Phantasm (1979)
October 25, 2022 10:23 AM - Subscribe

The residents of a small town have begun dying under strange circumstances, leading young Mike (Michael Baldwin) to investigate. After discovering that the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm), the town's mortician, is killing and reanimating the dead as misshapen zombies, Mike seeks help from his older brother, Jody (Bill Thornbury), and local ice cream man Reggie (Reggie Bannister). Working together, they try to lure out and kill the Tall Man, all the while avoiding his minions and a deadly silver sphere.

Written & directed by Don Coscarelli (John Dies at the End).

74% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Currently streaming in the US on more than ten services. Justwatch listing.
posted by DirtyOldTown (9 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I love this movie so much, but it's one of a handful of films I've never bought a copy of because it seems like some new home video release of it drops every year or two (see also the entire Evil Dead series) and I short-circuit trying to decide which one to settle on. Anyone have a preference for existing releases of this movie? I suspect a 4K UHD is probably going to be released any second, so the question might be moot, heh.
posted by tomorrowromance at 12:12 PM on October 25, 2022

It got a new 4K Blu Ray in 2018 after being restored by JJ Abrams' Bad Robot Productions. Abrams was hyping up the film to his young FX staffers and was appalled to see that a 4K restoration did not exist. Since he keeps a large staff under regular contract, he decided to volunteer his staff to do the work during periods where Bad Robot did not have them working on external stuff. They produced a gorgeous 4K cut that got a brief, limited theatrical re-release, often with Don Coscarelli appearing for a Q&A. I got to see this roadshow in the Chicago area and he was great.

Here's an article on the restoration. Essentially, Bad Robot carefully screened it into 4K and then cleaned up dirt, imperfections, etc. The only CGI they did was removing the fishing lines the Sentinel Sphere is actually flying with.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:26 PM on October 25, 2022 [4 favorites]

I love this movie so much. Maybe one of my favorite bits is Reggie’s moment of realization in the gateway room with the “Clones! And they have to shrink them down because of the gravity!”
posted by chazlarson at 6:07 PM on October 25, 2022 [4 favorites]

I re-watched this movie the other day, but long before I watched it, the trailers that ran in my local multiplex/grindhouse theater in the late 70s made a deep impression. I love Coscarelli's work generally (I also need to rewatch Bubba Ho-tep), but this movie is special.
posted by Gelatin at 5:03 AM on October 26, 2022

Considered alone, the first Phantasm achieves some kind of weird, low budget horror film perfection; like Hellraiser, its power could only be diluted by a sequel, and so it should come as no surprise that there are literally four sequels. This is probably not the place to discuss them, but what I will say is that the sequels simultaneously progress the mythology and pretty much lead us back to the same place, over and over, that we found ourselves at the end of the original film. I don't know if they're all good movies, exactly, but it's clear after a while that Coscarelli persists in producing them because people will pay to see them, and it keeps everybody in a job, so why not?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:19 AM on October 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

Phantasm is one of those rare films where the villain's name is actually less cool than that of the actor playing him: the Tall Man's Angus Scrimm.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 11:01 AM on October 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

I can't remember which Phantasm film it is (though I don't think it's this one) that has a copyright notice at the end saying something like "Infringers may face criminal charges, fines of up to $X, and a visit from The Tall Man."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:31 AM on October 26, 2022

I know nothing about Don Coscarelli but it seems pretty obvious that he must have been a huge sci-fi reader growing up. The scene where the kid goes to the fortune teller and she has him put his hand into a mysterious box that causes pain is lifted straight from Dune. (I believe someone even says the line "Fear is the killer.") At one point we see the kid's room and in the background is a dog-eared mass market paperback copy of some 1960s sci-fi novel. And then, of course, the glimpse through the portal to the dwarf slave planet is straight out of a Heavy Metal illustration.

Fun movie. One of these days I'll have to sit down and watch the sequels.
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:13 PM on October 26, 2022

I don't know why the flying death ball was so terrifying as a child in the 80s, but oh boy was it ever.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 8:44 AM on October 27, 2022

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