Phantasm (1979) Poster

(1979)

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9/10
One of the most bizarre films out there
baumer7 March 2002
Like everyone that has reviewed this film before me, I am going to sing it's praises, however, unlike those before me, I'm not quite sure why. This film did everything it was supposed to do as a horror film. It scared me in a few areas, it was quite gory in others and it was easily one of the ten most quirky and bizarre films I have ever seen. I can't tell you why anything transpires the way it does in here, I can't even tell you why people do the things they do, but I don't really think that is the point of the film. Like David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, this is more of mind altering experience or a dream that just doesn't make any sense. Perhaps this is a film that is esoteric by design and if that is the case then perhaps I should just watch it over and over again until I do have some sort of puerile grasp of it.

Dictionary.com's definition of a phantasm is "in Platonic philosophy, objective reality as observed by the five senses." Another definiton it gives is simply, "a notion". And if you watch this film from beginning to end you will see why this makes all the sense in the world, yet it is still an abstruse concept that is meant to be exactly what it is.

The film begins with a funeral of one of Jody (Bill Thornbury) and Reggie's (Reggie Bannister) best friends. Jody's little brother, Mikey ( A Michael Baldwin) is a precocious kid who can't seem to stay in one place and follows his big brother everywhere he goes. Hence he is at the funeral but is surreptitiously hiding out in the bushes. As the funeral ends, he sees the caretaker lift a casket all by himself and put it into his truck. This is the nascency of the bizaare rituals that encompass the film.

Michael decides to investigate the strange looking mansion where the cemetery rests. Once he breaks into the house, he is chased by some strange Jawa looking creatures and by a sphere that seems to come out of nowhere and drains your head of blood. He does escape and finally gets his big brother to believe him when he says that things aren't quite right up at the Morningside Cemetery. Now, up until this point, the film is quite linear. You have your classic set-up, a spooky looking mansion where the dead are taken and your typical stupid characters that do the traditional scary movie things, like going to investigate a haunted house all by yourself, gratuitous breast shots, some eerie music and dark nights. But that is where the title "typical horror film" ends and it crosses over into Rod Serling territory. From here on out, it just goes weird, but in a goosebump inducing way that keeps you frozen in your seat.

Don Coscarelli can take all of the praise and/or blame for this eccentric film. He wrote, produced, directed, was the DP, the editor and as another reviewer so aptly pointed out, he probably swept the floors at night and fetched coffee for those on the set. This is his incarnation. I also happen to agree with other viewers that say that this film has one of the most haunting yet mellifluous scores which is on par with Carpenter's Halloween theme. Both are intricate pieces to the presence of the film. Words like haunting, eerie, creepy and forbidding all come to mind when you hear the score. It is also uncanny to see some of the similarities to A Nightmare On Elm Street and Phantasm. Nightmare was a little more clear with what it was trying to say but both films have an overtly murky and dream like exploration into realms that many of us have yet to understand.

The underlying theme in this film is the unsolved questions that plague many of us when we wonder what happens when you die. Most of us believe that you go to Heaven or Hell. But those are just theories. And if theories are unproven then what is stop you from believing that this movie could really be the answer to those questions? As the tag line for the film so poignantly points out, "If this one doesn't scare you, you're already dead." What if all of this was true? What if you could be stolen and made into something that you did not ask to become? Who is the Tall Man and what is he doing here in our world? One of the most harrowing yet well done plot pieces is when Mikey goes to the girl's house and finds an old picture of the Tall Man sitting on a horse carriage, looking like it is circa 1776. This leaves the viewer ripe with questions.

Phantasm will leave you with more questions than answers but I will say this about the film. In a day and age where you get prosaic, banal and myopic efforts like ( take your pick of most of the horror that has "graced" our screens since the Scream and Blair Witch craze) and you compare them to films like Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Phantasm, you quickly realize that the 70's and early 80's was the genesis of the horror film. I realize horror probably dates back to Nosferatu and it became respected with Psycho, but to look at the films that were born in the 70's and 80's, it's a veritable, indefeasible list of some of the most revered and imitated horror films of all time. Now that I have seen Phantasm I can easily see the mark it has left on other films.

9 out of 10----As I said, I still can't tell you what this film is all about nor can I tell you what it all means or how it all ends, all I can say is that it made me feel something strange with it's disingenuous stroke of the brush. This is a film that absolutely demands a second and third viewing....which is what I am about to do right now. BOY!!!!!!!
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Phantasm - feel the love
auteurus19 August 2003
Phantasm is possibly my favourite film of all time.Why? It's not about the budget or the hype of a film, but mainly about how this film makes me feel. Phantasm director Coscarelli crafted a little gem of a horror movie that has bought me more enjoyment than any major Hollywood film I can remember. I first saw Phantasm as a kid in the 80's and it has stuck with me ever since. It was great to rediscover this film on a beautifully mastered DVD.

For me, Phantasm combines a nightmarish quality that few horror movies achieve with a nostalgic trip back in time to the late 70's. The central theme is that of young Mike being abandoned by his brother Jody, and overcoming his fears. The cryptic nature of the Tall Man's presence adds to the tension, and Myrow's eerie soundtrack is the perfect finishing touch.

Like a nightmare, there is no explanation or attempt to pander to desires for a logical conclusion. The little touches such as Jody and Reggie's jam session add to the homely feel of this movie - it's like a well worn pair of jeans. It's crystal clear that no studio executives were in the editing room at the last minute, trying to turn Coscarelli's vision into another mediocre horror film . For the director, this film was clearly a labor of love. Coscarelli is still an outsider from the Hollywood system. I am grateful that he hasn't been sucked into turning out mediocre movies for major studios but has stayed somewhat true to the original spirit of Phantasm.

Many of the comments here on IMDB criticize the film for weak FX and poor acting. When viewed in the context of a genre film made by young industry outsiders for $300,000 in 1979, I think the technical values are exceptional. Critics who claim otherwise have no idea of the work involved in the process of creating a movie, especially before the advent of video.

