Let’s get weird.

Phantasm

I started this blog with a brief review of all the Phantasm films. I figure now is a good time to circle back and give these the treatment they deserve. We also have another Don Coscarelli film (he did Beastmaster, too), so I guess we have a theme going.

This is one of the few films that I think can both be considered (unironically) a horror masterpiece as well as being seen as a slapdash mess. I suppose the real question is: can these two ideas exist together? Sure?

We follow Jody (Bill Thornbury) as he emotionlessly deals with the passing of a friend. He wants to get out of town and ditch his little brother Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) even though their parents recently died. Mike is convinced the undertaker (called the tall man played devilishly by Angus Scrimm) is up to no good. They enlist the help of their friend Reggie (Reggie Bannister, who really carries the series) and begin investigating.

At least, that is what the overarching plot is. We end up with surreal and dreamlike sequences that don’t match up to a threaded story. The feeling of the film is unique, and it is a near miracle it is able to pull it off without being annoying (though I do imagine some people find it boring). There is a level of hypnosis here that will draw you in or you’ll hate it.

Stilted acted, odd pacing, improvised dialogue, and a bizarre presentation aren’t the normal ingredients for a good movie. Numerous others have tried to mimic this feel, and most have failed. This film is so damn weird because you can objectively see the flaws, but it still works.

An interesting side of this movie is the academic discourse surrounding it. I don’t like to get all highbrow critic too often here (feels too much like my actual job), but you can see the film as the psychological process of grief and death a young boy would go through. The fantastical and illogical steps begin to make sense if we accept this thesis. Alternatively, (and this is my reading), this story is about how we desperately want to seek meaning and purpose in our banal daily lives. We want to be the heroes, to have purpose, and to believe that there is a mover behind the evil in the world. The series is a childish fantasy, but it is a fantasy that allows for us to process reality.

I think this is a love it or hate it film for everyone. Right now, it is on Prime. Give it a go if you want a dreamy horror film that hits a lot of the right notes. Also, it has the best ponytail ever.

3 thoughts on “Phantasm (1979) Film Review

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