Phantasm - personal theory on films
One of my all time favorite horror movie has to be Don Coscarelli's Phantasm. I have expressed my love for this series over and over again on this blog. I honestly look at it as a mini epic, a weird fantasy world that Coscarelli created. Here we follow Reggie and Michael as they enter this strange and bizarre world, trying to either defeat or escape from the being known as The Tall Man.
I'm sure I'm speaking for many people when I say the first viewing of this film caused a little confusion. In fact the questions and puzzlement grows as the films go on. Unless your my sister who claims she totally got it the first time she ever watched the original, many people have their own takes and theories on what these films and their endings mean. In fact as sorta a half ass project for psychology I showed the first and last movie of these series stating my own take on what the film meant. Here it is, let's see if anyone agrees...
I believe the original Phantasm was about this young thirteen year old boy who lost his family in a terrible accident and that he never came to terms with what really happened. That his fragile young mind couldn't deal with the reality and grief of what happened so he ended up making up a fantasy/escape to deal with what really happened. I feel that the whole movie up until the very end when Michael awakes in his bed was all in his head.
That a year or so ago Micheal's parents and brother were killed in a car wreck. That the complete shock of what happened made Michael not want to accept what happened so he made up this adventure and cause of what had happened. He created this evil force that caused all these horrible things to happen. The Tall Man to Michael was the grim reaper. Here was this towering alien being that served almost as a boogeyman. This being represented death itself and was the villain for Michael to defeat.
In reality Michael was just a sick boy who couldn't come to terms with death or the fact that there's no escaping or stopping it.
In the original movie Michael has the fear of his brother taking off and leaving him. In reality he's all ready lost him. His big brother who he's always looked up to. In this fantasy Jody is still with him but he constantly follows him, not wanting to take him out of his sight. If he does this than maybe nothing bad will happen to him. I feel Michael has guilt over not dying with the rest of his family. That in this world he's created he still has his brother who will stand by him, protect him, and of course fight The Tall Man aka death with him.
This movie is filled with symbolism, the cemetery, The Tall Man's reaction to the cold air, the lady in lavender, and of course the spheres. These silver balls that fly around and literary drill and drain all the life out of you.
One of the best scenes in the movie is when the dwarfs attack the girls and Michael in the car. When Michael is thrown from the back window and lays motionless on the ground, I love the cuts between him and Jody. It seems almost as if Jody wills his brother back to life. The of course the powerful scene when The Tall Man arrives at Micheal's front door saying "I'll been waiting for you." grabbing, and kidnapping him before throwing him into a hearse. So...death has been waiting for Michael and literary throws him into a hearse. Michael doesn't want to accept death, so he escapes yet again.
Then of course the scene where Michael checks his father's casket only to find it empty. In this fantasy it shows that The Tall Man has taken Micheal's parents and transformed them into these evil little creatures. But think about it...Michael never saw his father's corpse...and it's been mentioned before that he had nightmares for weeks after the funeral. It's almost as if just the idea/thought of the funeral and a corpse can cause him to run screaming completely terrified.
At the end of the movie after Jody and Michael seem to have defeated The Tall Man, and this is when we see Michael awake in his bed, only to learn that everything that we've just watched as supposed to be all a "dream." I believe in part one he really did wake up from a dream or at least snapped out of his little fantasy for a brief moment in which Reggie tried to convince him that Jody and his parents really were dead and that there were no tall man. In the ending scene when he's pulled back into the mirror, I think it was his mind really pulling him back into this fantasy since the sense of reality was touched on.
So Michael awakes from his fantasy and is even told it wasn't real only for his mind to literary pull him back in. I feel him being pulled back into that mirror shows his mind didn't want to believe it was all pretend. That he was being sucked back into this world to escape and yet again not real with what happened.
In the other films it was all in Mike's head. The idea of running and having to stop this evil force, never being able to live a normal life (His love interest Liz, another person who understand him.) The iconic line in the sequel "When you die you don't go to Heaven...you come to us!" How Reggie and him are on the road, warriors in a sense using their dreams to guide them as The Tall Man wipes out small towns. Yet again he's pulled even deeper into the fantasy (this time through a window and when we come back to part 3, while diving even further into this fantasy he looses the only girl that cared about him since she's killed on in the first moments of the film.)
The end of the third film shows Michael beginning to transform into what appears to be the next Tall Man. This shows that Michael is getting older, the reality of death is becoming more clear. That he is becoming lost and taken over by this fantasy. He's pulling away from the only friend that's still in his life and fighting for his sanity, and of course is getting deeper and deeper into this strange world.
Part 4 is very heavy on there being no escape. That even Jody betrayed him for leaving, that there's no changing the past and that Michael will go head to head with this war that's going on in his mind.
This evil is slowly trying to take over him and make him become the next tall man (the fear of death) and of course trying to stop it (the reality that no matter what you do you can't change the past) The ending of part 4 was very fitting, the fantasy was over. Mike finally woke up to the fact that no matter how hard he tried he couldn't stop death (The Tall Man) and that no matter what one day he was going to die.
The final minutes of the forth movie are very fitting. Michael decides to confront the Tall Man, only to show there's no defeating him. He returns yet again and takes the gold sphere out of his head, almost taking the life right out of him. I love when Reggie kneels down beside him and Michael just stares and says "I'm dying Reg..." and how Reggie begs him not to let go over promising he'll come right back and goes into the time forks to try and defeat the Tall Man yet again. The close up of Micheal's eye and then showing him yet again as a thirteen year old boy. Here is where the films come full circle.
Michael finally after all of this finally accepts and comes to terms with what happened to his family and that there's no changing the past or defeating death.
So as a 13 year old boy he finally wakes up to the fact that the fantasy is over. He has to move on and live his life and come to terms with what happened when he was a child. I thought the ending scene of part 4 beautifully filmed. For true fans of the series it was nice to see Mike and Reggie back when they were younger and happier.
I think the ending scene/line "It's just the wind..." and the headlights of the ice cream truck going off into the darkness is fitting. Many people may think this was just another splatter horror series but I think it was smartly made and came full circle.