I've seen Hollywood blockbusters made for many millions of dollars with great technical values, and yet I can't think of one that I can enjoy time and time again like this film. If you consider yourself a fan of horror movies, you owe it to yourself to own this classic on DVD.

10/10
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10/10
Imaginative, Bizarre, And Thoroughly Entertaining.
drownnnsoda15 July 2006
"Phantasm" is about a young teenager, Mike, who just recently lost his parents. He is worried about losing his older brother, so he follows him everywhere, including a funeral. While hiding in the bushes during the funeral, Mike sees "The Tall Man" (played by the creepy Angus Scrimm), the man who runs the funeral home, pick up a casket by himself. Mike begins spying on the man afterwards, fascinated with uncovering the strange events surrounding the funeral home. While investigating, Mike discovers a strange world within the walls of the mortuary, including flying metal spheres with sharp arrows that drain the blood from your head, and many other horrors. Turns out, the Tall Man is from another dimension, and is taking the bodies of the dead and reincarnating them in his world for slaves. Mike teams up with his older brother and the local ice cream man, Reggie, to stop the Tall Man's gruesome work.

I remember my mother telling me about how much "Phantasm" scared her when she was a teenager, and she rented it one day and I watched it along with her (I was about nine or ten at the time), and it was genuinely one of the most bizarre movies I've ever viewed. Written (as well as directed) by Don Coscarelli, "Phantasm" has become something of a horror classic over the years, and deservedly so. Coscarelli's writing here is so unique that it hurts. Everything in this film is surreal and dreamlike, and the entire plot line is so out there that I can't think of another film that can quite compete in terms of strangeness. But, despite it's strangeness, this movie works, in it's own, weird little way. The script is solid and the characters are believable (there are some real-life situations thrown in as well, so there is some sort of viewer-character connections that can be made), even though about ninety-nine percent of this film is something of pure fantasy. But it's quite a scary fantasy, and that's for sure.

There are many elements in this film that have become somewhat legendary, among them being the murderous silver spheres and The Tall Man's "Boyyyyy!" line. The thing is, among all of the randomness that is "Phantasm", this is quite a terrifying movie. A dense feeling of helplessness and foreboding is hiding in every scene, and the cinematography and locations add to this quite a bit. The imagery is bizarre and often very spooky, and the settings are perfect (especially that creepy old funeral home). The viewers themselves are easily caught up in the engrossing story, and the atmosphere is very scary. Michael Baldwin plays our lead hero well, with Reggie Bannister as the ice cream man, and Bill Thornbury as Mike's older brother, Jody. And Angus Scrimm plays his signature role as The Tall Man, and his presence alone makes this film scarier than most of it's genre. And then there's the score to the film, which is equally as effective and just as chilling. The film concludes leaving many questions open-ended and unanswered, but honestly - can you really expect genuine, fulfilling answers when the movie itself is so strange? I think it's good that this film does leave some loose ends, because it goes along with the movie's overall feel.

Bottom line - I don't think this movie is for everyone, and it might be just a little bit too weird for some. Honestly, one of the strangest, most out-there films I have ever seen, but in my opinion, that's a good thing. The story is strange but well crafted, and the bizarre imagery and atmosphere make this a painfully unique, scary experience. I can see why "Phantasm" has become such a classic of the genre. For me, this film remains a nice little piece of spooky and original nostalgia, and I'm glad my mom decided to scare the daylights out of me with it at such a young age, because I grew to love this movie later on. 10/10.
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10/10
In it's own way, a horror classic
preppy-328 January 2004
Two orphaned boys, Mike (Michael Baldwin) and Jody (Bill Thornbury) notice some strange things happening at Morningside Mortuary. Bodies are disappearing from coffins; a lady in lavender has sex with men in the graveyard and then stabs them to death; little midgets in brown cloaks (making sounds like lions) are roaming about and there's a flying silver orb with spikes that embeds itself in people's heads! And then there's the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) overseeing it all...Soon Mike, Jody and their friend Reggie (Reggie Bannister) are fighting for their lives...

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 Bill Thornbury is 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!
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10/10
This gives new meaning to the word "BOOOYYY!"
Zbigniew_Krycsiwiki21 March 2003
In 1980, Magnetic Video released the full length 90-minutes long version on video, with a difused glow throughout the entire film. In the latter part of the 1980s, the film was issued again on video, but one sequence (which takes place in near complete darkness in The Tall Man's glowing white room) was accidentally edited out by the people supervising the film to video transfer. This version of the film ran 87/ 88 minutes in length. When Phantasm was issued on DVD in the late 1990s the scene was restored, but the colour balance and the soft diffusion was corrected, which I think robbed the film of some of its atmospheric effect. My review is based on Magnetic Video's 1980 release.

This haunting, dreamlike hallucination of a movie was written, directed, photographed, produced and edited by Don Coscarelli, it doesn't make much sense but it's still a great bit of fun to watch with the lights turned out. This kid named Mike convinces his older brother Jody that there is something weird going on at the local cemetery. So he and Jody break into the old mausoleum and find out that it's actually some kind of factory where people are killed by a flying metal ball, crushed down to a height of about 3'2", dressed up like little monks and packaged up into round metal garbage cans and shipped off for use as slave labour in some other dimension. A dimension ruled and resided over by the six and a half foot tall mortician (known throughout the entire ordeal as just simply "The Tall Man") working at this cemetery. When The Tall Man kills another friend of theirs, they decide to put and end to him, or at least try to.

