Newest Review: ... cast and brilliant music and albeit weird, but well written story. If you can pick it up on DVD then do it..... more
If this one doesn't scare you, you're already dead! Boy!!!!
Member Name: Jojoborne
Advantages: Classic soundtrack. Cult movie. Iconic villain
Disadvantages: Poor dialogue. Very dated today.
Phantasm Film and DVD
I was born in nineteen sixty-seven and I remember being eleven years old and walking past the old ABC cinema in Walsall, which is sadly no longer there, in nineteen seventy-nine. I was eleven, going on twelve and I saw a movie poster that would change my life forever. The poster in question was the movie poster for 'Phantasm'. It was an 'X' certificate, which made it taboo for me and it looked scary as hell. The tag line read ''If this one doesn't scare you, you're already dead''. My Mother's voice telling me to hurry up and not to look at it or else I would have nightmares, made it seem even more enthralling.
Low and behold, just after tea that night, I saw the advert with a young boy waking up to find his bed in a cemetery and a scary looking tall man standing behind the bed and looming over him while hideous little creatures grabbed at him from either side.
I think I finally saw this movie when I was sixteen as my parents were horror fans. They were quite liberal in that way and thought that I could work out for myself that a movie was a movie in the safe knowledge that I would not turn into a career criminal. They were right and these days at sixty-nine, my Mother still loves horror movies and so does my Father and he's seventy-five this year; cool parents or what?
Phantasm was released in cinemas in 2009 in the UK and went to video a few months later. It easily survived the ninety eighty-three video nasty ban as it was intended more as a scary film than a gore fest. There are some moments in it that although laughable today would've been considered quite gruesome back then.
I have seen it again since in the nineties but have never watched the three sequels that it spawned. So after deciding to watch them I chose to buy all four movies so I could watch the story from the beginning. Before I talk about the movie, let's take a look at the plot.
The movie kicks off with two guys Jody and Reggie attending a close friend's funeral. They were close to Tommy and so was Jody's little brother, Mike, who Jody has kept away from the funeral due to the fact that they only lost their parents six months ago. He thinks that seeing Tommy in an open casket might be too much for Mike.
Jody enter the huge mausoleum where his parents are also buried and we are treated to the movies first 'jump' scene as the 'Tall Man' makes his first appearance by putting his hand on Jody's shoulder and announcing that the funeral is about to start. The Tall Man is a creepy looking Dude and he is very tall and also the towns funeral director.
Mike has been watching the funeral from afar with binoculars and once the mourners have left he witnesses the tall man lift Tommy's coffin into a hearse on his own. He investigates the mausoleum and is attacked by a man who is killed by a mysterious silver ball which embeds itself into his head via blades and drills a hole into his head.
What follows is a deadly game of cat and mouse where Jody, Mike and Reggie try to find out the truth behind the Tall Man, the mausoleum and the strange little dwarf creatures they have seen about the place. They come across a car that drives itself and a room that contains a portal to what they think is another planet. Who is the Tall man and what is he doing with the towns deceased?
The one thing that will always stick with me from this movie is the score. The music is absolutely brilliant and I still loved it on this occasion. Frederic Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave created the soundtrack to the movie and the main title theme is brilliant. It is very reminiscent of John Carpenters theme for 'Halloween' and the tubular bells theme from 'The Exorcist'. It has that same synth sound with that deep and heavy back beat which seems to add more menace. I cannot believe that one reviewer lists one of the disadvantages as a 'poor soundtrack'!! Each to their own though, I suppose; but this soundtrack really is one of the cult soundtracks of seventies and eighties horror flicks and is a classic.
When the movie originally hit cinemas it was considered to be very scary indeed and its past is full of stories of people fainting or leaving the cinema, which quite frankly would be absurd to anyone today and most teenagers would find it laughable. I remember going to see the Exorcist in about nineteen ninety-two with a cinema full of teenagers at midnight, which was a strange experience as it was an eighteen certificate. I remember feeling quite miffed as you would've thought it was a comedy from their reactions. I can understand this to a certain extent these days from the kind of things teenagers are exposed to. These old seventies horrors are nothing to what they see now.
I must admit that Phantasm doesn't really stand the test of time when it comes to being scary and some of it is very tame and also very lame but for its time it was quite controversial and is still a classic for being one of the pioneers of the run of horror movie that assaulted the early nineteen eighties.
A soon as you watch it now, you know it's a seventies movie with the massive shirt collars and flared jeans and the dialogue is non-committal and badly structured; but let's not forget that they were not working with a massive budget. The props were mediocre and the actors relatively inexperienced when it came to the big screen.
The now iconic (in the world of horror at least) silver balls flying around guarding the Tall man were deadly spheres that contained blades and a drill. The first scene where we saw one embed itself into a man's skull and drill a hole was a dreadful scene back in nineteen seventy-nine but today it is rather pathetic to be honest and the colour of the blood is so red and so tomato ketchup that it is almost unblood-like.
The same goes for the yellow blood or substance that comes from the Tall man's hand when Mike chops off his fingers with a knife. It looks like custard and probably is. The film makers can be forgiven for this though as at the time it was a big deal to see fingers chopped off in the cinema and a man having a hole drilled in his head was shocking.
Don Coscarelli wrote, directed and produced the movie and by today's standards it would've been regarded as a huge success and a crowd puller. The tag-line 'If this one doesn't scare you, you're already dead' was a master stroke when it came to promotion. It was more a challenge to movie goers than a pull-line and it worked tremendously well in terms of sales.
The script would be panned by most critics but the storyline is actually quite cool if you like your portal, time-travel, scary and mysterious plots and if you read behind the lines; i.e.: the corny dialogue, then you can find an interesting story that conjures up a lot of questions.
With a small budget and an inexperienced crew comes the inevitable mistakes and there are a few. Some of the continuity is terrible but again, back in nineteen seventy-nine, I doubt many people noticed most of them on the big screen. Most of them are just silly little things like Michael losing one of his trainers but then wearing both of them again in the next scene. I suppose he could've had two pairs right? A lot of the dialogue is basically padding to get to the next high point or dramatic scene and this is very evident in some of the pointless drivel that the characters blurt out.
The thing with Phantasm is that you have to take it at face value and embrace it for what it is. If it was dissected scene by scene you could pull it to pieces but what is the point? I would rather remember it with fondness and even though it may not really stand up as a great film today you can see why it was a cinema favourite back in seventy nine.
The Tall man is such an iconic villain and one of the great boogeymanesque characters of horror movie history. The movie has gained a huge cult following and spawned, as I said earlier, three sequels; which I will no doubt be reviewing at a later stage.
I give Phantasm three out of five stars because the soundtrack is fabulous and it had a brilliant ad campaign that made me curious as a child.
Summary: A cult classic that defined the horror movie genre for the eighties.