A group of scientists have developed the Resonator, a machine which allows whoever is within range to see beyond normal perceptible reality. But when the experiment succeeds, they are immediately attacked by terrible life forms.
Mike, a young teenage boy who has just lost his parents, afraid to lose his brother follow him to a funeral, where Mike witnesses the Tall Man lifting a coffin on his own. Mike decides to investigate, and discovers that the Tall Man, protected by his flying spheres, is shrinking dead bodies down to half their normal size and reanimating them as slaves. It is then up to Mike, his brother, and Reggie the ice cream man to stop the Tall man.
"Phantasm: an apparition of a ghostly appearing figure" Simply put Phantasm is a visual nightmare transformed into a person's sketchy reality. The emphasis on sleeping and dreams is exactly the message it is getting at. With a perfect score and a quintessentially frighteningly written Horror villain 'The Tall Man' the only downfalls of Phantasm are its lack of quality acting, script, pacing and cheap 1970's horror clichés. In fact the acting and characters become so irritating it is the only element of Phantasm that takes it away from being considered a true Horror classic by most Horror buffs (or maybe it's George Lucas' unauthorized use of Jawa's?).
When one scans the Horror elite those films have pretty atrocious acting problems too, so why should Phantasm fail so much? It shouldn't really because Phantasm is just as good as the classics. One of the reason why Phantasm is such a unique film is the well established characters unlike most Horror films; whilst the acting is somewhat absent from the strongly written character it's still enough to redeem the awkwardly delivered lines, odd facial expressions and comical snappy reactions. The films score is also perfect and mesmerizing that fits well by Fred Myrow, it was in fact one of the most powerful elements of the movie that really had me engaged. The stunning visuals and the concept and imagery of The Tall Man (wonderfully portrayed by Angus Scrimm) are authentically creepy, like something one would encounter in a nightmare. (in fact, I had a dream where I was in Hell and I encountered a priest that had been shrunk and dissected by a demon and this was before I saw Phantasm) I know I would be pretty hysterical if The Tall Man was stalking me.
It's these points of the film that for me makes Phantasm an atmospheric and creepy horror gem, in fact it brings me back to when I was a five year old child in a video store in the 90's, traumatized by the VHS covers for Hellraiser and The Blob only to eagerly await the day I was old enough to view them. Another reason why Phantasm's atmosphere works so well is the use of white and brightness instead darkness Phantasm's surreal mortuary is a nightmarish treat of white marble walls lined with drawers of the dead, gaping large hallways and The Tall Man's shoes trudging along the tiles that make you feel he's going to jump out of the television screen. From the flying silver balls to the void to another dimension, Phantasm's concept of a ghoulishly eerie tale about a soul keeper is wonderfully mastered and pulled off.
No matter how jammed with 1970's horror clichés the use of the shoestring budget and surrealism incorporated into Phantasm makes it a pure Horror gem. It seems all the love goes to over rated films only because they're so talked about and not actually analysed. This movie has creeped me out more than any other Horror classic ever could now and I'm far from the age I was when I used to be scared those films. Phantasm is highly recommended to surrealist, horror and cult fanatics.
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