Director Don Coscarelliís horror vision spans two decades, with
Phantasm in 1979, Phantasm II in 1988, Phantasm III: Lord
of the Dead in 1994 and Phantasm IV: Oblivion in 1998. Itís
quite an achievement of persistence and determination, regardless of
what you may say about the quality of the final product.
one, the series has a very curious time-capsule quality, in which we see
the various details of the years each film was shot it. We also see how
the main characters/actors age, more or less gracefully. But who are
they? Thereís Mike (played by A Michael Baldwin in all but the second
film, where James LeGros steps in), a young teen whose parents were
recently killed and is being raised by his brother Jody (Bill
Thornbury). Helping Mike through the years and on the road is former
icecream vendor and muscle-car driver Reggie (Reggie Bannister), with
his iconic four-barrel shot-gun and balding ponytail.
mainly Mike and Reggie who trawl a desolate, intimidating and dying
inland USA in search of the eerie and superbly-executed figure of evil,
the Tall Man. Angus Scrimm brings us the walking dead with a sterile
unearthliness reminiscent of Max Schreck in Nosferatu, and thatís
quite an achievement. The Tall Man is an undertaker who tours small
towns and drains them of life, finding an ingenious use for the bodies
(and minds) of the formerly deceased.
pointless to review the films individually, much like it would be
pointless to watch just one, then stop. As a whole, Phantasm
works, and works well. Itís got the rough, low-budget schlock so
endearing (it came at the tail end of the 1970s) yet so lacking in many
newer films. Thereís a definite evil and the good guysí pursuit of it,
plus lots of gore (the flying spheres are infamous and really sneak
up on you!) and suspense.
liked the humorous jibes, either incidentalólike the cremated ash tagged
as Sam Raimióor enduringóReggieís horns are always cut in the most
imaginative way. Itís interesting that given the vast time-span the
productions cover, continuity is largely credible. There is also a lot
of beautiful gothic photography and you realise how timeless mortuaries
can seem, with their tall, marbled silent solitude.
all a bit trippy, with dimension-crossing and shape-warping, so I advise
you not to take it too seriously. I had never heard or seen much of the
films, so they were a very welcome revelation. I am sure to fanboys and
girls, there is nothing new in what I write. For everyone else who has
ever flirted with the horror genre, this is a must! You will most likely
love or possibly hate it, but itís hard to stay indifferent about
Phantasm. Thereís also a nice pay-off at the endósomething to do
with the wind and related to the box young Mike sticks his trembling
hand into in the first film. I am quite excited to hear rumours of a
possible fifth instalment, featuring the characters in some capacity.
bit of a downer that the discs have virtually no special features. A
commentary from the filmmaker or actors would have been very
interesting. The audiovisual transfer is not the cleanest around either.
Even so, entertainment aplenty.