Monday, October 25, 2010

31 Days Of Horror: Day 25: The Unseen #45: Phantasm


Why’d I Buy It?: Well it’s fucking Phantasm isn’t it?

Why Haven’t I Watched It?: I know… I KNOW (Pt.2)

How Was It?: Well it was fucking Phantasm wasn’t it?

Phantasm is a pretty great, thoroughly strange little film. The only horror film that bases itself off of the fear of Extra Dimensional slavers who moonlight as undertakers who appear in your dreams. And also their Jawa slaves. That I know of anyway.

It tells the story of a pair of siblings living together after their parents death. Things are interrupted when one of the older brothers friends dies. This second brush with mortality as well as an encounter with a plucky indie rock fan with a terminal illness leads him to complicate his life before ultimately learning to love his brother and comes to terms with-. Oh wait, no, that’s every indie movie since The Garden State. In this one a Tall mortician turns the the deceased friend into a dwarf and sells him to another dimension for slave lavor. The tall mortician also likes throwing deadly sapient silver balls at people.

This is an odd little movie folks.

With it’s long take sequences played past the logical breaking point, cheery music interludes, and occasional bracing blasts of surrealty, Phantasm resembles nothing so much as a splatter punk film made by Richard Linklater (I mean check the scene of Reggie and the elder brother just hanging out on the porch playing music). It’s dreamlike, bordering on lackadaisical.

This paired with the same strange “Hard R Kid’s Film” Feel of the People Under The Stars, makes this feel like the sort of movie one would conceive if one had a giant doobie sticking out of one’s mouth.

I was prepared for how crazy Phantasm would get, but it’s unabashed indieness was a nice surprise. The film was shot over the course of two years by an extremely game cast. And in every frame it is obvious that it is a labor of love. It has that handmade feeling, akin to Evil Dead and the better films of Charles B. Pierce that make the film really endearing. I mean, for all the gore, bodies drained of blood, and extra dimensional beings who bleed yellow goo Phantasm is a strangely mellow movie.

The cast does a fine job. The most famous being Reggie, the ice cream man/demon slayer. I love that Reggie isn’t made into some Ash like super warrior. But instead plays the role of as a kind of dim bulb townie really good at taking things in stride. Whether they be Evil Insects who sprout out of severed fingers and survive a garbage disposaling, or Tall Undead Necromancers who Scream “BOOOOOOOOYYYYY!!!!!”

Don Coscarelli shoots with his trademark mix of warped imagination, wit, style deadpan charm and matter of fact plotting. If the film proves anything, it’s that he’s the perfect man to bring the blue collar horror madness of John Dies At The End to the big screen.


While I can’t say that it has become an all time favorite. Phantasm is a thoroughly winning little film. Charming in just about every way.

8 comments:

stonerphonic said...

hmmmm... fucking Phantasm
hmmmm... the fear of Extra Dimensional slavers
hmmmm... splatter punk
hmmmm... Richard Linklater

charming wet dreams

The Film Connoisseur said...

ONe of my all time favorites, like you, I admire it for being such a low budget indie effort. I mean, this was Coscarelli's El Mariachi, like Rodriguez with his indie film, Coscarelli wowed the studio with this independent film.

I actually prefer the second one to this one, I mean, this one is the classic, but the second one has better production values and effects, and more action. Have you seen it? If you havent, I recommend it.

The Film Connoisseur said...

By the way, Coscarelli is a huge fan of Frank Herbert's DUNE novels. If you watch the movie, there are a lot of nods to the DUNE books! The cantina that Mike goes to drink in the middle of the night is called DUNE CANTINA, and that scene where the kid visits the fortune teller, and she makes him put his hand in the box to conquer his fears, that scene was straight out of the first DUNE novel!

Actually, there is a scene similar to that one in David Lynch's adaptation of DUNE.

Bryce Wilson said...

@stonerphonic: Right there with you.

@FC: OH I'm definitely looking forward to checking out the sequels. And I hadn't caught any of those Dune references, Thanks!

J.D. said...

"With it’s long take sequences played past the logical breaking point, cheery music interludes, and occasional bracing blasts of surrealty, Phantasm resembles nothing so much as a splatter punk film made by Richard Linklater (I mean check the scene of Reggie and the elder brother just hanging out on the porch playing music). It’s dreamlike, bordering on lackadaisical."

Awesome! Hah. I hadn't thought of that but you make a good point.

I'm with The Film Connoisseur on this one, as much as I love the first PHANTASM film, the second one is even better. It was great to see what Coscarelli could do with a larger budget.

The Film Connoisseur said...

The third one is interesting, it adds a little kid to the formula. It's a step down from the previous films, but still a fun watch. Hey, it has zombies, and lots of different variations on the sphere.

Part four is a film that only Phantasm Phans will love. It goes into the Tall Mans origins and the origins of the dimensional portals. It can get slow at times, but if you liked the Phantasm movies, you should find this one interesting.

Bryce Wilson said...

Yeah, I'll probably take a horror breather for a week or two, but afterwards these are first on the list.

Biba Pickles said...

I just had a phantasm.