Phantasm (1979)


Phantasm: B

My Dear Reader, I insist before we delve into this review – which I pen most compulsively in the shadows using my very lifeblood for ink – that you consider the inevitable Hasty Critic who will speak ill of this underappreciated film. I draw his attention first to the curious genesis of this film. Did you know that the very director, in his mere twenty-second year of existence, undertook the arduous task of filming, editing, and raising the entirety of the budget for Phantasm? To the Hasty Critic, I say this: Let this fact resonate within your mind before hurling disdain upon this bewildering film. I say then to the Hasty Critic: Pray tell of your most impressive exploits at the age of twenty-two, friend! I’d wager you were engrossed in frivolous pursuits, perhaps languishing in the subterranean basement region of your mother’s wretched abode, indulging in the trivial and empty pastime of Nintendo whilst awaiting the warming of thy gooey Pizza Rolls from a pathetic “micro-wave!” 

The Hasty Critic, stricken dumb by the sheer force of raw truth, will undoubtedly see the acceptable course lies in lending their more considerate and methodical gaze to this film. The tale unravels amidst a small and forsaken town, where innocent youths explore the truth that lurks beneath the visage of their local undertaker. An alien creature from an ethereal dimension, he toils with corpses, resurrecting them as compacted slaves destined to be transported to his sinister homeworld. In a fleeting glimpse, we witness this horde of slaves, akin to otherworldly Jawas, dragging blocks across a crimson wasteland.

The undertaker, or “The Tall Man,” is a formidable figure armed with mysterious powers and unearthly fortifications. A flying orb of stainless steel, equipped with a menacing drill, punctures skulls at his behest. He commands an army of reanimated corpses, adhering to his every whim. Ah, but the Tall Man possesses more peculiarities to fuel the imagination! He has a unique talent that I find most intriguing: He boasts the ability to shapeshift, assuming the guise of a seductive blonde temptress with ample bosom. His victims, ensnared in his tantalizing web as the counterfeit minx, experience ecstasy in his embrace, only to meet their sudden demise amidst the haze of post-coital exhaustion. Here, the Critic and I may share a brief moment of camaraderie, recoiling together in mutual disgust!

One of the valiant young townsfolk challenges the Tall Man’s ghastly enterprise, aided by a charming severed finger that maintains a semblance of animation and free will. Together with his elder brother, they embark upon a relentless crusade against this towering menace. The resulting battle dances between the realms of absurdity and familiarity, somewhere betwixt the outlandish antics of The Lost Boys and the measured but endearing eccentricity of Monster Squad. We are treated to various spectacles of gore, a frenzied car chase fraught with the crackling of most delightful gunfire, and quite a good many sustained scenes focusing simply on the Tall Man’s predilection for brisk walks and perpetual scowls. 

Yet, I caution thee, dear reader, for this conflict between the intrepid youths and the formidable Tall Man unfolds at a languid pace. Ah, see now how the Hasty Critic regains his footing, newly emboldened by this slight deficiency in the otherwise amusing gorefest! The shape of this movie, intricately constructed with extended and rather disjointed dream sequences, admittedly tests one’s patience and fortitude at times. Though the grand ambition and savage artistry on display may be commended, the fractured trajectory of the plot, incessantly interrupted, emerges as its most grievous flaw. 

Nevertheless, I dare proclaim this film worthy of your precious time. It stands as a testament to a pre-found-footage era of horror cinema, where modest resources and a likewise modest cast triumphantly birthed a macabre creation that lingers in the annals of success… and my very nightmares!