Spoilers will stay away from silver spheres.
Well, I wanted something more fun. And this is horror made fun, as in completely over-the-top ludicrous horror. Practicality and logic be damned, continuity is just an afterthought and yet, this is fun to watch. Explaining why is the challenge this time around. This movie is not without its problems. I wouldn’t call it a violent film, but it certainly doesn’t shy of gore, violence and gratuitous boob shots. It might be tame for our times, but still contains some rather memorable scenes.
Phantasm (1979) was written and directed by Don Coscarelli. Brothers Mike (Michael Baldwin) and Jody (Bill Thornbury) have lost their parents. Teenager Mike follows his older brother Jody to a friend’s funeral at Morningside cemetery, where he sees The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) lift a coffin by himself. Curious, he will sneak into the mortuary where he will discover a plot to invade the world with dwarven creatures and killer silver spheres.
This is one of those movies that lives on due to nostalgia and charm, which has made it a cult classic. The scenes transition to each other with a very slim thread of a plot. Mike fears that his brother is about to leave town leaving him behind. He’s one of the few characters that displays some emotion. Jody goes out drinking to a bar and tries to hook up with a girl in lavender that goes missing (Kathy Lester – literally credited as Lady in Lavender).
Problematic? Definitely. Yet it seems to have some subtle charm. Perhaps it’s in the way continuity errors are solved. Plenty of scenes transition just as a voiceover from another character explains how the characters from the previous scene escaped, survived, died or simply disappeared. Also, that 70’s Plymouth Hemi Cuda is one cool muscle car. Funny enough, it gets driven by Jody almost as much as Mike, who’s barely a teenager. Not that his age is ever an issue when handling guns either.
It takes a while for Mike to convince his brother that something weird is going on. Jody is not really mourning his friend any more than his parents. Besides trying to hook up with women in bars, he also plays guitar along with local ice cream man Reggie (Reggie Bannister). Inevitably, Reggie also gets dragged into a… plan? idea? dream? Well, basically they load up and try to stop The Tall Man and his dwarves, finding out the dwarves are made from dead people.
There’s also a couple of scenes that happen early in the film where Mike visits a seer and her granddaughter where he’s tested with a box (sort of the same way that Paul Atreides is tested on Dune). The really disconnected scene does seem to become relevant later, as is the fact that Reggie uses a tuning fork to tune his guitar. Don’t think this means the movie adheres things as troublesome as coherence at all times. Actually those were the two scenes that have some sort of hidden payback later.
Highly recommended for nostalgia and 70’s horror movie fans. I know it’s a product of the 70’s low budget horror filmmaking, but it’s got some sort of a charming quality that obviously cannot be remade today. It’s almost like you’re watching a film made by your friends were you can get all the inside jokes as to why the last scene doesn’t match with the next one. It’s cult status is something of an anomaly. The remastered version can be viewed in Shudder and comes courtesy of Bad Robot and J. J. Abrams.
That will do for now.