This movie has many different layered meanings, over the years some people have said that it's a reference to corporate America coming in (in the form of The Tall Man) and killing off everyone (by turning everything into a 'business') and some have said that this movie is also about a kid's loss of innocence and fears about everyone around him leaving (or in this case dying) Whatever the hell this movie is about, it's still great fun, followed by a couple of really disappointing (and belated) sequels.
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7/10
A Weird and Original Cult Movie
claudio_carvalho23 December 2012
After the death of Tommy (Bill Cone), who was stabbed by a woman at the cemetery, Jody (Bill Thornbury) and his friend Reggie (Reggie Bannister) attend the funeral at the Morningside funeral home. Jody is followed by his teenage brother Mike (Michael Baldwin), who has just lost his parents and is afraid of losing his big brother that intends to travel.

Mike snoops around the cemetery and sees the mortician known as The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) carrying Tommy's coffin alone without any help. Mike breaks in the mortuary to investigate the mystery and discovers weird dwarf creatures with yellow blood and dangerous flying spheres that protect the location. When he is chased by The Tall Man, he cuts his finger and brings it home to show Jody to convince his big brother that there is a dark secret in the mortuary. Jody, Reggie and Mike discover that The Tall Man is from outer space and is transforming dead bodies in dwarfs to work as slave in his world. Now they decide that The Tall Man must be destroyed. Will they succeed in their intent?

"Phantasm" is one of the most weird and original cult movies that I have ever seen. The surrealistic and dreamlike story entwines horror with sci-fi with many twists and bizarre characters and situations.

I saw "Phantasm" for the first time on VHS in the early 80's and I have just seen it again on DVD and surprisingly the film has not aged, only the clothing, the hair style and the special effects. But for fans like me, it is still attractive and entertaining. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "Fantasma" ("Phantasm")
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8/10
Another Horror Classic, And With Good Reason
gavin69425 March 2007
A teenage boy (Michael Baldwin) stumbles upon a plot by a very tall mortuary worker (Angus Scrimm) to steal dead bodies and turn them into midget slaves for an alien world. With the help of his older brother (Bill Thornberry), the boy hopes to cut the tall man down to size.

Many years later, Don Coscarelli is now seen as a master of horror and Angus Scrimm somewhat of a horror icon (though to a lesser degree than, say, Robert Englund). While the plot I have outlined above may sound silly, the actual execution of this idea makes it clear why this film has really lodged itself in horror history and spawned numerous sequels (all starring Scrimm).

This film captures the feeling of the late 1970s and early 1980s horror with the young boy stumbling upon a plot of large, sinister proportions. Horror geared towards the youth of a generation who have parents who may not believe them (or in this case, an older brother). I really like this theme, much like "The Goonies", "The Monster Squad" and "Lost Boys" -- a kid's film without being childish.

"Phantasm" has become known for the silver balls, and believe me -- when Angus Scrimm puts one of his balls in your face, you won't be happy about it. A bloody mess is all you will get! I really enjoyed the effect of this (remember, this is 1979 when effects still took some creativity). Some of the tricks they pull off are impressive considering computer technology of the day, and also considering Coscarelli himself was writing and directing at the unthinkably young age of 23.

Now, some things I did not understand. For example, why are the midgets bleeding macaroni and cheese instead of blood? And more importantly, why does the tall man have to transform into a woman to stab people in the cemetery? If he is super strong and has those silver balls, he really does not have to be very sneaky about the whole ordeal, does he? But these are issues that can always be addressed in sequels.

Some of the acting is cheesy -- people deliver their lines in a way that sounds forced, and Jody (the older brother) looks like he belongs behind the wheel of the General Lee. And Michael spends half the film looking like a girl. (I have met the entire cast, and I can assure you that Baldwin grew out of this phase.)

But, seriously, check this film out. Created roughly in the same time period as "Halloween", you are left with a similar feeling. Only this one is more light-hearted and "feel good" and less "the embodiment of evil". I suppose it depends on your personal taste or your mood for the day. Myself, I like a little bit of the unusual thrown in to a movie just to keep me guessing. And, edging out "Halloween", this may be the longest-running horror franchise, running from 1979 through 2016 (37 years!).

Over the years, "Phantasm" has been released in a variety of ways, but I think the definitive release finally exists thanks to Well Go USA. I asked Coscarelli why he went with Well Go (known for their martial arts movies) rather than Arrow Video or Scream Factory, and his answer was quite simple -- they had the most enthusiasm. And they have put together a nice package, too. The remastered Blu-ray looks sharp. WGN host and super-phan Nick Digilio screened it in Chicago in August 2016 and audiences were shocked to see individual raindrops. The new scan is better than the original print. The disc also contains a vintage interview with Coscarelli and Scrimm circa 1979, and an episode of "Graveyard Carz" where Coscarelli and Baldwin drive around in a Barracuda tribute car.
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A Start . . .
jaywolfenstien15 September 2004
Phantasm is one of those movies where you have to look beyond the constraints of a non-existent-budget sci-fi/horror flick to see underlying talent. The film suffers from some hammed up acting, classical 1970s character naivety, make-shift and jimmy-rigged special effects that don't quite work, a score that might as well be a series of MIDI files, and a plot that's all but coherent; however, Phantasm maintains a certain original charm and resourcefulness that larger budget films frequently lack.

The above paragraph really isn't a complaint (despite how it may sound). On the contrary, I'm impressed with what director Don Coscarelli managed to accomplish with the hand dealt to him. Phantasm could have been an utterly forgettable film on all levels, but instead he managed to leave a number of positive impressions.

For one, the frame composition and some key scene transitions transcend budgetary implications (in particular, the Tall Man in the cemetery and the Tall Man slow-motion shot by Reggie's ice cream truck come to mind).

Fred Myrow also comes to the forefront with intriguing and memorable synthetic score. My only complaint on the music is the synthesizer it was performed on sounds like an old 80386 game. Still, the notes played transcends the quality of the instrument it's played on.

Phantasm's trademark bladed sphere effect, however, did genuinely bother me when they stuck into their victim's skulls. The fact that the soon-to-be-dead have no physical reaction after being slapped in the forehead with a fastball goes beyond my ability to suspend disbelief, and to my dismay the effect has never been amended in later sequels. A simple flinch is all that's needed to sell the effect! Something tells me that the effect, as it stands, is part of the Phantasm trademark, part of the Phantasm charm (for the cult followers anyway), and won't ever get a more realistic edge.

