Februrary 19, 2013
Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury, and Angus Scrimm
You write a good entry, boy
Okay now Phantasm is an interesting little movie.
It is one
of those movies that has a ton of diehard fans who will defend it to
the death, yet among the general populace it isn't really all that well
known. It came out right in the middle of the late
80's horror boom, which is what some people call the golden
age of modern
horror movies, yet it never really crossed over into the mainstream
like Friday the 13th or A Nightmare on Elm Street. And every
I watch it I waffle between whether it should have been a bigger movie
than it was, or if America got it right and it is exactly as well known
as it deserved.
I actually have a funny story about my experience with Phantasm.
was one of those kids who grew up in the 80's and the only section of
the video store I ever hung out in was the horror movie section.
My family would walk into a Blockbuster Video store to pick
movie for the weekend, and my parents would go right to the drama
brother would go right to the comedy section, and I would make a
directly for the horror section. I have no idea why, that was
just the only section in the store that really fascinated me.
Which was silly,
because when you are seven years old obviously your parents aren't
going to rent a movie for family night called "The Driller Killer" or
"I Feast On Your Flesh."
But hey, seven year olds are the
ultimate optimists. For years I lived under the impression
I would one day see every single one of these movies in these scary
looking boxes. And for the most part, I actually
It just didn't happen during family night.
And here is where we come to my Phantasm experience.
1987 I was at a drive-in movie with my parents, and a preview came on
the screen for a new horror movie. It looked
Corpses! Flying steel balls! Zombies!
having their brains sucked out with a drill! A big scary tall
walking around a mortuary! Hey, awesome! My
course, couldn't have cared less but I was intrigued by this new movie
that was coming out in theaters. It looked like the type of
that would be right up my alley.
And then the title flashed up on the screen: PHANTASM 2.
I was like, um how can there be a Phantasm 2 if I have never heard of a
I went back to Blockbuster the next day and I
walked through the horror section to see what Phantasm 1 was.
our Blockbuster didn't have it. Weird. How can a
a sequel if the original wasn't even popular enough to be at the video
I went to other video stores and nobody else had Phantasm
either. And by now it had become a bit of a quest.
had to find out what Phantasm was. Because remember, there was no such
thing as the internet in 1987. I couldn't just look this shit
If you wanted to know what a movie was, you had to ask
who had seen it, or you had to find a copy of it yourself in a video
store. And if you know anything about Phantasm, well
will know there is a pretty good chance that my parents didn't see it
theater. So I was kind of off on my own here.
By the way, don't look up
didn't wind up seeing Phantasm for years. But I always knew
it. It was one of those movies that just kind of stuck in my
for about a decade. Because I always thought it was odd that
would have a sequel to a movie that wasn't really even all that
Let alone a movie that nobody my age had ever heard of.
Again, remember, this was 1987, sequels were still kind of a
thing back then. Every other movie wasn't a part of a
like they are now. Back then you had to be a pretty big deal
even be considered for a sequel. You basically had to be a
Bond movie or a Rocky movie.
An obscure little horror movie that
wasn't all that big a deal in 1979? And now somebody suddenly
pulls a sequel for it out of their butt eight years later, in 1987?
Things like that really didn't happen back then.
What I guess I am saying here is that I didn't grow up with Phantasm.
I am too young to have seen it in theater, and it was never a
part of my life as a kid other than "hey I heard they made a sequel to
it!" I didn't see it at all until I was in my 20's.
when I saw it for the first time I immediately understood why people
would have liked it. And I immediately understood why it
warranted a sequel. It might not be the best movie in the
and it might not be the scariest movie in the world. But it
is a fun one. And it sure is a, uh, unique one.
Phantasm is the king of the WTF movies
Phantasm is the story of two brothers, Jody and
Mike. They live by themselves because their parents have
died. And one day they notice that some odd things are going
on down at the nearby
They can't quite put their finger on what is
going on over there, but one of the guys that they know died last week.
And Mike (the younger brother) noticed that some weird shit
going on after the funeral.
In particular, there was this really weird looking tall man who was
walking around carrying a 600 pound casket with one hand.
doesn't really know what this means. But he sees the Tall Man
walking around acting strange, and he decides to investigate.
