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Underwater, Absentia, Phantasm III, and It Conquered the World
Horror Bulletin Weekly Episode 141
Underwater, Absentia, Phantasm III, and It Conquered the World
Episode 141 Summary
This week, we’ll be watching some more classics. We’ll watch four more horror films, including “Absentia” from 2011, “Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead” from 1994, “It Conquered the World,” from 1956, and “Underwater” from 2020.
Here. We. Go!
It Conquered the World (1956)
· Directed by Roger Corman
· Written by Lou Russoff, Charles B. Griffith
· Stars Peter Graves, Beverly Garland, Lee Van Cleef
· Run Time: 1 Hour, 11 Minutes
· Full Film:
Spoiler-Free Judgement Zone
It’s all right. It’s not boring, and the creature is one of those things you just have to see to believe. It’s another mind-controlling alien, but (spoiler) it doesn’t conquer the world!
Dr. Paul Nelson is working in the space lab, they’re getting ready to launch their new 9-million-dollar satellite.Dr. Tom Anderson has warned the government over and over to cancel the program. He has a complicated list of credentials, but the government can’t stop progress because of his warnings. He thinks alien intelligences are watching us constantly.
Tom and Peter and their wives have dinner together. It’s been up there for three months now. Tom shows Paul his radio set, and he’s picking up alien voices from Venus; Paul doesn’t hear the voices. Paul gets a phone call; the satellite is gone!
The satellite suddenly appears. Even Tom’s wife, Claire, thinks he’s crazy at this point. He has long conversations with someone on the radio that no one else can hear. He’s certain that the voice is his friend.
The military decides to bring down the satellite to see what happened. The satellite crashes, but the voice tells Tom that he survived the crash. Everything with power suddenly stops; it’s some kind a power failure. Communications are down as well.
Paul and Joan’s car stalls with everything else, and they walk to Tom’s house for help.
Meanwhile, the ugly alien shoots out little butterfly-like drones. Tom’s car works because he was smart. One of the drones attacks the sheriff, who throws the creature in the garbage can. Another one gets the General in the same way.
Paul and Joan arrive at Tom’s house, and Tom explains that he expected all this. Tom thinks the alien is here to rescue mankind from itself, not enslave it. Paul doesn’t believe any of it, and he doesn’t like the story, either.
The sheriff evacuates the town. The newspaper editor refuses to go, so the sheriff shoots him. One of the drones goes after Paul, but he shoots at it and scares it off before driving to Tom’s house. He accuses Tom of being a murderer. Tom explains that there are only nine of the creatures alive, but only one has come to Earth. Paul calls Tom a traitor to mankind and storms off.
Claire tells Tom that she hopes Paul kills the thing, and she agrees that Tom is in the wrong. Joan uses one of the drones to attack Paul, but he kills it. The alien tells Tom to kill Paul, since his control device has been killed.
Paul shoots Joan without much drama; he just kills his wife without a thought. Claire gets on the radio and tells the creature that she’s going to find a way to kill it. She then grabs the shotgun and gets in the car; she knows where the creature is hiding.
Paul tries to talk Tom into helping fight the thing. Claire enters the cave where the creature lives, and sees it; it’s horrible. She shoots it a couple of times until it kills her. Tom and Paul hear her die over the radio.
There is a company of soldiers that have been wandering around the woods for most of the story which have done nothing but supply some very weak comic relief. One of them hears Claire screaming and brings the others.
Paul goes to the lab and kills the general and two of the controlled scientists. No, the general isn’t really dead; he follows Paul, as does the sheriff.
Tom kills the sheriff. The soldiers attack the monster in its cave, but have to fall back. They do however, draw it outside. Tom arrives with his little flame thrower and burns the thing as it kills him. Paul arrives and makes a speech about how perfect humanity is.
Another alien mind-control story. This one’s got a lot more action than some of its predecessors, although the fight scene choreography is laughably bad.
The little flying drones are stop-motion or something, and they are a pretty good effect. The main monster, on the other hand, manages to be creative, unique, and completely ridiculous all at the same time.
· Directed by Mike Flanagan
· Written by Mike Flanagan
· Stars Katie Parker, Courtney Bell, Dave Levine
· Run Time: 1 Hour, 27 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgement Zone
It’s a supernatural missing-persons case with lots of drama. It’s suspenseful, but there’s nearly no action, special effects, or gore. It’s more drama than horror, it’s also a very slow burn, edging into the territory of boring.