Minor silly plot elements aside (Jawa grave robbers, anyone?), my only major gripe deals with the sheer open endedness of the Phantasm universe (vastly exploited in later sequels.) Phantasm is not unlike a comic book, where nothing that happens seems significant since a character can so easily wake up to another reality. Anarchy governs the Phantasm series, no rules apply so reality, fantasy, and parallel universes co-exist in such a fashion that nothing seems to matter anymore. It's like playing a game with Coscarelli in which we must abide by the rules he sets down, and he sets the rules down as he goes when situations apply to him. Why bother playing? Why care?

Still, the film has its charms, and there's something fun in the sinister eye-brow raising and growling Tall Man played effectively by Angus Scrimm. I'd caught bits of Phantasm 3 in the past, and came into this film expecting to hate the Tall Man and this entire franchise, yet I found myself grinning at each of his lines.

I say if someone can look below a cheap and cheesy surface, Phantasm is full of a pleasant surprises.
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7/10
The Chrome Sphere is 70s classic
macabro3577 November 2003
There are two things that stand out in this film. The Tall Man (played by Angus Scrimm) and the chrome sphere with hook-like blades that stick out of it. Those are the two main elements when it comes to this horror series directed by Don Coscarelli. The Tall Man comes from another dimension where he takes some of the earth's dead back to his home planet, reincarnates them and turns them into slaves for his world. He even occasionally murders some earth people in order to speed things up. Why wait for them to get old and die natural deaths. That would take too much time, right? And what better earth profession he can hide his identity behind than that of a funeral parlor director. Everything goes smoothly for the Tall Man until Mike Pearson (Michael Baldwin) witnesses him carting a body away that's supposed to be buried in the ground. At first his brother Jody (Bill Thornbury) doesn't believe him, but when Mike shows him a cut-off finger surrounded by 'yellow blood' in a little wooden box he had saved as proof, Jody starts to believe him. Excellent scene of the chrome sphere zooming down the funeral parlor hallway and 'accidentally' digging into the skull one of the Tall Man's henchmen. A little screw appears out of it and starts to bore a hole through his skull, ejecting the excess blood out a hole in the back of the sphere. I wish there was more of the sphere although we'll get to see a lot more of it again in PHANTASM II (1988). I also like the portal gateway scene where if you go through the two chrome poles, you'll get to see the Tall Man's alternative universe where the slaves are busy carrying caskets down a stone pathway. We even get to see Ice Cream Man, Reggie Bannister almost get sucked through it as well. I won't give away the ending but let's just say the Tall Man is temporarily disposed of until the next sequel comes out, although the dream element that's supposed to encompass the whole sequence of events in the film, is a big negative against it. In fact, it brings it down a notch, unfortunately. Even so, I consider PHANTASM to be one of the best horror films of the 1970s. It managed to keep Avco/Embassy in business so they could bring us later horror stuff like ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1980); THE FOG (1980) and DEAD AND BURIED (1981) The MGM DVD also has a lot more extras on it than you would expect from other DVDs released by the same company, including 8mm behind-the-scenes footage of the making of PHANTASM; a 1979 interview down in Miami with director Coscarelli and Angus Scrimm; an appearance at a 1989 Fangoria convention by Scrimm, and movie & TV trailers for the film. It's a labor of love by the truest fans of this film. 7 out of 10
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10/10
"Hey, you had a dream. Just a nightmare"
buddypatrick22 June 2009
"Phantasm: an apparition of a ghostly appearing figure" Simply put Phantasm is a visual nightmare transformed into a person's sketchy reality. The emphasis on sleeping and dreams is exactly the message it is getting at. With a perfect score and a quintessentially frighteningly written Horror villain 'The Tall Man' the only downfalls of Phantasm are its lack of quality acting, script, pacing and cheap 1970's horror clichés. In fact the acting and characters become so irritating it is the only element of Phantasm that takes it away from being considered a true Horror classic by most Horror buffs (or maybe it's George Lucas' unauthorized use of Jawa's?).

When one scans the Horror elite those films have pretty atrocious acting problems too, so why should Phantasm fail so much? It shouldn't really because Phantasm is just as good as the classics. One of the reason why Phantasm is such a unique film is the well established characters unlike most Horror films; whilst the acting is somewhat absent from the strongly written character it's still enough to redeem the awkwardly delivered lines, odd facial expressions and comical snappy reactions. The films score is also perfect and mesmerizing that fits well by Fred Myrow, it was in fact one of the most powerful elements of the movie that really had me engaged. The stunning visuals and the concept and imagery of The Tall Man (wonderfully portrayed by Angus Scrimm) are authentically creepy, like something one would encounter in a nightmare. (in fact, I had a dream where I was in Hell and I encountered a priest that had been shrunk and dissected by a demon and this was before I saw Phantasm) I know I would be pretty hysterical if The Tall Man was stalking me.

It's these points of the film that for me makes Phantasm an atmospheric and creepy horror gem, in fact it brings me back to when I was a five year old child in a video store in the 90's, traumatized by the VHS covers for Hellraiser and The Blob only to eagerly await the day I was old enough to view them. Another reason why Phantasm's atmosphere works so well is the use of white and brightness instead darkness Phantasm's surreal mortuary is a nightmarish treat of white marble walls lined with drawers of the dead, gaping large hallways and The Tall Man's shoes trudging along the tiles that make you feel he's going to jump out of the television screen. From the flying silver balls to the void to another dimension, Phantasm's concept of a ghoulishly eerie tale about a soul keeper is wonderfully mastered and pulled off.