Mike and Jody
if there is one thing you should know if you have watched horror
movies, it is don't go visit the creepy old mortuary at night.
is one of those movies that is nearly impossible to describe to
somebody who has never seen it before. Because it isn't
horror movie. And it isn't really a science fiction movie.
Hell, it is barely even a theater movie. It is more
a bunch of college kids who raised 300k and who decided to find out how
movie cameras work. To say that the budget is low on this
is almost an insult to movies with actual budgets. Phantasm
fun, but it is really about a half step higher than a film class
project. In particular, the acting is atrocious. At
Phantasm is like watching a Tobias Funke audition video.
We're having a fire!.... sale
Phantasm is an odd little quirky movie
from the late 70's that doesn't make any sense. Nothing in
movie makes sense. Nothing in this movie even comes remotely
CLOSE to making sense. At certain points in the film the
Coscarelli) thinks he is making a horror movie, at other times he seems
to think he is making a sci fi. And then at other times he
to think he is making a gripping family drama. It just sort
bounces back and forth between genres.
The acting is non
existent, there is no budget whatsoever, and it stars a bunch of people
you have never heard of. Oh, and the special effects are
laughable. In short, there is no reason on paper that you
ever watch this movie.
Well, except for one.
don't know how Don Coscarelli pulled it off, but despite all these
flaws, despite the fact that this movie has nothing going in its favor,
and everything going against it, despite the fact that it has no budget
whatsoever, it just kind of works.
I don't know how it works. But it does. That's the
best way I can describe it.
It is a dumb little horror movie that doesn't make any sense.
But it just kind of works.
is one of those movies that I have been fascinated with over the years.
I love reading about it, and I particularly love reading
of what people thought about it when it originally came out.
like I said at the start of my review, there are people out there who
REALLY love Phantasm. I have seen people who will defend this
movie as passionately as you will see Star Wars fans defend The Empire
Strikes Back. There is a hardcore (if still somewhat small)
base of Phantasm fans
out there who not only made this movie a semi big hit when it first
came out in 1979, but they kept its memory alive so long that they
actually talked the studio into producing a sequel nearly a decade
later. And then there was another sequel. And then
was a third sequel.
Yes, Phantasm is that quirky little movie that was never a big hit,
yet for some inexplicable reason it produced three sequels.
haven't seen most of them, so I can't tell you if they are any good or
not (I am guessing they aren't). But hey, for a
quirky homemade horror movie made on a 300k budget to produce
more than one sequel, well pretty much only a diehard
passionate fan base could be the explanation for something like that.
And you kind of have to respect that.
Welcome to Phantasm World
have seen Phantasm a bunch of times over the years, and while I would
not agree with its supporters that it is one of the best horror movies
it is still a movie that I will always recommend to people. I
recommend it because it is fun. And I will recommend it
it is creepy. Don Coscarelli might not be the best dialogue
writer I have ever seen in my life, and his storylines sure don't make
sense most of the time, but the man sure could do
atmosphere. In fact I would say that the atmosphere in
is right up there with the atmosphere in Halloween. The
those kids set foot in that mortuary the whole movie is just odd
and atmospheric and creepy and weird.
of course I will always recommend this movie because of Angus Scrimm as
The Tall Man. I mean, just take one look
at him and you will understand. The Tall Man became an
movie icon for a reason.
Phantasm one of the best horror movies of all time? Should it
ranked up there with the Halloweens and the Night of the Living Deads
and the Nightmare on Elm Streets? If you ask me, I
would say no. I mean it is good but it is not THAT good.
But at the same time there are a lot of horror movies that
are not as
good as Halloween that I would still recommend anyway, and this is
definitely one of them.
nothing else, you should see Phantasm because it was a very
influential horror movie. And because it still has a bunch of
diehard fans out there. And because it was apparently the
talk of teenagers in America when it originally came out in 1979.
From what I have read about it, Phantasm was
apparently the Wayne's World of its day. It was the
movie that nobody over the age of 25 gave two shits about, but
apparently all the teenagers couldn't get enough of.
And yes, the movie is still pretty powerful. It still holds
up pretty well. Even if, yes I will admit it, the fly in the
drain scene looks downright laughable now.
Worst. Grandpa. Ever.
