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.