No matter how jammed with 1970's horror clichés the use of the shoestring budget and surrealism incorporated into Phantasm makes it a pure Horror gem. It seems all the love goes to over rated films only because they're so talked about and not actually analysed. This movie has creeped me out more than any other Horror classic ever could now and I'm far from the age I was when I used to be scared those films. Phantasm is highly recommended to surrealist, horror and cult fanatics.
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10/10
I LOVE this movie!
Gafke28 October 2003
Warning: Spoilers
I remember staying up late to watch this movie on TV when I was a kid. It scared the hell out of me. Then, for 15 years, I forgot all about it. Recently, I found a $5 VHS copy in the discount bin of my local drugstore and thought: "What the hell?" That was the best $5 I ever spent.

Phantasm may not make a lot of sense, the story is confusing and seems to have been made up as it went along, but that's kind of the point. It's like watching someone else's fever dream...and that's exactly what it's supposed to be like, because it IS someone else's fever dream. Phantasm is a classic nightmare; totally unpredictable, claustrophobic, paranoid and frightening.

13 year old Michael Baldwin was perfect as the young protagonist, an amazingly refreshing, un-annoying child actor. I was totally convinced by his performance as the lonely teen, desperately chasing after his older brother and displaying just the right amounts of anger, confusion and frustration, yet never giving in to panic even as his world spins out of control. Bill Thornbury as older brother Jody seemed mysteriously detached, yet after repeated viewings, I realized how correct this was in light of the twist ending. He is, indeed, a ghost that Michael simply refuses to give up. Reggie Bannister was completely irresistible as the sweet and gentlemanly Reggie the Ice Cream Man, who manages to remain innocent and lovable even as he suggests ramming a stake through the Tall Mans heart. And the Tall Man, Mr. Angus Scrimm himself...BRRRRR!!! He doesn't have many lines (other than the now-infamous "BOYYYYYYY!") but he doesn't need any. His very presence is chilling, and the scene where he stops dead in the middle of a suburban sidewalk in the middle of the day and turns, ever so slowly, to face Michael through a mist of frost emanating from Reggie's ice cream truck, is more frightening than any murder scene set in the dead of night. And need I mention the flying balls? What an original, ingenious invention!

This is such an amazing blend of sci-fi, horror and fantasy that I really did not care if it didn't make a whole lot of sense. The flying balls, the dwarves, the yellow blood, and THAT FLY IN THE GARBAGE DISPOSAL!!! Wow. If nothing else, you simply have to give this film and its makers credit for originality. After watching my $5 discount bin copy enough times to remember what a GREAT little movie this is, I went right out and bought the special edition DVD. More money very well spent.
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10/10
Iconic and brilliant horror film
vendividiviciousss9 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
As far as horror films go, Phantasm is a film with much on its mind. It is at once an elegiac meditation on life and death, a poignant story of a boy on the verge of manhood, while also serving as a macabre funhouse ride, bouncing recklessly between reality and the dreamworld, offering a robust mythology encompassing alternate dimensions, zombie dwarfs, and, most iconically, flying silver spheres that drill into the brains of their victims.

The story is set in small town America circa the late 1970s, and focuses on two young men, 13-year-old Michael and his older brother Jody, in the wake of the tragic death of their parents. Jody has taken a break from his exciting life as a musician on the road to take care of his little brother, who idolizes Jody to the point of following him around town, in the fear that he will one day abandon him as their parents did. Michael's constant surveillance of his brother leads him to Morningside Cemetery, where Jody attends a friend's funeral, after which, Michael witnesses Morningside's enigmatic undertaker, known only as the Tall Man, scoop up the 200-pound casket in his arms, toss it back into the hearse, and drive off, leaving an empty grave. From there, the film's focus turns to Michael's investigation of Morningside, eventually uncovering the Tall Man's fiendish plot to wipe out the entire town in order to resurrect their corpses as demonic dwarfs and use them as servants in his ever-growing army of the undead.

The loss of liberty, characterized by enslavement and brainwashing, is the central issue in the film. Those unlucky enough to be buried in a Morningside Cemetery plot are dug up by the Tall Man, shrunk down to dwarfs, and resurrected, only to serve for all eternity as the mindless minions under his control, tasked with furthering his reign of terror and harvesting more cadavers for his army of ghouls. It is no coincidence that the Morningside Funeral Home greatly resembles a Southern plantation (the shooting location was the historic Dunsmuir estate in Oakland), just as the Tall Man is dressed impeccably as a Southern gentleman of considerable means, for the character is playing the role of slavemaster, and his dwarfs, gravediggers, and murderous spheres are his slaves.
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1/10
Why is this a classic?
kelson-williams30 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I finally saw Phantasm, a film that is regarded as a classic. I could not for the life of me understand how anyone could love this film so much. The acting is terrible, the story makes no sense at all and there seems to be a complete and total disregard for continuity from start to finish. And imagine my disappointment when I learned that the Tall Man (who was the least frightening horror villain ever) as just making people into dwarfs to be slaves on his home planet. That's the dumbest thing I have ever heard. The special effects are decent and the chrome sphere drilling into that one guys forehead was the only worthwhile thing in the entire movie. Michael Baldwin looks like an ugly little girl with a speech problem and everyone around him (especially the character of Jody) shows about as much emotion as a rock. This is an incredibly disappointing film. Many reviews on here say that once you get past the bad acting, worse script, nonsensical parts, lack of scares,lack of continuity, lack of gore (except for one scene as yellow blood is hardly gore) etc. etc., that it is a true classic, but really, once you get past all that, what's left?
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3/10
Just doesn't make any sense
pmoney1323 October 2001
Phantasm had a lot of potential. The premise is scary: two kids fighting a wicked mortician and his evil drones. Unfortunately this low-budget horror outing (that spawned, incredibly, two more sequels) is way too confusing to be frightening. I watched as characters disappeared for long stretches before reappearing for no good reason. People die then are miraculously alive again in the next scene. Some characters are evil, then good, then evil again. Not to mention it's all directed so that the action zooms along at a brisk pace, not bothering to explain anything. All in all the movie inspires more headaches than fear.

