This groundbreaking, surreal horror film, released hot on the heels of the worldwide success of "Halloween," was the talk of teenage America.
Pubescent boys thrilled to the opening scene where a topless babe stabs a man to death, then she herself turns into man. They oohed and aaahed at a scene where a man's brains are sucked out by a strange flying ball. And they cheered when a dwarf that looked likes one of those hooded little people in the original "Star Wars" gets shot in the face while trying to screw with one of this pic's hip protagonists.
But beyond all the action, "Phantasm" has a '70s spirit that few horror films before it ever managed to capture. It's difficult to put in writing what this spirit is. But somehow the characters seem incredibly real -- your typical middle American males of the era. The film also boasts some incredible cinemaphotography by Coscarelli, who (in addition to directing, writing and photographing) also edited the film.
Scrimm plays the "Tall Man," a caretaker of a funeral home whom 13-year-old misfit Baldwin sees carry away a casket that was supposed to be buried. After breaking into the funeral home, the boy is nearly killed by the flying ball that sucks the brains out of people.
He enlists the help of his older brother to go up against Scrimm and an army of dwarves and knife-wielding succubus that guard the cemetery. The story sounds ridiculous, and it is, but this is one of the best splatter films of the 1970s, a true kick-ass piece of movie-making. The music by Fred Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave is very reminiscent of some of the best stuff that Goblin has composed. The atmosphere is so thick and eerie that it rivals John Carpenter's "Halloween."
Hyped to no end by Fangoria on its initial release, the film remains a big fan favorite. MGM/UA recently released a newly remastered, hi-fi stereo version of it, proof that it's following has hit the mainstream. Highly, highly, highly recommended. Pass on the first sequel, although the third in the series isn't horrible.