Phantasm

Tagged: Film

Film (1978). New Breed. Directed, produced, written and photographed by Don Coscarelli. Cast includes Michael Baldwin, Reggie Bannister, Angus Scrimm and Bill Thornbury. 90 minutes, cut to 89 minutes. Colour.

At the independent, low-budget, exploitation end of the movie market, small miracles sometimes occur that could not take place inside a major studio. Phantasm is one such, a spirited blend of Horror, surrealism and sf, in which the presumably Alien and possibly supernatural Tall Man (Scrimm) steals bodies to be resuscitated and turned into malicious, deformed midgets with yellow blood, and then passed through a dimensional gate (see Matter Transmission) to be used as slave labour on a red desert planet. The teenager who opposes him, Mike (Baldwin), is troubled by a flying silver sphere that kills people by spiking their brains, by the Tall Man's severed finger that becomes a nasty insect, and most of all by the Tall Man's ability to confuse appearance and reality, to be there and not there, anticipating Wes Craven's Freddy in Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Phantasm has the arbitrary, confused logic of a dream.

A decade later Phantasm II (1988), also written and directed by Coscarelli, was a mostly failed attempt to capitalize on the earlier cult success; it is less a sequel than a remake with a bigger budget. The special effects are more sophisticated and disgusting, but the randomness is more of a mess than a dream; the acting is stilted; ideas that were wholly original in 1978 had become Clichés by 1988, and there were no new ideas to replace them; the sf content is negligible. [PN]

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