Dir.: Don Coscarelli
Producer(s): D.A. Coscarelli
Writer(s): Don Coscarelli
Company: New Breed Productions, AVCO Embassy Pictures
Starring: Angus Scrimm, Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury, Reggie Bannister, and Kathy Lester
While typing this out, I heard the score of Phantasm in my head. I also hummed along. But let’s get one thing straight:
Phantasm is a mind fuck.
It’s a fever dream kind of film.
I’ve seen the other sequels and I’ve seen them all plenty of times and I’ve still come to the conclusion that… it requires multiple viewings to understand. However, Phantasm has created some cool horror villains (sentinel balls and The Tall Man) and is quite influential as a cult classic.
The premise of Phantasm is… okay we have mainly 3 protagonists (Baldwin, Thornbury and Bannister) teaming up against our antagonist aka The Tall Man (Scrimm) aka a mortician who is stealing bodies to either transport to another dimension where they become some kind of dwarf zombies working for him or used for other purposes. They look like jawas from Star Wars. And the majority of the film (especially the climax) takes place inside of the funeral home. They are automatically creepy on their own but you add all that in there, it’s dangerous.
The cinematography throughout Phantasm is very cool tone oriented. I’m not sure if that’s because of the filming location, what time of year, maybe even the type of film used to film but there are more cool tones than anything but anything warm toned is rare but used effectively.
The real winner of this film is not the cinematography but the score. The score is another character. It’s memorable, simple but creepy. The music is telling and if you know your cinema or horror cinema, having a recognizable score or theme is quite remarkable if it still holds up today. We’re talking Friday the 13th, Halloween, Phantasm, Psycho, Jaws, so many others that when you hear it, you know where it comes from.
The acting is not bad, Scrimm steals the show and I’m not sure why they replaced Baldwin in the sequel but brought him back for three will continue to confuse me. There’s so much I want to say about this film but I feel like it’s one of the few ones that seeing is believing. I can’t describe how you go from a half naked woman killing someone to then it reveals to be the Tall Man. I can’t describe the sight of seeing the sentinel ball(s) attacking and the overflow of blood gushing out. Or how strong the Tall Man is. It’s a film that you need to sit down and see for yourself and dive deep into the world of Phantasm and its sequels.
If you are into supernatural horror or something more unique than a typical slasher or ghost story, please check out Phantasm. You will not regret it. Also if you are a fan of Star Wars, there is a character named Phasma who is named after the film but also looks exactly like a sentinel ball but human. It’s a great little nod thanks to J.J. Abrams and you might have missed that Easter egg if you’re not into horror.
2 thoughts on “Phantasm; if this one doesn’t scare you, you’re already dead.”
Big fan of Phantasm. I love how it mixes science fiction, fantasy, & horror, and manages to feel like a coming-of-age story as well. I agree on the score. One of the best ever in a horror movie. It complements all the haunting imagery well. The Tall Man is an interesting villain. The best part about him is that his motives are never truly explained. What’s he doing in that other dimension anyway? I’m thankful that a Part 5 was made before Angus Scrimm passed away, but, to be honest, I only watched it once and wasn’t totally sold on it.
The reason Michael Baldwin wasn’t in Part 2 is because the studio told Coscarelli to recast Mike with a “more famous” actor.
I do remembering hearing about the whole recasting thing and it didn’t work because they brought the original Mike back for the later ones.
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