Tricia takes down her husband’s “Missing” poster from a streetlight pole and puts up a fresh one. He’s been gone for a while it appears. She meets her sister Callie, who’s just returned from a road trip that went on for five years. Tricia is in the process of declaring Danny dead “in absentia” after seven years. It’s been rough on her.
Tricia wakes up that night and sees Danny standing by the windows, crying. She touches him, and he roars at her; just a dream.
Next morning, Callie goes for a run which takes her through the creepy tunnel at the end of the street. She passes many “missing animal” posters in the neighborhood. On the way back, she finds a man lying in the tunnel. “You can see me?” He asks. “It’s sleeping,” he says. He’s Walter. She runs home.
Detective Mallory is there visiting. He mentions things have been going missing all over the area. Break ins with no clues. He warns them to lock their doors. He leaves, and she sees Danny again, but she’s not asleep. Her therapist says it’s a normal thing.
A few hours later, Callie takes food to Walter, but he’s gone. She leaves a Tupperware full of food for him, just in case. After her run the next day, Callie finds change and a bunch of trinkets on her doorstep. She puts them back in the tunnel, but a man tells her not to do it. He leaves his own bag of stuff there and walks away. That night, she finds a whole bunch more junk— in her bed.
Daniel whispers to Tricia as she tries to meditate. Detective Mallory gets positively angry to hear someone has been in the house, and we suspect he’s the baby’s father.
Next morning, Callie runs in a different place then gets high after, although she’s supposed to be sober. Daniel’s death certificate arrives in the mail. The two girls go out and look for an apartment, so Tricia can finally sell the house.
On Tricia and Mallory’s first date, the real Daniel shows up. “You can see me?” He asks. “I was underneath.” Eventually, they release him from the hospital. Daniel acts like he’s in shock and says he doesn’t remember where he was, but Mallory doesn’t believe him.
Later Daniel reads “Three Billy Goats Gruff,” and complains “That’s not what it looks like.” “I wish you hadn’t traded with it. It fixates on that.” He says “It’s in one of the walls over there,” and Callie sees something move as well.
While Tricia is out talking to Mallory, something happens to Callie, and then Daniel is gone again. She saw “it” drag Daniel out the front door, down the street, and into the tunnel. The detectives realize right away that she’s been high and dismiss her story.
Tricia files another missing persons report. Tricia thinks Callie hallucinated the whole thing, but Callie insists otherwise.
Callie does some Internet research and identifies Walter from the Internet; he was missing since 1995. People have been disappearing there since the 1920s. This has been going on for a very long time. Tricia is in denial, which seems completely reasonable.
Daniel’s parents finally arrive by plane, not realizing that he’s already gone again.
The police come to the door and say that a body has been found in the tunnel. It’s Walter. That other man who was there with the bag screams and the police tackle him. He’s Jaime, Walter’s son. He had been trading with the monster trying to get his father back.
Callie goes to the police that night and reports that the monster took Tricia right out of the living room. They tell her to file a missing persons report.
Callie puts all her evidence and research into an envelope for Mallory and then goes into the tunnel. She yells “Trade,” and hears many screams coming from behind the walls. The unborn baby appears on the ground, dead. Callie runs but vanishes completely.
Detective Mallory comes by again and finds the envelope packet. Will he solve this? Doubtful.
Tricia’s reactions are pretty believable and realistic, considering her situation. Daniel’s behavior seems believable for what he went through, and Callie just reacts to everything as well as she can. It’s all very depressing and emotional, at least until the monster shows up.
Believe it or not, the whole plot is based on the Three Billy Goats Gruff story, with the Troll under the bridge.
It’s slow, especially the first half-hour or so. Nothing particularly supernatural happens for almost the first full hour, but when it does, it gets interesting. It’s a low-budget film, but done competently with good production values.
Short Film: Job Interview from Hell (2021)
· Written and Directed by Bartosz Kuzmicki
· Stars: Kim Sholts
· Run Time: 4 Minutes
Kim adds a job interview to their Google Calendar. Kim arrives for her interview, but there is no one in the office. No one except for a glowing-eyed bird monster who kills her, that is.
After a reset, Kim arrives for her interview, but there is no one in the office. She remembers the attack and runs to get out, but the bird kills her. Again. There are multiple retries all with the same end result.
