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A new street drug that sends its users across time and dimensions has one drawback: some people return as no longer human. Can two college dropouts save humankind from this silent, otherworldly invasion?
Mike, a young teenage boy who has just lost his parents, is afraid to lose his brother. This fear causes him to follow his brother to a funeral, where Mike witnesses the Tall Man lift a coffin on his own. Mike decides to investigate and discovers a horrible world where the Tall Man, along with his flying spheres, shrink the to half their normal size and reanimate them as slaves. It is then up to Mike, his brother, and Reggie the ice cream man to stop the Tall man. Written by
Chris Nickerson <email@example.com>
There are two things that stand out in this film. The Tall Man (played by Angus Scrimm) and the chrome sphere with hook-like blades that stick out of it. Those are the two main elements when it comes to this horror series directed by Don Coscarelli.
The Tall Man comes from another dimension where he takes some of the earth's dead back to his home planet, reincarnates them and turns them into slaves for his world. He even occasionally murders some earth people in order to speed things up. Why wait for them to get old and die natural deaths. That would take too much time, right? And what better earth profession he can hide his identity behind than that of a funeral parlor director.
Everything goes smoothly for the Tall Man until Mike Pearson (Michael Baldwin) witnesses him carting a body away that's supposed to be buried in the ground. At first his brother Jody (Bill Thornbury) doesn't believe him, but when Mike shows him a cut-off finger surrounded by 'yellow blood' in a little wooden box he had saved as proof, Jody starts to believe him.
Excellent scene of the chrome sphere zooming down the funeral parlor hallway and 'accidentally' digging into the skull one of the Tall Man's henchmen. A little screw appears out of it and starts to bore a hole through his skull, ejecting the excess blood out a hole in the back of the sphere. I wish there was more of the sphere although we'll get to see a lot more of it again in PHANTASM II (1988).
I also like the portal gateway scene where if you go through the two chrome poles, you'll get to see the Tall Man's alternative universe where the slaves are busy carrying caskets down a stone pathway. We even get to see Ice Cream Man, Reggie Bannister almost get sucked through it as well.
I won't give away the ending but let's just say the Tall Man is temporarily disposed of until the next sequel comes out, although the dream element that's supposed to encompass the whole sequence of events in the film, is a big negative against it. In fact, it brings it down a notch, unfortunately.
Even so, I consider PHANTASM to be one of the best horror films of the 1970s. It managed to keep Avco/Embassy in business so they could bring us later horror stuff like ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1980); THE FOG (1980) and DEAD AND BURIED (1981)
The MGM DVD also has a lot more extras on it than you would expect from other DVDs released by the same company, including 8mm behind-the-scenes footage of the making of PHANTASM; a 1979 interview down in Miami with director Coscarelli and Angus Scrimm; an appearance at a 1989 Fangoria convention by Scrimm, and movie & TV trailers for the film.
It's a labor of love by the truest fans of this film.
7 out of 10
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