Friday, August 4, 2017

Film Review: Phantasm (1979)

Phantasm (Review)
United States/1979
Format Viewed For Review: Shudder
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...one of the most interesting and creative horror films I've ever seen."

A teenage boy and his friends discover a horrendous secret hidden by the local undertaker, an evil man known as The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm)…

Phantasm is a very creative and original horror movie. The plot is difficult to discuss for two reasons: I don't want to spoil anything and it's simply not an easy story to talk about. You see, Phantasm is told in a surreal fashion—like a dream or, better yet, a nightmare. Here's the gist of the story, though. While spying on his brother, Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) discovers the existence of dwarf-like creatures near the funeral home, which he links to The Tall Man—a malevolent, supernatural undertaker. He brings his evidence to his older brother, Jody, and eventually their friend, Reggie, joins in on the suspicion. Together, they confront The Tall Man and discover the truth about the dwarves. It leads to a good climax and an interesting ending. I emphasize 'interesting' because it definitely caught my interest, but it might be for the wrong reasons. It's an ending that's difficult to properly interpret.

Phantasm is a great film, though. I've only watched this film once and that was over a decade ago. So, I don't have a strong attachment to this movie. However, after watching it now, I can say it is definitely one of the most interesting and creative horror films I've ever seen. It takes a lot of daring steps. The storytelling alone can turn a lot of people away, but I thought it was great. It can be disjointed at times, but it ultimately captures a surreal, dream-like atmosphere. The visuals are often creepy and bloody as well. The entire explanation was very unique, too. I wasn't expecting it. And, although the ending might not be perfect, it is something you will either be talking about with other fans or researching. I think that's an accomplishment.

The acting was good, too. It can often feel stiff—much like many older horror films—but it's not bad. It's better than the acting is some films I've watched recently. (Toolbox Murders, anyone?) The film was shot well. There are some beautiful visuals here and the camerawork is also great. The music, albeit a bit repetitive, is also splendid. The film was written and directed by Don Coscarelli. Coscarelli crafts a nightmarish experience using clever storytelling, surreal visuals, and an unforgettable antagonist. Coscarelli's originality and creativity should be applauded.

Overall, Phantasm is a great film. It has its fair share of flaws—like the occasionally unnecessarily disjointed storytelling and some poor pacing—but it's otherwise a creative horror film that offers a unique experience. You should watch this movie.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some nudity.

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