Phantasm (1979)


Phantasm: B

Did you know that guy who directed this movie also filmed it, edited it, and raised all the money for the budget… when he was 22? Think about that before you criticize this film. I mean, what were you doing when you were 22, besides playing Nintendo at your mom’s house while you were waiting for the Pizza Rolls to warm up in the microwave?

This movie is about some small-town kids who figure out that the local undertaker is an alien from another dimension who harvests corpses which he reanimates as truncated slaves to be shipped off to his homeworld as slave labor. You get to see the slave labor for a second and it looks fucking stupid; the slaves look like Jawas dragging a bunch of blocks around this red tundra.

The undertaker, a tall man known as The Tall Man, has an arsenal of alien powers and protections at his disposal including a flying stainless steel ball that drills holes in skulls, an army of reanimated corpses, a healing factor that allows him to regenerate limbs, and the ability to shapeshift. He looks spooky; he is an old guy who looks really German and he wears a too-small suit and platform lifts so he looks like a lanky, but efficient, killing machine.

Let’s talk about the shapeshifting for a second because I find this interesting: The Tall Man can use his powers to turn into a gorgeous blonde chick with a giant rack, a tactic he uses in order to seduce victims. While in this form, the Tall Man will bang said victims, BRINGING THEM TO FULL CLIMAX before abruptly killing them as they rest, exhausted in a post-coital daze. I don’t know if it’s more twisted than it is considerate, but it is mildly unsettling.  

One of the small-town teens uncovers The Tall Man’s corpse/slave reanimation racket and, with the help of a still-animated severed finger, gets his older brother on board in an all-out war against The Tall Man. This is winds up being more goofy than Lost Boys but less goofy than Monster Squad. There is some fun gore and a car chase with guns. The Tall Man speed-walks a lot and scowls.       

This conflict of teens vs. Tall Man takes a while to get started and the whole movie is punctuated with lengthy and disjointed dream sequences. While the ambition and carnage of the movie are pretty admirable, the jagged flow of the plot – which always feels like it is being interrupted – is for sure the worst part. This one is worth your time. This is a good example of a pre-found-footage era horror movie that has a slim cast/budget but is still able to succeed.  

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