People always talk about Phantasm, and so I decided to re-watch it and understand the hype. There's always talk about the tall man, the flying silver ball thing, and the zombie dwarves- and after watching it for the second time I realized that that is what it's all about.
Michael's parents have recently died, leaving him with his brother Jody-yes a man named Jody. The citizen's of their town start dying including one of Jody and his creepy friend with a huge ponytail Reggie's friend named Tommy. We saw Tommy at the begining doing some blonde chick in a graveyard after which she promptly stabbed him and turned into an old man...weird. So Michael spies on Tommy's funeral through the bushes and once everyone leaves the tall man picks up the casket by himself and puts it back into the truck. Michael mouths, "What. the. Fuck." and then makes a quick getaway on his motor bike.
Soon Michael starts having strange encounters with weird midget people wearing black cloaks. He takes a trip to the mausoleum where the caretaker tries to catch him and ends up impaled in the face with one of those flying silver balls. It's probably one of the greatest usages of fake blood I've ever seen and what a great contraption too. Then the tall man comes and Michael chops off his fingers which spew yellow liquid and he takes a finger home.
One night Jody hits on a girl in a bar and then one second later they leave. She sure is an easy one...but wait! It's the blonde woman from the beginning! Michael spies on them from the bushes but soon gets scared by the presence of one of the cloaked midgies. He runs screaming and Jody chases after him. Michael tells his brother his suspicions and shows him the weird finger which soon turns into a giant fly with fangs. Confused? You just have to see it to understand. Soon Michael, Jody and Reggie find they must conquer the tall man or more citizens of the town will be turned into evil dwarves with cloaks.
This movie has some truly delightfully funny scenes. My favorite is when Michael mouths what the fuck and then they show it again in a flashback. I also love when he decides to take one of the squirming fingers home as a souvenir. There are also great creepy scenes too, like when Michael watches the tall man walking down the sidewalk, the tall man in general, and of course the silver balls.
The only problem I have with the movie is the ending. Why even give the possibility of it all being a dream? I still don't really get the ending actually because the dwarves end up being some kind of slaves for the tall man and there's this portal to another dimension that reminds Reggie of a tuning fork and the tall man falls in a mine shaft? It's a little weird at the end and any explanation seems to be absent from the film. Maybe I'll have to check out the sequel and figure out some answers, but I'm probably just not thinking about it hard enough.
It's still a great movie with so many good scenes and the tall man is a wonderful horror movie villain. There are many things about it that make it seem like a nightmare which justifies the ending but still keeps you affected from it's creepy nature. I still think the dwarves are a little weird though.
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I know a lot of folks have a problem with the Phantasm ending implying that it may only be a dream... my guess is that it is Coscarelli taking the definition of the title ("something apparently seen but having no physical reality; a phantom or an apparition") beyond merely a character (the Tall Man) but applying it to the whole story. If you watch the whole series (which I don't really recommend - it's a case of diminishing returns) Coscarelli further blurs the lines between reality and fantasy in each installment. In fact, the other films make things so convoluted that I prefer to just think of the first film as its own stand-alone entry.
But what I really want to say is that actor A. Michael Baldwin is only 3 years older than me, and seeing as I first saw this film in the early 1980's around the age of 14, it was one of those, "hey, this guy is my age - how would I handle being hounded by a scary fiend from beyond?" kind of thing. It really resonated because I could put myself in the character Mike's shoes and ponder how I'd battle that "Tall dude." Cool stuff indeed!
Andre, could you reveiw "Phantasm II" (1988) ! ! !, its easily the best of the Phantasm series and also one of the most ludicrously under-rated horror movies of all-time.
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