The film focuses on two (uninteresting) kids who investigate weird goings on at the local mortuary, where their deceased friend was just buried. They come upon the Tall Man, an evil fellow who kills people with flying silver spheres and turns corpses into his zombie minions. Most of the film has the Tall Man chasing the younger boy around after the kid learns of his secrets.

As low-budget horror movies go, I've seen far worse. Phantasm is imaginative, if nothing else, and has some memorable scenes (the first appearance of the flying orb is great), but in order to scare people you must have coherency. Phantasm plays like the filmmakers know everything that's going on, but they feel like keeping the viewer in the dark.
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10/10
An underrated 70's horror masterpiece
meathookcinema1 November 2017
I first heard of Phantasm when its sequel came out. Barry Norman reviewed it and admitted that he hadn't even heard of the first film. Neither had I.

Fortunately my sister in law had a friend who had closed down their video business and so gave her a lot of the videos he used to rent out. She lent me two films that could be classed as life- changing. One was The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The other was Phantasm.

The film starts off like standard horror fare- sinister goings on at a small town American mortuary. But then the film starts to get more and more surreal. Its like a lot of the film inhabits a dark dream-like world.

Check out the scene where the lead character goes to see a local seer. Add to that the chase scene in which Michael chops off The Tall Man's fingers and takes one home. This film is most famous for the flying silver spheres within the funeral home. These spheres certainly don't disappoint.

And then there's the soundtrack which fluctuates between gritty analogue synths of doom and funereal organs. I found the soundtrack on CD and within the sale section of a local and long gone record store. One of the best purchases I've ever parted money for.

Angus Scrimm as The Tall Man deserves recognition as one of the scariest and most sinister baddies of all time. Hes unrelenting, otherworldly and the inhabitant of many viewers nightmares.

This film was remastered and released at cinemas across America last year. And it deserved the 4K treatment.

File this film under 'underrated'. Also file it under 'masterpiece'.
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4/10
What's so great about this?
VCRanger18 June 1999
Phantasm is a weak excuse for a horror film. Bad acting, choppy editing, a not so scary meanie and low-grade F/X make this movie a tooth-grinding experience. I just could not wait for the movie to finish. I have not seen the sequels, so I am interested in seeing if they are of higher grade that this piece of manure. Too bad the lead girl (or was that a boy) did not end up on the other side of that weird sphere. A rating of 4 out of 10 was given.
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1/10
Marijuana????
carlos-a-sousa-356 November 2008
What a piece of crap and total waste of time. Can't believe the comments some people made about this movie. Are you all on drugs? This is just one of the most (if not the most) idiotic movies I've seen in my entire life. The script is bad and the acting is worst. There is just nothing good about it. PHANTASM is not even watchable trash.

Some comments made here:

"A 1979 classic, which the new generation may think dated."... I'm 39 and still don't find this to be a classic.

"It grows on you..."...Yeah! I just could not wait for it to end.

"Surreal, Strange and Superb!"...????? Marijuana????

WARNING!! WARNING!!! CRAP ALERT!!! If you are thinking about watching this movie, JUST DON'T!!! Find something better to do with your time.
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1/10
What am I missing?
ShadowDragyn6 May 2008
Maybe I should have seen this when I was a kid. Perhaps viewing it for the first time in the 21st century just doesn't provide the necessary atmosphere to appreciate what this film is about. But for whatever reason, this movie didn't grab my attention at all. It was full of long, and as far as I can tell, pointless shots of people walking, riding bikes, driving cars, or just plain standing around. They were accompanied by spooky noises or music, but they still dragged on for way too long. Maybe that was the late 70's way of building tension, but by the time 20 minutes had gone by, I was so disenfranchised that there was no way I could be apprehensive. And this while watching it in the dead of night alone with the lights off.

I love horror movies, and especially hokey ones like Evil Dead. My wife and friends start groaning whenever I go off on some movie that everyone else thinks is stupid. But this one...it just didn't work for me.
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1/10
What has been going on in the last 90 minutes????
Johnny B6 June 1999
Oh my God! Oh my God! Please someone try to explain to me what sort of crap this is. Everything in this flick shows its ridiculously low budget and its scarce use of art. Here are some of my comments on the so-called "classic tale of terror":

  • the story is impossible to follow: you get people getting killed and reappearing again later, unhurt, while others remain alive throughout and then, toward the end, you get a glimpse of their grave. Apart from that you get people being here and there, not understanding how they got there, how they got in etc.


  • the main character, Mike, seems to be in a desperate need of a speech therapist;


  • no one can really act (except Reggie Bannister)


  • nothing really makes sense, except those spicy brain-chewing flying balls


  • the Tall Man with his continuous, ever-monotonous "Boy!" is more pathetic than scary


One last note, I did not realise when it was time to start getting frightened - it is all so awfully junky. If you get scared to death by this one, (the motto says "If this doesn't scare you, you're already dead!) you've got serious problems. If this is as scary as you can get, then normal everyday life is a farce!
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10/10
The Personification of Fear.
shuklavinash9 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
'Phantasm' has always been close to me, and I don't remember a single week, I lived without it. What make 'Phantasm' different are slow off-the-tone and sometimes absolutely fast nightmarish sequences, that kill the crap out of you. The film is remembered as a cult-classic now, and there is a fairly good reason behind it. After watching this film, you'd feel like you'd just lived a nightmare to the fullest. The 'Tall Man' is one of the most haunting villains one would ever wish to see for real. Don Coscarelli is a great craftsman, who has the ability to get down to the sub-conscious levels and explore the underlying fears of the human mind. It's been more than 30 years now since its release, but it holds a charisma that wouldn't fade with time. This truly is non-degradable.

