Jan 16, 2009


Over the years I have see many horror films, many forgettable and a few unforgettable. Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm is easily one of the most memorable horror film experiences of my life. I originally saw the strange and abstract horror film by chance during my preteen years. It was a cinematic experience I have not forgotten. I still consider Phantasm to be one of the greatest and most original American horror films ever made. Very few films in the horror genre have so many memorable and horrifying ingredients. I wouldn’t be surprised if Phantasm series creator Don Cascarelli was on an Alejandro Jodorowsky film binge during the developing of Phantasm.

It would not be the most pleasant experience to find someone you thought was dead wearing a black cloak and shrunken to dwarf size. It also would be not be that fun if that same zombie dwarf was trying to kill you. The master of these putrid dwarfs in Phantasm is an iconic “Tall Man” played by actor Angus Scrimm. The Tall Man also uses flying spheres to drill out the blood and brains of his human victims. The Tall Man is not of this world and desires to have humans shrunken and sent to hell in slavery. The Tall Man is easily one of the more unconventional villains of the horror genre.

Phantasm follows a young teen named Mike who is the first to suspect the evils of the Tall Man. I do have to admit that Mike can be somewhat of a turd but he means well. His brother Jody believes Mike to be slightly deranged due to the death of their parents. Jody also happens to be friends with an odd ice cream man named Reggie who loves to jam out on guitar and fight zombie dwarfs. The young men also encounter a whorish woman that likes to fuck and kill in the graveyard.

One of the greatest scenes in Phantasm is when Mike accidentally enters the gate to another dimension and sees lines of zombie dwarfs walking to their doom. The sky in this scene is of a hellish red that reminds me of a similar sky in Federico Fellini's Satyricon. This “other dimension” offers a whole new world to the already horrifying setting of Phantasm. The film is truly one that feels like anything can happen at any moment. The Tall Man is a new kind of monster and he couldn't care less about a human’s reality.

Phantasm has spawned three sequels and there is a fifth film in the works. Sadly, Phantasm creater Don Coscarelli hasn’t come close to capturing the power of his first Phantasm and channeling it into his sequels. Nonetheless, the Phantasm sequels are interesting as novelty but for not much more. Phantasm is a horror film that has an eeriness about it that I could only find similarly in the horror works of the German expressionist directors. Phantasm is one of the finer and truly original points of phantasmagoria in horror cinema history.

-Ty E


Unknown said...

Classic movie. The "Tall Man" creeped me the fuck out when I was a kid. Great write up!

Johnny said...

Phantasm is one of my favs, too. I had the pleasure of seeing it on the big screen last year (theatre around here plays old school horror movies every summer) and that was a real treat. Long live the Tall Man!

thebonebreaker said...

Excellent write-up for a phantastic film! [I just had to go there]

Great job TyE!

jervaise brooke hamster said...

here`s my opinion on the phantasm movies: "phantasm" good but over-rated, "phantasm 3" the storys beginning to get stale but it was still reasonable entertainment, "phantasm 4" getting tired but still watchable. But what about "phantasm 2" i hear you ask, well i`ve saved the best till last because its "phantasm 2" that i believe to be easily the best of the series (and one of the most ludicrously under-rated horror films of all time). Let me try to explain why i think "phantasm 2" is such a brilliant film, firstly, i love the way the film combines that marvellous soothing and magical atmosphere of the old roger corman "edgar allen poe" adaptations with the superb gross-out gore effects of modern horror movies, for me that combination is irresistable, secondly, its everything the first film wanted to be but couldn`t quite achieve because of budget limitations, thirdly, the ending of this film (always a vitally important part of any film) seems to be even more memorable in this film than it did in the first one, and lastly, (although i will admit that this is a ludicrously obscure, inane, absurd, pathetic, totally irrelavent, and laughably idiotic reason for liking the film) when the film was released it got to number 9 on the north american box office chart (and stayed there for 2 weeks, quite impressive for a horror film of this type in 1988) and both weeks on america`s top 10 i remember casey kasem saying "9 PHANTASM 2" as he counted down the top 10 movies in america for those weeks, and for over 20 years now i`ve often used the memory of casey saying "9 PHANTASM 2" to cheer me up whenever i`m feeling a bit dodgy, try saying it yourself (or imagine casey saying it) it can often be inspirational, "9 PHANTASM 2", "9 PHANTASM 2", "9 PHANTASM 2", you see, i told you, its almost as magical as the film itself.