‘Phantasm’ is a Psychedelic Masterpiece (Review)
Written by: Matt Molgaard
What I’ve always loved about Phantasm was the fact that it both does and doesn’t make sense, simultaneously. The Tall Man’s mission seems clearly apparent. The end design of said mission however, leaves one scratching the head. That odd fact, coupled with the 15 different ideas at constant labor… that awkwardly function in an uncannily cohesive fashion, have always been so magnetic that, for me, it’s impossible to feel anything but significant adoration for the picture. I just can’t take my eyes off the thing. Haven’t since the first time I watched in the 1980s. That says something. That says something important.
Before I jump all the way in, let me give you a loose idea of what this story is about. A local mortuary is the center for all things otherworldly. The mortician, known as The Tall Man, isn’t your average dude. And his practice isn’t ordinary in the least, either. When a body arrives, it doesn’t hit the dirt, it gets compressed and transformed into an awkward little creature capable of traveling between two realities. What happens on the other side, and what The Tall Man ultimately aims to do isn’t necessarily the clearest idea expressed in Phantasm, but that doesn’t matter. Fun is fun (yeah, yeah – and done is done).
The acting, while a little rigid at times, often feels entirely organic (the moment that Reggie and Jody link up on a front porch and break into a brief jam session is absolutely amazing, and captures the essence of the 1970s wonderfully) and is never, at any point embarrassing. It works, all the way. So does the visual style of the pic. It’s clean, Don Conscarelli’s unique editing is thoroughly entertaining and above all, it’s not only memorable, it actually looks creepy. It really does. Damn movie will make you uncomfortable on more than a single occasion.
Get ready to meet an assortment of colorful and noteworthy characters. Expect to be introduced to one large, menacing villain with a scowl that could freeze Medusa in her tracks. And those little critters running around? They’re wild as all hell too. Phantasm isn’t gifted with awesome personalities and villains alone, it’s heavy on atmosphere, faithful to the ‘70s; pretty creepy and definitely abstract enough to swallow you right up. It’s an awesome movie, as crazy and outlandish as it is.
Angus Scrimm delivers in this film; he’s just the epitome of creepy here. And I definitely agree with you about the impromptu jam session, and the chemistry between the entire cast here feeling organic right through the screen. The tagline on the cover is true: “If this one doesn’t scare you… you’re already dead!”