I said before, Phantasm shouldn't work, but it does. I have
idea how it works, I have no idea how -these- people in -this- movie
-these- effects turns out to be watchable, but it just kinda is.
And if you watch it enough times, it is one of those movies
that actually starts to grow on you. I can honestly say that
even though I
didn't grow up with Phantasm, I have seen it enough times by now that
it feels like I did. This is one of those movies that I
take it personally when people talk shit about it. Which
actually happens a lot, if you read through the IMDB.
Jody, I hope it never stops being the 70's.
Phantasm a masterpiece? Is it one of the greatest horror
all time? Not even close. But I enjoy it just for
that it exists. There aren't enough original, weird,
atmospheric, quirky movies in the world. And there
especially aren't enough original, weird, atmospheric, quirky movies in
the world that somehow
found a way to weasel out a bunch of sequels. So for that
and that reason alone you should at least know what Phantasm is.
movie has this many devoted fans in the world there is generally a
reason for it.
my opinion there are three reasons why everyone should appreciate
Phantasm. You should appreciate it because of the music
awesome), you should appreciate it because of the atmosphere (which
again, is awesome), and you should appreciate it because of The Tall
Man. Who is quite simply one of the greatest horror movie
all time. Oh and you should appreciate it for the flying
silver ball to the head.
Anything else? Well don't expect too much.
But still, those first four things Phantasm does REALLY well, and you
can't say that about very many horror movies.
If you know what to expect going into it, Phantasm is a really cool
Next time, duck.
By the way, here is one of my favorite movie theme songs of
all time. Here is the regular
version of the Phantasm theme (which is awesome), and here is
version of the Phantasm theme (which is even better). The
disco version was actually released
on limited edition vinyl back in 1979. I love the disco
version so much
that I actually play it for trick or treaters every Halloween.
I blast it so loud that you can hear it up and down our
neighborhood every October 31st.
favorite IMDB user reviews about Phantasm:
A Creepy Little Dream...
Or Is It? - 19 April 2011
decade or so, the horror genre gets re-defined by an iconic movie. In
the 30s, it was Universal with their classics. In the 50s, it was giant
animals and atomic-age monsters. In 1960, it was PSYCHO. In 1968, it
was NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. in the 70s, audiences witnessed the rise
of wild and unhinged directors with equally unhinged movies: "Texas
Chainsaw Massacre", HALLOWEEN, DAWN OF THE DEAD, SUSPIRIA and ZOMBIE
all terrorized audiences in their own ways. Near the end of the 70s,
along came this little movie made on a shoestring budget about two
brothers dealing with a mysterious mortuary. At the very beginning of
the movie, we're given what appears to be a gratuitous sex scene. But
at the end of it, we realize something more sinister is going on. From
that point on, anything could happen, and a lot does. The plot makes
virtually no sense (as other critics have noted) and that's kind of the
point. Just look at the title: PHANTASM means "dream" or "nightmare."
And the best way to view this movie is through the logic of a
nightmare. Sure it makes sense while you're asleep. But upon waking up,
it seems absurd. The appearance of the Tall Man is a truly unsettling
moment, as are numerous others. The most famous of which involves a
flying silver ball. Imagination brims all over the place, which is one
of the benefits of a small independent production: It dares to risk
trying new things. Watch this movie and be prepared for a thrill ride
through a nightmare world!
the most proudly
incomprehensible film ever made - 13 March 2000
movie takes the prize for boldly spitting in the face of such old
standbys as plot, structure, character development, narrative arc,
tone, reason, common sense, temporal cohesiveness, and logic more
effectively and with more glee than any other film ever made. the story
elements (namely, a funeral home, a tall man, a silver ball with a
drill on it, a killer housefly, a musclecar, an ice cream man, killer
jawas, and a tuning fork) are not really combined so much as stuffed
into 88 minutes, and the scariest thing about the movie is that this
stream-of-consciousness approach to horror filmmaking actually works. a
creepy location, some genuinely startling imagery (the funeral home
interior shots are downright kubrickian), and a lack of any
exposition/explanation keep you wondering what in god's name is going
on until the last frame. hats off to writer/director don coscarelli for
pulling it off -- it's a great time.
