned back, giving them a nervous glance, then cried out.

Guts spun around. The Pogs were out of the car, charging him from across the parking lot. The one in the lead wore a dead face with blonde hair. It also carried a rancid-looking spine and skull, which it now swung over its head like some grand mace. The one in the rear wore a face with black hair and spun a pair of skeletal arms linked at the hands like nunchucks as it ran.

Pogs weren’t known for their grace. Their bell-shaped, squat little bodies tripped and lurched, their spindly little arms coupled with their over-long fingers and toes made them look almost comical as they closed in on their attack.

The blonde one skidded to a stop in front of Guts. It jumped up and down as it swung its crude weapon in the air, whooping loudly the entire time. More than once its rotten mask-face drooped, threatening to fall from its ugly head. The creature had to stop and readjust the straps before continuing its bizarre dance.

Guts was completely taken aback. He’d never seen Pogs attack people before. Unsheathing his blade, he stepped forward and made short work of the first one, slicing it stem to sternum with one great swing of the knife, spilling golden Pog blood across 4 parking spaces.

The second one bounced to a halt right outside of Guts’ range. It jumped up and down, whooping and grunting, big googly eyes frantic as it waved its bone weapons in Guts’ face, almost like it was trying to communicate something…

In a flash, Guts was on it, stabbing straight through its death mask into its snorty nasal cavity. It bled less than its companion as it died quickly on the end of Guts’ blade, twitching. He yanked the knife out of the dead Pog’s head, letting the thing drop to the ground. He wiped the thick blood on his pants, turning back to Shelly.

“Why would they do that?”

She had no answer as they cleared the remaining paces toward room number 17.

Shelly gave one more furtive glance back toward the mangled bodies of the Pogs, and then reached out to open the door. Guts grabbed her by her short pony tail, jerking her away in one violent motion. She let out a small squeak of surprise and pain before he cupped his other hand around her mouth to stifle any sort of scream, and then kicked the door twice with his boot.

Her breathing came in short gasps for a moment, until she calmed down. Guts pulled his blade back out and waited in a striking position, still covering her mouth with his free hand.

No response.

“I told you, sir. He’s really sick. He wasn’t awake when I came over to you.” She struggled in his grasp to free her airway.

Guts let her go. If this was a trap, if she was working him, she was a damn good actress. He put his knife back in his boot. “Open it up. I’ll take a look at him. But if he’s as bad as you say he is… well, you’re gonna need to find some new company to keep.”

She frowned at him, then opened the door.

Her room was identical to the one Guts woke up in, with the exception that, unbelievably, it was even more disheveled. Dust hung in the air, thick as gnats. A lone bare bulb swung dead from a broken fixture above the doorway. A nasty old tarp was haphazardly thrown up against the ruined area to his left in some futile attempt to cover the exposed beams of the blown-out wall. At the far wall, propped against it, lay one of the pair of filthy twin beds, the victim of a past scuffle or violent act long forgotten. The other mattress, pushed against the right wall, contained Shelly’s brother. He lay face down, shirtless, one arm hanging limp off to the side.

Guts entered the small room first. Shelly shut the door behind them. Guts approached the unconscious boy. His mop of shaggy brown hair was a mess. The kid couldn’t have been more than 21-22 years old.

“What’s his name?”


Guts knelt beside the bed, put a hand on Nick’s shoulder. “How long has he been unconscious?” He turned his head to face Shelly, and was met with explosive pain.


Check back next month for the next exciting chapter of Vampire Guts In Nuke Town, or click here to buy the full novel via Kindle or paperback on

Kevin Strange’s Phantasm: Ravager Review


Fresh off a theatrical screening of the new 4K restoration version of the original 1979 PHANTASM film, I decided it was high time to man up and give the latest sequel of one of my favorite horror franchises a go. So I rented PHANTASM: RAVAGER and held on to my balls. So to speak. Get it? Balls? Spheres? Anyway.

As I finished watching the original Phantasm the other night, I couldn’t help but remember the words of a prominent horror fiction editor about “it was all a dream” trope endings. He’d said, more or less, that if your book ended with all of the happenings turning out to have just been a dream or a hallucination, don’t bother sending him your work for publication. I’m paraphrasing here, but basically he said that it felt cheap, like he’d wasted his time reading the story because none of it “really happened.”


As Phantasm ended, I couldn’t help but think that this is maybe the only horror franchise in existence that sort of hinges its entire mythology on “it was all a dream” logic. I laughed as I exited the movie theater, thinking of how cool it was that a horror franchise had thrived and became a cult favorite off of a reviled story telling trope.

So imagine my glee when Phantasm: Ravager started and within the first five minutes of the movie, a startlingly old Michael sat with an even older Reggie at a retirement home and told him that everything they’d ever been through in THE ENTIRE PHANTASM FRANCHISE had been nothing more than Reggie suffering from early onset dementia. Forty years of storytelling right down the fucking tubes for that horror editor. A lifetime of fandom just… poof, up and gone, just like that.



So this 4th sequel of the Tall Man franchise is every bit a loving tribute and fan service to a four decade long franchise full of head popping shiny spheres, creepy mausoleums, hooded dwarves and quadruple sawed off shotguns. Just look at the end credits. David Hartman was basically a one man band here. He directed, co-wrote with series creator Don Coscarelli, shot it, scored it, edited it, and did the visual effects for it.

I’m not gonna lie. When I heard that this movie was basically David and Reggie and a camcorder, shot over long periods of time when money allowed it, I was not at all excited to see the final product. But seeing it play out with all of the jumps in time and setting, it turns out that was the perfect way to shoot the script that David and Don wrote.

And so the film plays with this idea that Reggie is suffering from dementia, casting him in and out of vivid post-apocalyptic landscapes with awesome gigantic spheres laying waste to everything in sight.


Angus Skrimm, The Tall Man, to his credit, old as the goddamn stars in this film, hits all his lines note-perfect. It’s like he was born to play the sinister Tall Man. And die playing him as well. Which is fine by this Phan. The man in the suit screamed BOOYYYYYYY! one last time, and it brought a goddamn tear to my eye.

PHANTASM: RAVAGER is cheap. Man, is it cheap. There are long passages of the film that reek of a made for Sci-Fi channel original. And much of the film’s visual effects are jarringly bad CGI. But you know what? Having just watched the 1979 original, there’s a fucking puppet fly monster that Michael and Jody beat to death inside a jacket.

This wasn’t a series based on fancy visual effects in the first place. It was about atmosphere and unique storytelling. And while much of the acting is stiff and lines are delivered halfheartedly, Reggie and Angus–really the two most important players here–play their roles with the utmost sincerity.


Did PHANTASM: RAVAGER need to be made? No. But I’m glad it was. I’m glad Reggie got to fire that bad mother fucking four barrel shotgun one last time. I’m glad Reggie, Michael and Jody got to cruise in the ‘Cuda one last time. And I’m glad Angus’s Tall Man got to menace our heroes one last time.

Very few franchises get to keep their heart, their soul and their enthusiasm over the decades without being taken over by different writers, directors, or studios who want to change or re-imagine, remake or recast the characters and drastically alter the story.

The PHANTASM franchise went out on its own terms with its integrity intact and that, for me, was worth every goddamn sequel. I give it four out of five Strangeheads.