31 Days of Halloween – Day 11 – Phantasm
Phantasm (1979) is a cult film with a huge fan following, which accounts for the numerous sequels, but the original still has flaws, great moments, and total weirdness. So basically, it’s the kind of movie I like. More total weirdness please. Phantasm is creative and made by horror fans, so it shows.
The disjointed nature of Phantasm earned it only 1 1/2 stars from Roger Ebert. He said it felt like a string of different scenes all thrown together. I don’t think I agree with him this time. Not fully, anyway. The whole thing does have a dream-like quality, but I think that quality helps it, not hurts it.
The way Phantasm is centered around the young main character Mike is awesome. In a way, the movie is an allegory for his struggles and his pain, after the deaths of his parents. All of Mike’s fears can be seen somewhere in the movie and his struggles with death parallel his attempts to convince his brother Jody to believe him about a weird cemetery. Bill Thornbury plays Jody and he also does a pretty good job. The relationship between Mike and Jody is a key focus of the movie, and the ending makes the argument that Mike’s pain extends to his brother too.
The Tall Man is a unique figure, and operates like a supernatural figure with no fear, maybe a little like Pinhead, except he doesn’t speak much. Angus Scrimm plays The Tall Man, and he does a good job being strange, but he also contributes a lot of villainy to the picture. In the allegory about Mike’s pain and loss, The Tall Man represents death.
Phantasm was made on a very, very low budget, and has the same sort of gritty flavor that you can also find in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Hills Have Eyes. Characters in Phantasm feel real and share a lot of good moments together. None of the characters would fit very well into the cookie-cutter horror movies of today. In one scene, Reggie sits on the porch and plays the guitar with his pals. Even when they’re goofy or afraid, the characterization works.
Mike does eventually get Jody and Mike on his side, which is a good progression for the development of this movie. It might also represent Mike’s growth as a person too. Mike is played by Michael Baldwin, and some of the best parts of the movie are when Mike is exploring the weird cemetery and struggling to avoid trouble.
In all, this movie has a creepy vibe kinda like Halloween or Hellraiser, but has a more understated pace, punctuated by scenes of sudden horror. Mike’s experiences are mostly a dream, but they’re really not. Kinda confusing, I know. The plot is also confusing to understand, same as the tone. The Tall Man is collecting dead bodies for some odd reason and has these weird dwarves doing all his dirty-work. It doesn’t really matter what is going on, because Mike’s supernatural adventure is like Alice’s adventure into Wonderland. Except there’s more blood. And midgets.
31. Poltergeist (1982) vs Poltergeist (2015)
30. Blair Witch Project (1999)
29. Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
28. The Wicker Man (1973) and The Wicker Man Remake
27. Tales from the Darkside, the Movie (1990)
26. Saw (2004)
25. The Prophecy (1995)
24. The Hills have Eyes (1977)
23. House of the Long Shadows (1983)
22. Creepshow (1982)
21. Phantasm (1979)
20. The Omen (1976) vs Damien: The Omen II
19. We Are Still Here (2015)
18. The Guest (2010)
17. Return of the Living Dead (1985)
15. The House that Dripped Blood (1971)
14. Army of Darkness (1992)
13. In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
12. Friday the 13th Part III
11. Theater of Blood (1973)
10. House of Wax (1953) vs House of Wax (2005)
9. Hellraiser Inferno (2000)
8. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
7. The Changeling (1980)
6. The Eye (2002)
5. The Hitcher (1986)
4. Paranormal Activity (2007)
3. 28 Days Later (2003)
2. Suspiria (1977)
1. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – This review will be published October 31st!