Nightmarish dream logic
and some powerful, gruesome images make it better than it should be -
26 June 2005
seems to be a case in which the relative paucity of the budget worked
for the film instead of against it. The director was forced to keep
things pretty lean and focused instead of indulging in a lot of fancy
flourishes and details, so he didn't waste any screen time or film with
stuff that wouldn't help tell his story.
Admittedly, the plot
is so thin, and the room the budget leaves the director to work is so
spare, that often the movie drags, or simply wastes air time. The body
count and SFX occurrences are spread quite thin, as horror movies go,
in fact...I remember maybe five deaths and a maximum of three-to-four
minutes of actual special effects.
But what the movie DOES
have going for it is: atmosphere. Almost from the beginning, "Phantasm"
does a great job of instilling dread and anxiety into the viewer. The
setting of the plot, a small, isolated town, with weird goings on at
the local mortuary, is guaranteed to unsettle even the most
matter-of-fact, unimaginative viewer after a while. And because the
plot and crisis events are so thin, when something awful DOES happen on
screen, there is very little to muffle or diminish the impact of what
you just saw as the movie goes on.
Years after I first saw
"Phantasm" as a young man, four major images still stuck with me: the
"Tall Man" leering at the camera, oozing menace from every pore; the
Sphere burrowing into the henchman's forehead and spewing his brains
out the back; the dismembered finger leaking yellow fluid all over and
turning into an insect; and the hellish vision of the alternate
dimension beyond the twin pillars which the hero sees before his friend
manages to yank him back.
That's pretty good shooting for a
low budget film from the 70s. If I were the director, I would be proud
to be known for this movie.
Not for the faint of heart or the
squeamish, and not for the SFX junkies who cut their teeth and had
their expectations molded by multi-million dollar extravaganzas like
the Dark Castle remakes ("13 Ghosts", "Ghost Ship" "THe House On
Haunted Hill". etc). If you have some patience, and can accept the
movie on its own terms, "Phantasm" will make you squirm.
A masterpiece of the
creepy and bizarre - 2 June 2008
the end of the 1970s horror was in an interesting trend. A lot of genre
films featured a supernatural angle. Films like 'Carrie' and 'Suspiria'
took viewers into a world where power was the ultimate dark force.
Another one of the best examples of this is Don Coscarelli's
'Phantasm,' a low budget late 70s horror/fantasy film that's impossible
to forget once you've seen it. It's one of those films that plays with
your imagination rather than shows you blood, guts, and big ugly
monsters. It's like one big, long, surreal and terrifying nightmare.
A fairly original concept. Good performances from a very likable cast.
A somewhat dated, but still very effectively eerie musical score. Some
really nightmarish images. The Tall Man is one of the creepiest
villains ever thought up. Predictable this film is not. The film has a
really sinister feel about it, especially in the night scenes.
Well-paced. A great set-up for number 2.
Cons: Doesn't make a lot of sense. One really cheap effect involving a
thoughts: Your brain may hurt a little after watching this strange
film, but in this case that's not really a bad thing. It's nice to see
some filmmakers try new and interesting things in the genre instead of
just churning out the same crap a lot of others are doing. Watch this
one alone with the lights off and see if you can sleep afterwards.
30 years later and still
rockin' - 6 January 2009
I saw this movie in 1979. I was 13 at the time, just like Mike in the
movie. Well, I liked it a lot. I found it superb, flawless, scary, and
I could go on and on. But I was 13 years old.
I never saw
"Phantasm" again, not even a segment on TV, never. Today, 30 years
later, I watched it again with my wife. Scared? Sure I was scared.
Scared to discover that the perfect movie that I still remembered from
my skate and moped days was - in reality - a very mediocre film, with
low budget, bad acting and embarrassing special effects.
wrong. Definitely wrong. I liked it again, and this time I appreciated
things that I couldn't notice when I first saw it, like the ingenious
use of light, cut scenes and flashbacks (or forward?). The acting is
not superb, but it doesn't matter. Effects are a little too-low budget,
but again it doesn't matter. What's really important is the atmosphere
that Coscarelli creates, full of dark forebodings yet very normal.
