Phantasm (1979) **1/2
D: Don Coscarelli
C: A. Michael Baldwin, Angus Scrimm, Bill Thornbury, Reggie Bannister, Kathy Lester
Plot Synopsis: Two brothers and an icecream man, become convinced that the local undertaker is behind a series of mysterious deaths & occurrences that have plagued their small town.
Review: To this day, I still clearly remember watching Phantasm for the first time in the basement of my grandmother's house with my cousin. There were moments that frightened me, moments that surprised me and moments that shocked me. After all was said & done and the credits started to roll, my cousin & I tried to make sense of what we had just watched. And to this day, I still remember we couldn't quite figure it out.
Now as an adult, I have greater clarity and an understanding of things, but Phantasm is still one of those films that perplexes me. The film feels like a bunch of different films all competing for screen time. There's --
A.) A horror film centered around a mysterious funeral home and the resident undertaker.
B.) A whacked out, drug induced sci-fi thriller
C.) A domestic drama about two brothers
D.) A David Lynch esque type film that deals with themes involving death & loss
I would have preferred it, if Phantasm had focused strictly on the scary stuff. There's some undeniably great moments in the mix. There's a nifty horror film contraption that still has horror fans talking to this very day. It also introduced us to the Tall Man, who would go on to become an iconic horror film presence.
In between the film's horror moments, Phantasm kind of drifts along from scene to scene. Most of it is boring. Some of it is silly, but not silly in an entertaining way. That finally lead me to my final problem with the film. Should I recommend the film to other horror fans based solely on the strength of the horror film elements? Or should I go against the grain of popular consensuses and remind people of the film's lack of plot, clarity and cohesion; that in between those well staged horror set pieces, there was a confused and unfocused film with long stretches of tedium.
Phantasm left me feeling torn and confused, but it certainly left an impression on me. So I guess that in of itself, says something about the film. Ultimately, for anyone that hasn't seen Phantasm, it's going to be a curio no matter what I say. With that in mind, don't say that I didn't warn you when I saw that the pieces are a whole lot better then the collective whole. [R] 88 mins.
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