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.
The silver "sentinel" spheres a.k.a. "computerized vampires" are a brilliant, memorable touch to this 1979 horror classic.
The story is pretty thin (and REALLY out of whack at the end), the acting dismal, there's no characterizations or depth and some of the special effects are horrible but...this is STILL a classic horror film. It takes a while to get going (nothing much happens in the first half hour), but when it does there's scarcely a letup. Action leaps into high gear, there's some fairly graphic gore (including the now infamous flying sphere killing), there are plenty of scenes guaranteed to make you jump and the music score is very spooky...right up there with "Halloween". Also some of the special effects are impressive (considering there was no budget). Also Michael Baldwin was a VERY attractive man and there's gratuitous male and female nudity. What's even more surprising is Don Coscarelli wrote, produced, directed AND edited this at the age of 24! He's never matched it since and all the sequels really suck...but this stands alone as a classic. A must-see for all horror fans. Also Scrimm is EXCELLENT (and damn scary) as the Tall Man.
Trivia: This was awarded an X rating FOUR TIMES because of the sphere killing...Coscarelli went all the way to the head of the ratings board who overturned it and gave it an R--a rare occurrence that the ratings board kept in a gore scene!