Phantasm

1979, Movie, R, 90 mins

Review

PHANTASM
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This tour-de-force came from a 21-year-old filmmaker Don Coscarelli, who did just about everything on PHANTASM, a wonderfully creative, bizarre, delightfully terrifying horror film that never fails to surprise. Told as if the whole experience were a nightmare, the film centers on Mike (Michael Baldwin), a 15-year-old orphan who lives with his older brother, Jody (Bill Thornbury). After witnessing some strange happenings at the funeral of a murdered friend (shadowy, gnomelike creatures lurking around tombstones, etc.), Mike grabs his skeptical brother and returns to the creepy mausoleum to investigate. Once inside, they find it is actually the headquarters of the lanky and grotesque undertaker, known only as "The Tall Man" (Angus Scrimm), who is using the place as a connection with the netherworld in order to take over the Earth. The Tall Man has a number of insidious devices to ensure his success, most notably a shiny silver sphere that flies through the air, sprouts sharp spikes, plunges into the forehead of an unsuspecting victim, and then drills his brains out. The beauty of PHANTASM is its fever-dream quality, which paved the way for such genre entries as A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. Perhaps because of Coscarelli's youth, PHANTASM seems the product of a warped teenage imagination, full as it is of creative and original scares rooted in basic fears of abandonment, loneliness, sex, and death. Although viewers leave the theater buzzing about the flying silver sphere, it was only one element in a film filled with unique, personal, witty, and, at the same time, terrifying imagery rarely seen in low-budget horror films. PHANTASM II, a much-less effective sequel, was released in 1988. leave a comment

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