Horror Movie Review: Phantasm (1979)

Have you heard of the Tall Man? Chances are that even if you’ve never seen any of the Phantasm movies you’ll have heard about this villain. One of the most iconic figures in horror that isn’t part of the popular club that include the likes of Freddy, Jason, Pinhead & Leatherface.

His role in the Phantasm series is incredibly memorable & it all started back in 1979. Directed, written, photographed, co-produced, and edited by Don Coscarelli, the movie & the series overall has deservedly become a cult classic.

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Since the death of their parents, Jody (Bill Thornbury) has raised his 13-year-old brother, Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) in a quiet country town that is suddenly rocked by death. After witnessing a tall man (Angus Scrimm), the local undertaker, do something impossible Mike begins to believe that he is responsible. Naturally Jody doesn’t believe Mike, nor does their mutual friend, Reggie (Reggie Bannister) but after a run in with the Tall Man, they realise he has to be stopped.

Just why is he here & what is he doing with the bodies of the dead?

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Surprisingly light on gore (only one scene involves the infamous silver balls) Phantasm instead tells a story that is both fantastical & terrifying. The hook of this movie is the mystery behind the Tall Man & his minions who are admittedly pretty silly. Played to perfection by Angus Scrimm, who exudes threat & wonder.

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You will want to know where he came from & what his goal is. There won’t be a single person without a big smile on their face the first time he says “boy” in his deep & booming voice.

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The characters are ones we’ve seen thousands of times in horror but thanks to excellent acting all round they stand out for all the right reasons. The trio of heroes; Mike, Jody & Reggie are all really likeable with even the comic relief side of things (Reggie) being quite endearing.

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What really makes Phantasm a memorable watch though is the surrealism of the movie, the dream like state it exists in & what that means for imaginative visuals. It’s looking its age (it is 38 years old now) but it still holds up extremely well. It has an element of a ghost story dreamed up by a child who has been scared by death & the process around it.

A fantastic watch & the starting point in a series that never stops giving damn good results.

Phantasm
  • 8/10
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