The film begins with Morningside cemetery, where Tommy is busy making love with a vampiric blonde. Moments later, the scantily clad blonde transforms to a vicious looking old man, The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm). The Tall Man kills Tommy and we soon land at his funeral. Jody (Bill Thornbury) and Reggie (Reggie Bannister) are friends, and members of a band. They are here because Tommy was their friend and a band member. Jody's brother Mike (Michael Baldwin) is prejudiced with a thought that Jody would abandon him in near future. Long back, after the demise of their parents, Mike was looked after by Jody. Mike doesn't want to lose Jody but his fears torment him. He sneakingly follows Jody and Reggie at the funeral and notices something strange at the Morningside. He also gets a glimpse of the unholy undertaker of the cemetery. The Tall Man, takes Tommy's dead body back to his hearse after the attendees leave. Mike wants to find cure for his trauma, and seeks help of a local fortune teller, who asks him to give up his fears regarding Jody. Mike is followed by ghoulish dwarfs, who are after him for no apparent reason, or this is what Mike thinks. Jody disregards Mike's strange story about the Tall Man. Agitated by the belief that his fears are not baseless, Mike heads to the cemetery. There he is chased by the Tall Man and his henchmen, satanic spheres and ugly dwarfs. During the fracas, the Tall Man happens to cut his finger that squirts yellow goo instead of blood. Mike takes the finger along and shows it to Jody as evidence. Jody, Reggie and Mike join hands to finish the Tall Man and his minions. They eventually discover that the Tall Man is an inter-dimensional being, who has a portal to his own scorching and hellish world at the Morningside cemetery. The Tall Man harvests townspeople and enslaves them by transforming them into dwarfs. Everything goes on surreptitiously until our men decide to have their final showdown with the Tall Man.

'Phantasm' is more like a dream than a movie. You must have dreamed something bizarre at least once in your life, and 'Phantasm' is the same eccentric trip to the unknown depths of metaphysics. Don Coscarelli has made use of heavy symbolism to show the nihilistic worth of a matter or incident. The disappearance of money and magic box, gloomy mortuary set-up, silence prevailing inside the mausoleum, the dwarfs and their journey to other dimension and finally the angel of death in disguise, 'The Tall Man' are all symbolic. Mike is a victim of his own fear, the death itself. He believes Jody would leave him someday, but Jody, as Reggie tells Mike, had already died in a car crash. Was Mike unable to accept Jody's death due to inherent attachment with his brother? Did Jody already die before these bizarre incidents? We can't really know and neither could anyone. This freaky ride is enough to create a long lasting terror as 'Phantasm' is more like a doorway between the two worlds. The first world is our own mundane world, which we can see and perceive, while the other world is located in a different dimension, which has its own laws and regulations, but certainly all the otherworldly incidents and beings can neither be understood nor analyzed with rational eyes. 'Phantasm' has been crafted with a non-noetic expertise and we should remember that it all started in our own world. 'Phantasm' qualifies itself to be a perfect cult flick, with one of the greatest atmospheres and vivid representations of death. The 'Phantasm' sequels were loosely aligned with the main story, where the Tall Man has been depicted as an evil force that misuses the powers solely for diabolic purposes. This film offers a great combination of 'Body (Jody, Reggie, and Mike), Mind (The Tall Man is actually the personification of fear and death), and Soul (the dwarfs, who are condemned to the hell forever). Don't even think about missing this film, because this would sure have a great impact on you and would give you a deeper insight about the real horror that always stalks and ambushes life.......The Death! So.....Your Funeral May Begin Anytime Sir!
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10/10
My favorite horror film of all time!
Phantasm019 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Sure, "Phantasm" is about as low budget as you can get, even for a horror film, but the amazing thing about this movie is that a lack of funds did not hurt it at all. In fact, some of the plot holes that a bigger budget would have filled in actually work in the movie's favor. By not really understanding who the Tall Man is or why he does what he does, "Phantasm" assumes enigmatic dimensions that practically beg for explanation through further sequels. Coscarelli, who I think is planning yet another sequel in this franchise, has also made a few other films over the years: the recent "Bubba Ho-tep" and the ubiquitous cable favorite "The Beastmaster" are the most memorable.

Reggie, Jody, and Jody's younger brother Mike soon learn strange things are afoot at the Morningside Funeral Home. After a funeral service for a friend of Reggie and Jody, Mike sees the eerie undertaker at the funeral home heave a three hundred pound casket in the back of a hearse all by himself. Intrigued, Mike begins to investigate the funeral home and this puzzling figure, fondly known to fans of the series as the Tall Man, and unearths a whole heap of weirdness. Before long Jody and Reggie get caught up in the madness of the Tall Man's world. What they discover behind the walls of the funeral home is a nightmare of endless dangers: twisted, angry little creatures clad in robes, a portal to another dimension, and small flying spheres that seek out human flesh with disastrous and bloody results. As the three attempt to put together the odd pieces of this puzzle, the Tall Man and his minions always lurk in the background ready to do serious bodily injury to the interlopers. What Reggie, Mike, and Jody discover is hardly reassuring: the Tall Man is some sort of other dimensional being roaming our world in search of corpses. He then reanimates the bodies and transforms them into stunted little creatures so he can transport them into his dimension. Why does he do this? Who knows, but it is fun watching our three heroes battle the Tall Man in this film and the subsequent sequels.

One of the best elements of "Phantasm" is the characters. You have the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm), a lumbering giant of a man dressed all in black and sporting a perpetual scowl. He delivers his lines, of which there are few in this movie but more in subsequent films, in a growling tone full of dark menace. Scrimm is creepy as the Tall Man, and I think this character may well be one of my favorite horror film bad guys. The actors who play Reggie, Jody, and Mike appear in all of the sequels (with a minor switch in two), an important continuity because it gives the "Phantasm" franchise a real "contained universe" feel lacking in most horror series. It was fun for me to watch the original film after seeing the later sequels because the guys are so much younger here. Jody sports a '70's coif that would do Starsky and Hutch proud, and Reggie looks so young that it is almost frightening.

