Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween Horrors- Phantasm

OK, time for my last cinematic terror treat for the season, as I'll be out 'till Sunday . Today's scary seasonal film is Phantasm(1979). Written and directed by Don Coscarelli, Phantasm is a tale of two brothers and their battle against evil.

Mike( A.Michael Baldwin) is a young kid who lives with his older brother Jody(Bill Thornbury). Their parents died recently, and Mike is undestandably having a hard time with it. He's afraid that Jody will leave him, and shadows his older brother all the time. Mike soon discovers that something is going on at the local mortuary, and the undertaker(The Tall Man, played by Angus Scrimm) is behind it. At first, Mike's story is taken as an excitable kid's imagination gone wild, but soon Mike, Jody, and their ice cream salesman pal Reggie(Reggie Bannister) are all involved in trying to stop the Tall Man and his diabolical work. Can our young group of heroes possibly stop the otherworldly Tall Man and his henchmen, or will they fall victim to him? Is it all just a bad dream, or a nightmarish reality?

Phantasm is another film that falls into the "dream-like" category. Lots of strange things take place, and at times the viewer is left wondering what's really happening. The film was based on a dream Coscarelli had, so this may have influenced his approach to creating the feel of the film. There are lots of strange, nightmarish setpieces in this film, such as when the tall Man's finger is chopped off with a knife and put in a box, only to change into a large, vicious bug, and the slow-motion scenes of the Tall Man walking menacingly by. There's also many unique elements to the movie, including the hooded dwarves ( that are actually squashed-down , reanimated corpses-cheap labor for the Tall Man), and the sphere. There is a silver sphere that patrols the mortuary, flying around like a chrome watchdog. It has the ability to jut out barbed blades, which dig into the victim's skull, and a drill that bores forward into the skull, topping it off with said victim's blood shooting out of the back of the sphere. Inventive gore, I'd say. There's also a bad-ass Hemi Cuda in the movie, as well.

In spite of a small budget and young actors, Coscarelli did a good job with Phantasm. It catches that feeling of when you're a kid in a small town, riding your bike around , looking for something to do...and drops it right in the middle of a nightmare. Like several of the films I've written about, it has that surreal feeling like you're having a weird dream that you just can't wake up from, and you wonder just where the Hell it's going to take you next. The film, to its credit, doesn't give you explinations about everything on a silver platter. It leaves a lot shrouded in mystery, and I think that makes it scarier...the unknown is always more frightening. Also, this, as you could probably tell from my description of the sphere, is not a movie that goes light on the does get fairly gruesome in parts, which is OK by me.

Phantasm went on to spawn several sequels, which go on to explain some things, but still maintains some mystery. For my money, though, the first one is still the best. If you've never seen Phantasm, I suggest you take a look. It's good, creepy stuff.

That's about it for my fright-film series. I have a busy weekend ahead, so I'll more than likely be out 'till Sunday(I may yet sneak one more in tonight...we'll see). I hope everyone enjoyed my horror movie suggestions...they're some of my favorites, and I hope that you found some new flicks here that you liked. Everyone have a safe, fun, and Happy Halloween!


Anonymous said...

i saw 'Phantasm' at the drive in...back in the day. my friend got it confused with that mutant bear movie 'Prophecy' so we ended up at the wrong movie but it turned out for the best...that other movie sucked.

Scott said...

D, I remember that mutant bear where near as good as the fallen angel movie Prophecy with Christopher Walken.

Now, if they got Walken to play the mutant bear, then it might be good.

Anonymous said...

i'd pay a lot to see that.