Maybe the Special Edition DVD is different than the original film that was released back in 1979. All I know is, while watching Phantasm last night for the first time ever after years of slacking off, only one thought kept reappearing within the head’s chamber: People actually consider this a “great” horror film?
Some genre vets would consider this sentiment to be blasphemy, but fuck it—–Phantasm is a terrible movie. Boring, cheesy, the opposite of scary. Overrated and forgettable. Placed alongside the sequels (which I have seen, ass-backwards enough), though, director Don Coscarelli’s franchise jumpoff is on the same plane as Alien, another ’79 horror favorite. That’s saying very little, however. I’m not going to overtalk my point here, simply because I don’t have much to say about the film, it disinterested me that much. Points are awarded its way for originality, offering some unique ideas and an off-kilter narrative approach. The script is wise enough to tap directly into a common fear of suburban youngsters, and that’s the mysteries and potential terrors that reside in the local cemetery. And Phantasm has a formidable, memorable villain in The Tall Man (played by naturally-freaky-looking Angus Scrimm); the problem is, The Tall Man is underused, washed over by strictly-for-the-gore orbs that zoom around and drain blood from foreheads, and black-hooded ghoulies that just jump around and irritate rather than doing anything that’s actually scary.
The urge to compare Phantasm to 1986’s Spookies is overpowering. If not the entirety of one-of-the-most-astonishingly-awful-films-ever-made Spookies, than certainly the shitshow’s first 15 minutes, a pointless first act featuring an annoying, poorly-acted kid who runs around an eerie graveyard and bumps into a tall warlock-dude wearing a cheap suit (a la Sir Tall Man). The acting in Phantasm is much better, fortunately, but that’s enough to lift the flick above Spookies standards.
I’d hope that hating Phantasm isn’t considered a notch off my horror-fan-belt, but if so then that’s the way the cookie disintegrates. Bottom line: When you’re so bored with a movie that you start fast-forwarding it in hopes of seeing something that catches your eye enough to stop and watch, completely out of context, then you have a bad one on your hands. Case closed.