Mike, a young teenage boy who has just lost his parents, is afraid to lose his brother. This fear causes him to follow his brother to a funeral, where Mike witnesses the Tall Man lift a coffin on his own. Mike decides to investigate and discovers a horrible world where the Tall Man, along with his flying spheres, shrink the to half their normal size and reanimate them as slaves. It is then up to Mike, his brother, and Reggie the ice cream man to stop the Tall man.
Directed by: Don Coscarelli
. Starring: A. Michael Baldwin
, Bill Thornbury
, Reggie Bannister
, Kathy Lester
, Terrie Kalbus
, Kenneth V. Jones
, Susan Harper
, Lynn Eastman-Rossi
, David Arntzen
, Ralph Richmond
, Bill Cone
, Laura Mann
, Mary Ellen Shaw
. Music by: Fred Myrow
, Malcolm Seagrave
I realize the idea of taking Star Wars, interbreeding it with one of Dario Argento's cheese-films, and putting an intoxicated spin on the whole thing may sound like a pretty cool idea. In 2009, the weirder the idea, the greater the appeal to the "open-minded" emo kids. In 1979, I'm the idea also appealed to the acid-induced "free-spirited" 10-year-old hippie boys. My point is, no matter what generation you grew up in, there has always been and always will be those who think that they can be nonconformists by throwing out every rule and making their own rules... thus, paradoxically, conforming. I can't help but relate this attitude to Phantasm. It tries so hard to be different from the rest, but in the end, it's just another bucket of horror clichés. Maybe the bucket is painted a different color-'yellow blood, perhaps-'but the contents are exactly the same as all the other generic horror films from the 70s.
A concept that few people really understand: When weird is the norm, it isn't weird anymore.
That concept is the problem that I always have with movies like Phantasm. The fans and the modern critics always site them as coming up with original ideas, when in reality, they're just cliché ideas presented in a weird light. Every single "weird" occurrence in Phantasm was unabashedly copypasted from Star Wars, Argento movies, 40s horror movies, and classic sci-fi novels. There wasn't a single "weird" scene in this movie that I haven't seen in entertainment before '79. For example, the silver sphere IS unarguably the lightsaber training bot in the original Star Wars. The hooded midgets in the end are also unarguably the Jawas from the original Star Wars. The fly was used before in various Stephen King short stories and various 40s movies. Etc., Etc. It would take me pages to list every single instance Phantasm ripped-off other moviesbooks, but it pretty much amounts to the entire movie. Anyone who tries to argue otherwise is a fanboy, blinded by his nostalgic first viewing of this film as an adolescent, then growing up thinking "Those were the good old' days, when horror..." for no other reason than it was his first exposure to horror. Anyone who enjoys horror films that are actually scary, aren't overflowing with cheese, and actually have some sort intelligence, this is the last place to look.
Despite what the old men who grew up with this film will tell you, it is not scary, gory, or weird. It's just another generic paint-by-the-numbers horror film. The acting is pathetic. The special effects are pure cheese-'fugitively and literally (referencing the yellow blood). The story is done with go-anywhere-do-anything surrealism-'which has recently been popularized by the author Neil Gaiman-'which works in children's movies, but here is just unintentionally ludicrous. People have complained Phantasm makes no sense, but they fail to realize that's the immature point behind the movie. It's meant to be nothing more than a bunch of pseudo -weird scenes that it ripped-off from other (superior) movies. It's ironic, maybe even hypocritical, that older horror fans claim Phantasm as part of "the good days of horror", when "there was a story, not just gore and nudity." Phantasm has no story. In its time, it was just an acid trip, and a vehicle to display what was considered over-the-top gorenudity in the '70s. In its generation, it was far more mindless than what is claimed as mindless today.
Some cite the music as great: it's really just okay. It is atmospheric like the music in Suspiria and Halloween, but it can't stand up to either, really. Also, the acting, like everything else, is laughable. Another problem is the lack of entertainment value. I fell asleep four times.
I'm not sure what my overall thoughts on Phantasm were, because as soon as I write the last sentence of this review I'll forgot entirely about it. It's just a generic horror film with "weird" aspects copypasted from other films. And it cannot be defended by saying that it's intended to be cheesy, because that is not the intention of the film. If that's what we classify as original, intelligent horror that is deserving of a fond place in our hearts... there's no hope for us as horror fans. And even less hope of the genre progressing any further in the future.
(1) Cheese oozing out of severed fingers, and fugitively out of the plot line. Or, (2) A genuinely scary, original horror movie that you can talk to the outside world about without feeling immature and stupid.
Review by Jacques98 from the Internet Movie Database.