Friday, October 19, 2012

Phantasm - review

Year - 1979
Directed by – Don Coscarelli
Starring – A. Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury, and Reggie Bannister

PLOT - A young boy and his friends face off against a mysterious grave robber known only as the Tall Man, who keeps a mysterious arsenal of terrible weapons with him. 

LOWDOWN – I wasn't exactly familiar with the Phantasm series. All I knew about these movies was two key elements. The Tall Man, and the silver flying spheres. When I was eleven or twelve I rented it's sequel Phantasm II and was completely blown away. This was seriously one of the weirdest most awesome balls to the wall action packed horror movies I had ever seen (I would like to believe it was because it rang very close to the zany feel of Evil Dead II). Anywho, I clearly remember loving that movie for a lot of reasons. The strange storyline, the haunting score, the awesome kills, and even better the ending. With that when that video store shut down I was lucky enough to snag the original VHS before they went out of business. Years passed before they played Phantasm II again on television and I caught the last half an hour or so. Catching my interest yet again I decided to look into the series and see where it all began. On a complete blind buy I bought the original, part 3, and part 4 and for a while week I drove head first into The Tall Man's very strange word. After watching the original Phantasm I was left sorta confused. In fact it took me several times to re-watch this movie to truly pay attention and be able to see how much I clearly enjoyed it. Now I'll be the first to admit, Phantasm isn't fir everyone. This is a surreal dream like living breathing piece of artwork come to live. I really have to hand it to Mr. Coscarelli, for a man who had never done horror before his first attempt was close to complete perfection. I have a very strong theory on what Phantasm is really about. In fact in college I even did a whole project based on these films and the mental stage of the main character Michael. I could honestly spend all day going on and on about my thoughts about this movie but I'll save that for another day. In short, I believe without really spoiling anything that these films are about a young boy who has just lost his family and can't grasp onto the truth of it all. So instead of facing reality he dreams up this horrible nightmare in which he is forced to fight but can't escape. Anytime this fantasy is close to being broken he's literary pulled back into this world he's made in which death rules over. I would like to think that Corscarelli really did put this much thought into these films and It's always interesting to see other fan's ideas of what the movie/ending is really about. Don Coscarelli's previous movie Kenny & Co. was a fun 1970's comedy about two young boys right before Halloween. I was pretty impressed by the humor he was able to pull off in this movie and it rang very true to kid's movies in the 1980's such as The Monster Squad. For example, movies that were ratted PG13 but really shouldn't have been. One of the lead kids in Kenny & Co. was A. Michael Baldwin who was reused along with Reggie Banister for the Phantasm series. These actors are very solid which is the reason why I think these films really work. These are likable people who seem natural and look well playing themselves. Sadly for the Phantasm sequel Baldwin wasn't asked back and replaced only to return for Part III Lord Of The Dead. It seems that the movie studio pushed Corscarelli to make this decision which always makes me look at the sequel with a bit of regret. Baldwin was what made the character of Mike and as good as his replacement was it just didn't seem right. I really think if they had gotten him to play in the sequel Phantasm II would have been one of the best horror movie sequels ever made. In the original though this was 1970's elegance at it's greatest. This was before the slasher boom began and movies were smartly thought of. Phantasm was an effort of work, which took nearly three years to complete but it's low budget really doesn't show. Like I said this is a piece of art brought to life. Between the strange visuals of the dwarf monsters, the flying drilling spheres (which began to stand out as stars themselves in the other films.) , The Tall Man's haunting presence, the awesome scene of Michael flying through the Tall Man's red planet, and that creepy house also used in Burt Offerings...Phantasm has a lot to offer. There's a great cast, one of the most beautiful written scores of all time, several iconic scenes, and best of all in my mind one of the top endings of all time. I'm sure I'll end up reviewing the whole series soon since I'm slowly making my way through them all, but I can't stress enough how much I recommend the original classic. This is a must see for fans alike or anyone who really wants a movie to think about. Many friends of mine back at school understood what a huge fan of the movies I was. (If you ever want to know what it's like to feel like you've been hit by a the Phantasm drinking game with me.) In fact one of my friends even did a super awesome sphere makeup on me shortly before he graduated! Phantasm is a horror classic and if you're ever looking for a truly beautiful horror movie, catch this one. Trust me.


Five Stars!

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