"Phantasm" films always contain elements that make for a great, downbeat atmosphere. The music is absolutely fantastic, and if I had to compare the background beats of "Phantasm" with the sound of another horror film it would have to be something along the lines of Kubrick's "The Shining." The movie sounds creepy, and when matched with the mostly shot at night scenes and the wickedly gory rampages of those metallic spheres, the whole film takes on a most memorable feel. Coscarelli does not rely solely on gripping horror, however, as there are many humorous scenes throughout the film. The scene where Mike and Jody do battle with the severed finger is one of the funniest I have seen in a horror movie. Even the fake looking bug and the gruesome little minions of the Tall Man are amusing in their own right.

If you want to buy just one DVD because of the extras, you should get Phantasm if you can track down a copy(it's gone OOP now). I couldn't believe how much stuff they packed on one disc! You get lengthy deleted scenes, a commentary with Coscarelli and the film's actors, a long interview with Coscarelli and Angus Scrimm made years ago with some film professor, a short film of an appearance Angus Scrimm made at a horror convention, trailers, a disco version of the theme song (!), poster and lobby card pictures, a kooky promotional ad made by Angus Scrimm for the Australian market, and a widescreen picture transfer. I especially enjoyed the footage of Scrimm speaking at a horror film convention. Even though it was a bit corny, he quickly ran through all of the lines the Tall Man said in the "Phantasm" films, and since most of his dialogue in these movies is so memorable it was great to hear him say them in character. Overall, it felt like it took longer to view all of the extras on this disc than it did to watch the film! If you haven't delved into the dark world of "Phantasm," start here and rapidly move on to the excellent sequels.
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10/10
boy....
kairingler30 July 2008
Firt of all this is a very unique horror movie that Donald Coscarelli has come up with,, i mean imagine,, what happens to you when you go to the mortuary,, hopefully not what happens in the movie,, I'll tell you that... the special effects are awesome,, that flying sphere is classic,, and the noises that it makes are great too,, the music is great in this movie,, you have A. Micheal Baldwin,, Angus Scrimm, and a host of others, that really make this movie great,, but i guess what really sells this movie is the premise,, pretty much unique to itself, that the guy in charge of the mortuary is stealing bodies,, souls,, and shrinking them,, into dwarfs,, and using them as slaves for the netherworld,,The tall man only has 5 lines in the movie,, 28 words all together,, but he is definitely a man to be reckoned with,, this man will scare the heck out of you time and time again,, this is really just a great horror movie,, with a lot of twists and turns,, and great camera work two i might add, steady cam was just starting out ,, specially on this flick, so yeah it's a little on the raw side,, buy hey it's new for the time period... this movie is a classic ,, and should not be missed.
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6/10
Ummm...heh?? :=8/
MooCowMo1 March 2000
Um, ok. Well. Ok, see, there's this tall guy from another dimension, see, and he steals dead bodies from their graves and squishes them down into tiny, black-robed killer dwarves, who sort of bustle about & attack people, but who really are carted off to a distant planet in another dimention where they are forced to work as slaves(kind of like Disneyland...). Oh, and also, there's this shiny metal sphere that flies around and drills into people's heads & shoots out all their blood. And, then tall guy(Angus Scrimm)dies, but he comes back all the time, but sometimes he's a blonde woman in lavender with too much blue eye shadow, and if his fingers get chopped off they spurt yellow goo and turn into large, plastic flies that have to get chummed in the garbage disposal(I do hope yer taking all this down...). Rytalin-deprived Mikey, who can never just stay in his room, follows his brother Jody everywhere, even though he already died but can still sing cheesy 70's am-style guitar rock, and Mikey drives and works on a car and shoots guns, even though he's only 13, and he's just like the hero in "Dune" because he has to conquer his fear, according to the mute, all-powerful gypsy who makes black boxes appear and disappear at will. Mikey is upset because his father is dead, even though is casket is empty, and later it turns out that his father is really an ice cream man, who kind of dies, but then really doesn't, and he can sing cheesy 70's am guitar rock just like Jody, who really died in a car wreck & didn't really make the tall guy fall in a square hole & fill it up with styrofoam boulders. Except, he did, after the tall guy got blown up in a car. By Mikey. In a dream. Sort of. They're coming to take me away, aren't they??? :=8(
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1/10
Don't believe the hype!
zhamilton0517 November 2006
This movie was truly atrocious, one of the worst I have ever seen. The "plot" (if you can call it that) falls short of any aspiration other than to confuse and annoy the viewers. Also, I saw the extended edition--it didn't add to my appreciation of this movie at all. I have read some reviews hailing this as a horror masterpiece. No, the horror masterpiece of 1979 was "Alien." "Phantasm" was merely a lame attempt to provide cheap thrills with a bizarre plot, unnecessary nudity, and one scene of fake gore. My brothers and I sat down to watch this, having heard that it was one of the best older horror movies ever. Instead, we found a film so horrible that we couldn't even laugh at it. Pretentious, confusing, and a downright waste of 92 minutes of my life I can never get back, my caution to you is STAY AWAY from "Phantasm."
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1/10
Nothing but trash...
rainking_es9 August 2006
Sometimes you decide to watch a movie because it's become so popular, you've read a lot a bout it, there's even people who buys merchandising from it, etc. That's why I watched "Phantasm", they always mention that movie in articles about horror cinema so I thought it might be an entertaining product. Now I wonder: why is "Phantasm" so popular? Dis I miss something? 'Causa as far as I can see it's totally boring, there aren't even any usual easy frights. Everyghing looks so forced and ridiculous in "Phantasm". After the first 15 minutes you're already loo0king forward to take the DVD out of the player... AND THEY DARE TO MAKE SOME SEQUELS!!! Jeeeeesus!

Pure trash. Don't waste neither your time nor your money on this.

*My rate: 0/10
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