Kim arrives for her interview, but there is no one in the office. She looks around and sees a skateboard. This time, she’s ready. She smacks the bird over the head and impales him with the board.
That’s good problem-solving. I’d hire her. When you’re stuck in a time loop, your only job is to get out. Short, but well-executed.
Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994)
· Directed by Don Coscarelli
· Written by Don Coscarelli
· Stars Reggie Bannister, A. Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury
· Run Time: 1 Hour, 31 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgement Zone
It’s better than the second film. It’s a good continuation of the series, and it ends in a much better place for further sequels. It explains a bit more about the Tall Man’s agenda, and adds some interesting new characters to the story.
We start with a shot of the Tall Man staring into his balls as he holds one of them in his hand. Mike, the boy from the first film, remembers the events from the previous two films. But somehow, the Tall Man just keeps coming back. “Nothing is ever as it seems.” Credits roll.
Then we take up right where the second movie left off. Reggie is thrown out of the Hearse, which soon explodes with Mike and the girls from the second movie inside. Mike is thrown clear. Reggie shoots an evil dwarf and rescues Mike. Not really, as the Tall Man and more dwarves arrive. Reggie threatens to blow himself and Mike up with a grenade, and the Tall Man says he can wait.
Mike’s in the hospital, still unconscious after the car accident. He dreams about people walking into the light. He sees Jody, his dead brother, who tells him to go back. “Stay away from the light,” he says. Reggie walks in the room in time to see a killer ball pop out of the nurse’s head. This ball has an eye.
Mike and Reggie go home to get their stuff before leaving town. Jody is there to warn them, but it’s really Jody’s mind inside one of the silver balls. “It’s time now, boy” says the Tall Man. The Tall Man and Mike leave through a portal.
The next morning, Reggie wakes up and tries to repair the Jody-ball to no avail. It only says “Holtsville.” Reggie goes to the town of Holtsville, population zero. There was some kind of toxic spill here years ago. He’s overpowered by a trio of looting crooks.
The three then decide, for some reason, to break into a big house and steal stuff. There’s a little kid in there who kills the girl and wounds one of the men. Then he throws a razor-tipped frisbee that kills the other man. Soon, he’s alone and lets Reggie out of the trunk of the car.
The boy’s name is Tim, and he warns Reggie about the “Lurkers” that the Tall Man left there after killing his parents. The Tall Man took both his parents, but he escaped. The eye-ball is watching them all night. The next morning, they find that the lurkers took the three bandits’ bodies. Reg decides to leave, and Tim insists on going along.
Next stop: Holtsville Cemetery. Reggie enters the abandoned mausoleum, and he’s almost immediately attacked by a ball. Two women handcuff Reggie, but the ball gets one of them. The other woman, Rocky, tries to fight it with nunchucks, but Tim shoots it instead.
The trio winds up at a cheap motel for the night. They’re headed to Boulton, another town that’s all cleared out. They get lost, but they soon spot a trio of Hearses driven by guys in gas masks. There’s dozens of Hearses.
Reggie finally convinces Rocky to have sex, but right in the middle of it, Jody appears again. He shows Reggie how to get to Mike. They take a portal to see the Tall Man and Mike. The Jody-ball lasers a hole in the wall to release Mike, but the Tall Man turns Jody back into a ball. They escape through another portal.
The three bandits from earlier are back, now zombified, but they don’t last long. Reggie, Mike, Rocky, and Tim head into the town’s mausoleum, thinking the Tall Man would never think to look for them there.
They find a cryonics pod there, and Mike remembers that the Tall Man doesn’t like the cold. Jody-ball explains the Tall Man’s plan to Mike. He puts brains into the sentinels/balls and turns their bodies into killers.
Mike talks to the Tall Man. Rocky and Tim fight with the not-so-dead bandits. The Tall Man starts to operate on Mike, but the others break in and fight him. They stab him and shove him into the meat locker, which is very cold. The Tall Man shatters, and a gold sentinel ball emerges. They end up dumping the ball in the liquid nitrogen.
Unfortunately, Mike now has balls in his head. He runs off into the darkness. Rocky says goodbye and drives off. Tim and Reg go back inside and find the ball has escaped and the portal has been activated. Oh, there are now thousands of balls. The Tall Man appears and says, “It’s never over!”
