by Kevin Carr
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|| MOVIE: ***** (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)
Michael Baldwin as MIKE
Bill Thornbury as JODY
Reggie Bannister as REGGIE
Kathy Lester as THE LADY IN LAVENDER
Angus Scrimm as THE TALL MAN
Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Directed by: Don Coscarelli
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Sometimes filmmakers know they’re making a classic. Sometimes they have no idea that’s what they’re doing. Don Coscarelli stumbled into a creepy horror movie in the late 1970s, and it changed his life. “Phantasm,” while not terribly original in terms of plot twists, was such a fascinating film, it has never been out-done.
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The film tells the story of Mike (Michael Baldwin), a teenage boy whose parents are killed in a car crash. His brother Jody (Bill Thornbury) takes care of him, along with his band-mate Reggie (Reggie Bannister). When another friend of theirs is mysteriously killed by a ghostly beauty, Mike starts snooping around the funeral home near where he was found dead.
Running the funeral home is a mysterious Tall Man (Angus Scrimm), who looks like a man but possesses superhuman strength. Mike enlists the help of his brother and Reggie to investigate the Tall Man, uncovering a terrifying story of grave robbing, aliens and the enslavement of the dead.
“Phantasm” isn’t necessarily one of those films you see for the brilliant writing. There are some disjointed scenes, and it doesn’t always fully make sense. The twist at the end isn’t terribly original, but all of this is forgivable for the groundbreaking vision of the film. Who can forget the first time they saw the deathly silver ball (known as a sentinel sphere) and what it does when it catches someone?
Coscarelli, who had made goofy comedies before dipping his toe in the water of horror films, had an incredible eye for the eerie in the film. Made at the time of the slasher film, “Phantasm” had greater ambition. The partly sci-fi plot helped it build off of the success of other contemporary films like “Star Wars,” but it was never meant to be catering to the playing field of George Lucas.
Instead, Coscarelli (who conceived and developed the film before anyone even knew what “Star Wars” was) set out to make a movie that could make your skin crawl. Even today, the atmosphere created by “Phantasm” is unmatched in other films, including all the sequels.
“Phantasm” is a must see for horror fans, if only for the reason to see something unique in the genre. It’s also a nice sci-fi film for that breed as well. While not as recognizable as folks like Freddy Kreuger and Jason Vorhees, The Tall Man is one of the best horror villains ever to hit the screen.
While “Phantasm” has been out for years on home video, it’s been re-released by Anchor Bay to coincide with Coscarelli’s recent guest directing of a “Masters of Horror” episode, also available on DVD. This new DVD release includes some of the features seen on previous releases of the film on home video.
Included in the old elements are the Fangoria commercial with Angus Scrimm as well as the Tall Man’s appearance at a convention. There’s also an interview with Coscarelli and Scrimm from a 70s television show.
New features include “Phantasmagoria,” a 30-minute interview with the cast and crew of the film, as well as additional interviews, 8mm behind-the-scenes footage and a fleeting deleted scene.
Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 Surround Sound. DTS 5.1 Sound. Widescreen (1.85:1) – enhanced for 16x9 televisions.