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Phantasm is a surprisingly artful and imaginative horror film, an impressive film for 23-year-old director Don Coscarelli who worked with a miniscule budget to create a small masterpiece. When Mike (Michael Baldwin) spies some sinister Jawa-like creatures stealing corpses from the local cemetery, he and his older brother Jody (Bill Thornbury) explore the mausoleum, where they find that the mortician (Angus Scrimm), a towering, emaciated figure with superhuman strength, has somehow bridged the gap between Earth and the afterworld and needs fresh corpses. Among the tools of his trade is a flying Swiss army pinball that bores into the skulls of its hapless victims then extracts their brains. Their allies die off one by one, until only the brothers are left to defend humankind against the nefarious "Tall Man" and his army of shrouded dwarves. While the film does contain a fair amount of graphic violence, the gore is never gratuitous and, relative to other movies of its day, is used rather sparingly. The effects are fantastic as is the highly stylized direction; the result is a memorable chiller with more than its share of genuine shocks. … More
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Critic Reviews for Phantasm
Strong point of the feature is that it's played for both horror and laughs.
A spotty little horror movie, effective here and there through some appealing eccentricities.
Although enough of a cult favourite to spawn a trio of undistinguished sequels, this low budget independent horror movie is a surprisingly shambolic affair whose moments of genuine invention stand out amid the prevailing incompetence.
One of the definitive '70s horror pictures, in the last few months before '70s horror got steamrolled into oblivion... a raw blast of sensory information.
Passable in spots, it offers dumb fun and turns out to be one of the best films that Coscarelli ever made
With its blend of horror and sci-fi and crap and cool, and its deceitful story-line, Phantasm's certainly unlike other American films of the period.
A film filled with unique, personal, witty, and, at the same time, terrifying imagery rarely seen in low-budget horror films.
Coscarelli made this with very little money but with plenty of imagination.
Phantasm isn't necessarily one of those films you see for the brilliant writing.... but all of this is forgivable for the groundbreaking vision of the film.
Phantasm can be viewed as a haunting fable of an adolescent grappling with his fear of death.
Doesn't fall into any of the easily-classifiable genres, and I suppose that's one of the reasons it's so well-remembered all these years later.
Cult horror outing this is SCARY!!
Ugh. This is a classic of the genre? Are you sure we watched the same movie?
both inventive and completely nuts
Audience Reviews for Phantasm
Don Coscarelli's cult classic is admittedly disjointed. It's not quite the sum of its parts, but there are many individual scenes that are wonderfully conceived and executed, some even with unexpected humour. The amateurish acting, odd transitions, and plot holes keep Phantasm from being great in my eyes, but the film is an exercise in creativity and ingenuity, not to mention in showcasing the coolest flying killing device in recent memory.More
This 1979 Cult classic is a very interesting Horror film with many creative ideas on-screen; Phantasm is a brilliantly constructed piece of work that is sure to please the true horror fan. What makes this a wonderful, terrifying and memorable experience is that it introduces a unique horror villain, a Mortician with strange powers by the name of The Tall Man. This sinister being collects bodies and shrinks them down to dwarves and makes them his slave in another dimension. This is a work of Sci Fi and supernatural horror. While watching this movie, you realize all the elements that director Don Coscarelli uses to enrich his film's plot, therefore Phantasm branches in a few horror genres, most notably the ones that I've just mentioned. This is an effective chiller that does generate plenty of eerie moments due to the films atmosphere and memorable theme by composers Fred Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave. The performances are great and every actor brings something wonderful to the film. I view this film as one of the defining movies that helped reshape the face of terror. This is a classic, and rewatching it years later, you can see why genre fans call it a favorite. Don Coscarelli adds enough supernatural overtones to keep viewers wide eyed from start to finish. This is one feature that no one should pass up. Angus Scrimm delivers as The Tall Man and introduced us to a memorable horror quote: "BOOOYYYYY!!" This is from a horror enthusiast's perspective, a terrific and creepy line. There's enough gore, spooks and other surprises that are very well constructed by director Don Coscarelli to make this one stand out among other horror yarns that have come before and after. A lack of logic is permitted throughout the film because it's such a unique film that you simply don't care. The sequels add to The Tall Man's story, but never do anything new. However, they're just like this one, very entertaining and worth seeing.More
One of my favourite horror movies of the 70s, it's a surreal supernatural film with a surprising twist at the end. I loved it.More
There are so many ways of appreciating film. Initially, everything I saw was given a very typical "does it have a good plot/strong characters?" critical once-over, and if it didn't, then the movie sucked. End of story. Then I moved on to "is it well-made? Does it accomplish what it needs to?" which is a good stopping point for any discerning film viewer. But then...there's stuff like Phantasm, which I thoroughly enjoyed. No, it does not have a good plot or strong characters, and the last thing I'd call it is well-made. Watching it made me realize that I just don't really give a fuck anymore - what I like is what I like, and there's never going to be a static standard applied to that. So thank you, Phantasm, for being deliriously crappy and yet so wonderful at the same time.
To list Phantasm's flaws would be damning. The movie has a terrible sense of flow, with nearly every transition from scene to scene coming across as jarring or incomprehensible. The ensuing feeling of "what the fuck is going on?" is difficult to get around, but oddly exhilarating; there's a definite strength in Phantasm's willingness to thrust you into a bizarre situation and not really explain what's happening. The movie's pervasive use of the unknown, both on its characters and on the audience, allows us to really use our imaginations. The floating silver spheres? The tall man? The dwarf world? Who the fuck knows, but it's fun to think about! Phantasm may come across as a jumble of "scary" ideas, but the chaos of the experience is actually very appropriate, not to mention thematically relevant. On that note, the ending is a pleasant surprise, working well to shade the movie in a completely different light and give the preceding events a new depth.
If evaluated on the craftsmanship alone, Phantasm is more or less a failure. The movie mostly looks muddy and dull (with a few really inspired shots), and some of the special effects are laughable. It should also be remembered that this is very low-budget horror, and though its achievements within the scope of its limitations aren't always impressive, the force of its ideas is what really shines here. If you can bring yourself to look past the dated filming, iffy acting and occasional sheer ridiculousness of the movie, it's actually a really original experience. Recommended to the offbeat horror fan.
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