It manages to bring back the trio of heroes from the first film, which is a good trick since one of them was killed. Or seemed to have been.
Generally speaking, Reggie may be the unluckiest hero since the Evil Dead films. He’s beat up, attacked, or something in every encounter, sometimes by his allies.
There’s a lot of silliness here. The three bandits. Bad-ass Rocky channeling Grace Jones with nunchucks. Reggie’s love life in particular is just comical.
I think there’s probably more to cryonics than just dumping floating heads into liquid nitrogen, but I’m no expert. Anyway, it makes for an entertaining plot device.
· Directed by William Eubank
· Written by Brian Duffield, Adam Cozad
· Stars Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel, Mamoudou Athie
· Run Time: 1 Hour, 35 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgement Zone
It’s “The Abyss,” only with more disasters. And monsters. It’s a fun, fast-paced movie with a lot of tension and claustrophobic moments. We liked it!
As credits roll, we see facts and news articles about the Mariana Trench and the deepest drill site ever. There is mention of strange figures, unexplained tremors, and other mysteries.
Norah brushes her teeth in the bathroom of the subsea base as the lights flicker. It must happen a lot because she doesn’t seem upset. There’s a small tremor, and she does notice that. She feels a drop of water come from the ceiling and then the base explodes. She runs, people panic, it’s all very frantic as she and Rodrigo watch a corridor flooding toward them. They close the airlock door just in time.
They have to find an escape pod. She’s a mechanical engineer, so she knows things about the station. They have to make their way to CR-7 where the evac pods are. They also find Paul, and the three of them have to crawl through a claustrophobic tunnel.
They get to the pod bay and find Captain Lucien there. He insists that they are all getting out alive. They go to the control room and find Liam and Emily there. They have about 30 minutes until the power cores have a meltdown. Also, there’s some scary sounds on the last recording from the mining site. Could something be down there?
They’re pretty much doomed unless they walk to the Roebuck, the deeper base that’s a mile below them. It’s insane, but it just might work. They all put on their super deep-sea suits. They go down into the pressure bay and Rodrigo implodes, shooting floating chunks of his body everywhere. They take the cargo elevator down to the lower sections.
A couple of the guys go outside to check a defective escape pod and they’re attacked by a thing that looks like the little version of a Xenomorph from “Alien.” They come back inside, but then they start hearing footsteps on the roof of the elevator. Something is out there.
The base above explodes, causing the elevator to fall. They have to run across the floor of the Mariana Trench as debris falls all around them. They see humanoid shapes out there. They enter the tunnel to the final station, and they lose Paul to one of the creatures; it rips him right out of his suit.
They have to go back outside to walk some more, and they run into another creature. After a lot of tension, they lose the Captain as well. Emily and Liam get left behind, but may not be dead.
Now Norah’s on her own. She arrives at Sheperd, an abandoned earlier base. There’s no escape pods, but there are tools and lots of good stuff. She arms herself and does a few repairs.
She goes back outside and finds Emily and Liam, but Liam’s unconscious. Finally, they reach the Roebuck, the drill site, which seems to be intact. Except it’s covered by tentacles. They walk through the tentacles until Emily’s suit sets off an alarm that wakes up the creatures. Norah is literally swallowed whole by one of them, but she shoots her way out.
Suddenly, all the creatures swim away. Norah lights a torch and sees a giant Cthulhu-sized sea monster. The three survivors all finally get inside the drilling installation and make their way to escape pods. The big thing outside is wrecking the base as they run from one destroyed section to another.
Liam and Emily get in the pods and launch, but Norah’s pod is defective, so she has to stay behind. She sees the creatures going after the pods, so she sets the base to self-destruct. She blows up everything within a huge radius, monsters, base, and herself included.
As credits roll, we see that the company denies everything and plans to resume drilling soon…
It’s very fast moving, with disaster after disaster and death after death starting about two minutes in. It barely lets up.
It would have taken years to build that base; why are the creatures just now appearing? There’s living quarters all over the place; this was a busy place, it’s not like these folks were the first ones down there. The captain said Shepherd base was empty, but it had lots of tools equipment, and the captain even had a locker full of personal stuff in there. What’s up with that?
How did only the two escape pods make it to the surface when the captain said he launched more than twenty of them before Norah met up with him? What happened to them? Questions aside, this was an excellent film that the Horror Guys both recommend.
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