Phantasm (1979)

phantasm movie poster
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 8/10

Creepy, gothic feel

Nonsense story doesn't appeal to everyone

Movie Info

Movie Name: Phantasm

Studio: Avco Embassy Pictures

Genre(s): Horror

Release Date(s): March 28, 1979

MPAA Rating: R

phantasm-jody-confronted-by-tall-man-angus-scrimm

So…what’s up Tall Man?

Jody Pearson (Bill Thornbury) is  being raised by his brother Mike (Michael Baldwin) after the death of their parents.  When one of his brother’s friends is killed under mysterious circumstances, Jody finds strange goings-on at the town cemetery.  When Jody breaks in to the cemetery’s mausoleum, he discovers strange shrunken hooded creatures and a spherical ball capable of boring into the head of its victims…all at the controls of the mysterious Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) who runs the cemetery.  Now, the Tall Man is trying to capture Jody, his brother, and their friend Reggie (Reggie Bannister), and Jody darkest nightmare are becoming real.

phantasm-ball-boring-into-head

Ouch…please stop it…

Directed, written, and produced Don Coscarelli, Phantasm was a small movie that gained a cult following and started a franchise.  The movie was almost Rated-X for its violence, nudity, and gore (in particular the scene with the sphere which also had the character wet himself after death), but did manage to receive an R-Rated release.  The movie received mostly mixed to positive reviews and a remastered version of the film was released in 2016 with the release of Phantasm V:  Ravager.

Phantasm was one of those movies that got a lot of people my age’s attention when the sequel Phantasm II was released a number of years later in 1988.  With a weird looking sequel, I immediately sought out the original and found it crazy and almost nonsense in plot…despite this, I like it.

phantasm-finger-fly-jody

I hate it when fingers turn into bugs and attack me!

Phantasm is quite visual.  It was done on small budget and often it shows, but through Coscarelli’s skill, he gets the most from his money on other scenes.  The look and style of the film (combined with some great music) is creepy, atmospheric, and gothic in feel.  With the Tall Man (Scrimm wore suits that were too small and huge boots), the ball, and the dwarfs (which they feared were too close to Star Wars’ Jawas when they learned about them) all create a weird world.  Also, horror fans might recognize the mausoleum which was the same building used for the haunted house classic Burnt Offerings in 1976.

phantasm-tall-man-angus-scrimm-ending

Gotcha!

I don’t even pretend to entirely get what Phantasm is about…I don’t know that Coscarelli even knows what it is about.  With the sequels, came out a whole mythology was built around the Tall Man, the other dimension, and the characters, but here it is just unexplained strangeness.  There is the shapeshifting Tall Man who doesn’t like the cold and whose fingers turn into bugs.  There is also the weird, unearthly dimension and the slaves/creatures (from cadavers) who are doing something in it…it doesn’t make sense.  I also like the psychic girl which shows a little obsession with Dune (sick the hand in the box…do not fear, fear is the mind killer).

Phantasm is a trip…and makes you feel like you are tripping.  If you want a strange horror film that you’ll remember, check it out.  The movie might not make much sense, but you’ll enjoy the ride.  Phantasm was followed by Phantasm II in 1988.

Related Links:

Phantasm II (1988)

Phantasm V:  Ravager (2016)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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