31 Days of Horror 2014 – Phantasm (1979)

Oh Phantasm, Don Coscarelli’s cult classic masterpiece. What is it about this movie and this franchise? Why can’t I quit you?

These are not good movies. Come on, you know it too. Phantasm makes no sense, the plot strays, no loose ends are tied, the dialogue, special effects, and sound effects are way out of the normal acceptable cheese range. But it works. I think that’s what it is, the magic of Phantasm. It doesn’t need you to understand. It doesn’t care if you get it or not. The first instalment is 88 minutes of unapologetic spooky, sexy entertainment and that’s that. Phantasm keeps it simple while still managing to be anything but ordinary. It lets you simply sit back, turn your brain off, and immerse yourself in the nightmare of the Tall Man, killer dwarves from another dimension, and as the main character learns is the scariest thing of all: fear itself.

PhantasmPhantasm opens in Morningside Cemetery, where a couple is getting their freak on among the tombstones. Romance at its finest, in my not so humble opinion. Anyway, there are some boobs at 1:32 (well, one boob, but at only one minute and thirty-two seconds in, that’s not bad), and then that woohoo moment is cut short by the knife the lady friend pulls on her man friend as she suddenly morphs into some creepy old dude as she stabs him to death. My first reaction to this was something along the lines of, “Huh. Well that was weird.”

Next we are introduced to our young hero, Mike Pearson, dirtbiking around the same graveyard next day where he catches glimpses of odd little creatures darting around and hiding behind graves. Mike’s brother and guardian, Jody, is inside the funeral home with their friend Reggie viewing their friend Tommy’s body (Tommy, who turns out to be the unfortunate gentleman from the opening scene) while discussing his “suicide.” Mike spies on the funeral with his binoculars and afterwards witnesses the Tall Man (aka creepy old dude mentioned above) lifting Tommy’s casket with ease into the hearse. He mouths the words we are all thinking at this point: “What the f…”

From here, Phantasm takes us in a bunch of different directions in a bunch of different ways, but there is never a dull moment. The next hour and twenty minutes are full of flying silver balls that drill into faces, lots of blood (red and yellow), and one-liners including:

“Umm… OH SH*T!”

“This guy’s not going to leak all over my ice cream, is he?”

“We’re going to run that tall bastard straight down to Hell!”

and the classic, “BOOOOOY!”

Phantasm isn’t perfect by normal cinematic standards, but it is fun, creepy, disgusting, and definitely worth watching more than once. There are currently three other instalments in this franchise, with another coming in 2015 (Phantasm: Ravager). So if you haven’t taken a journey to Morningside Cemetery yet, I strongly suggest you do. The Tall Man has been waiting for you.