Fantastic. It was a pleasure to hear the first notes of its
"Carpenterish" score, and to see the Tall Man again. As the movie went
on, I remembered every scene, it was just like tasting a cake little by
They don't make movies like this anymore. My advice? Highly
B-shlock horror classic mania. - 25 October 2008
is a much-revered horror classic, and it's easy to see why. It's
supernatural, it's edgy and it's also very dark and grainy, both in
picture quality and mood! What they don't tell you is how this movie
basically comes off as a long, elaborate crack fantasy, filled with
bright lights, magic and...well, yellow mustard blood. But it is pretty
creepy at times, with decent performances from all the actors for their
respective genre and some very good atmospheric moments, like pretty
much every time you see the Tall Man.
And speaking of Angus
Scrimm, he is damned creepy here. Seriously, you would be running and
screaming too if you saw this guy running after you. That's right,
running. He puts the typical laughable horror stereotype of walking
serial killers catching their sprinting victims down with ease. Great
Phantasm doesn't make much sense, and it is pretty
thin at times in terms of plot, but it is a fun watch, and essential if
you're a B-horror fan. Get this one this Halloween, and make sure to
keep the lights on...
Whoa - 20 November 2007
play a good game, boy...but the game is finished. Now you die!" Sports
the #2 scariest ending ever. Terrible acting, an original story, great
lines, superb music, and some really messed up other stuff like evil
dwarfs, an insanely tall mortician, a flying metal ball that performs
lobotomies, and a huge fly make this an 8/10 for me.
I find myself laughing (mainly at the lead's acting and its dated
look), and sometimes I find myself genuinely creeped out. It's also
totally original and inventive. Loved it. I wish there were more movies
favorite trivia about Phantasm:
* The film was originally rated X by the MPAA (on four different
occasions) because of the silver
sphere sequence involving a man urinating on the floor after falling
down dead. After Los Angeles Times film critic Charles Champlin made a
telephone call in a favor to a friend on the board, the rating was
changed from the (commercially non-viable) X-rating to R. Champlin's
positive review was quoted on the film's promotional posters.
Coscarelli rented all of the filming equipment used to make this movie,
always on Fridays so he could use it all weekend and return it on
Mondays, all the while only actually having to pay one day's rental on
* The iconic bed nightmare sequence was number 25 on the cable channel
Bravo's list of the "100 Scariest Movie Moments".
The mansion used for the exterior shots of the mausoleum was also seen
in the James Bond film A View to a Kill and also the 1976 horror film
* The dwarves were played by children.
The "ball" scenes were simple special effects. The sphere was being
guided around a corner by a fishing line. The sphere was thrown from
behind the camera by a baseball pitcher and then the shot was printed
in reverse. The ball attaching itself to the man's head was filmed by
sticking it on his head, then pulling it off, and printing the shot in
* The genesis of the story came to Don
Coscarelli in a dream. One night, being in his late teens, he dreamed
of fleeing down endlessly long marble corridors, pursued by a chrome
sphere intent on penetrating his skull with a wicked needle. There was
also a quite futuristic "sphere dispenser" out of which the orbs would
emerge and begin chase.
* Don Coscarelli got the idea of The
Tall Man's living severed finger while drinking from a styrofoam cup.
He punched his finger through the bottom and started moving it. He
loved the visual effect of it and decided to include it in the story.
Although being very tall, standing at 6 feet 4 inches, Angus Scrimm
wore suits several sizes smaller and boots with lifts inside that added
3 inches to his height.
Co-Producer Paul Pepperman approached Angus Scrimm at a sneak preview
of Kenny & Company and told him that Don Coscarelli had written
role for him in his next production. When informed that he would be
playing an alien, Scrimm became very excited and immediately asked to
know what country his character would hail from. Pepperman said: "He's
not from another country, he's from another world."
are several references to Frank Herbert's Dune, including a bar named
"Dune" and a scene where Mike is forced to insert his hand into a black
box that inflicts pain as part of a test.
The title was changed to "The Never Dead" for Australian audiences as
to confuse it with the popular Aussie sex comedy World of Sexual
Fantasy, which was also known as Fantasma.
favorite scene in Phantasm:
Everyone talks about the flying silver ball scene, but I am a big
fan of the opening shots when Mike is exploring the mortuary.
That is just creepy. I have never walked around in
mortuary before and not thought of Phantasm.
at the IMDB
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