Saturday, 23 June 2012


"Phantasm" (1979, Don Coscarelli, New Breed Productions, AVCO Embassy Pictures) is one of these low-budget cult classics that seem to live on for many years, like a tortoise; not much noise, but you know he's there.

This was my first viewing of "Phantasm" and I'll admit my main motivation to track this film down (Thank you to "CEX" on Union Street, Glasgow, for my £0.75 dvd!) was because of the Buffy episode where Xander thinks he's borrowed "Phantasm" from the video shop, only to find that they've given him "Fantasia" :D

So, it's taken me several years to finally pick up the dvd, but I have to say, I'm glad I did!

I'm a B-movie fan (as you can clearly see by my viewing list so far!), so low-budget is more of an invitation for me. If you're a cinematography nut, you probably wouldn't like this film.

The film is about two brothers, eldest brother Jody (I always thought that was a girls name!) Pearson (Bill Thornbury) and his little brother Michael (Michael Baldwin). Their parents passed away years before and are buried up at a mortuary called 'Morningside'. I've never truly understood why cemeteries, mortuaries and their ilk have to have such fake-sounding 'happy' names. It's like 'legal highs' having cute names... People are weird!

Anyway, a friend of the brothers' dies (while getting it on with a mysterious woman in the cemetery, that dirty dog!) and is buried up at Morningside - the very place he snuffed it! Kind of creepy.

Jody attends the funeral. Mike spies on the funeral from the bushes (he does a lot of this).

After the funeral, Mike spies a 'Tall Man' lifting the guy's coffin by himself and heaving it into his hearse and then driving off! Now if you don't think that's weird, you need to check your touch with reality. Coffins are damned heavy! Also, usually they're buried in the grounds of where the funeral takes place....

He visits a fortune teller who has some crazy magic skills and a pair of sunglasses Ozzy Osbourne may have lost at a gig. I find the significance of the fortune teller to be a bit hazy, I get that it's to do the weird thing with the black box... and to show that Mike's worried that his brother will leave him... Other than that I'm not sure.

Anyway, Mike is convinced something's going down when, while spying on his brother getting jiggy in the graveyard (the little perv!) - with same mysterious lady! - he is approached by a midget in a brown coat. Running from the Jawa-like-thing, Mike is spotted by his brother who, ladies knickers in mouth, chases after him. Classy!

Mike convinces his brother pretty quickly that something is going on with the help of a living severed finger in some custard-like-goop which mutates! I liked that Coscarelli didn't feel the need to string out the I-don't-believe-you-bit. I do get bored sometimes. Fair enough, in reality, you wouldn't believe what this clearly crazy teenager is saying, but for the sake of audience! Please!

With the help of their friend, the ice cream man, Reggie (Reggie Bannister), the Pearson brothers fight the Tall Man to end his enslaving (and shrinking) of the dead! But will they survive? Or will they be slaughtered by the iconic flying silver balls of death? (and OMG for a seventies low-budget film, I loved the silver balls of death!)

An odd twist that doesn't make too much sense and then the 'shock' ending are confusing. Well, not the 'schlock', I mean 'shock', ending... that's pretty straightforward, but the random twist with Mike and Reggie... I felt like I'd missed a scene or two from the reel there!

I'm surprised that they haven't tried to remake this film yet, it seems to be what they're all at right now. In fact, I'm surprised Michael Bay hasn't jumped on it and put his trademark explosions everywhere!

Some points of note:
  •  Ice cream vans are explosive!
  • Midget zombies sound like rabid dogs
  • A shotgun shell would do a lot more damage (probably to you!) if hit with a hammer...
  • Getting it on with mysterious ladies in the cemetery will either a) get you killed or b) mean you are actually having sex with a creepy old dude with magic powers!
But I do love the scene with the crazy mutated finger-fly-thing. It may be low-budget, but you have to appreciate the low-tech excellence of this scene!

For the sake of cult status, this film is a worthwhile watch. I wouldn't go paying a fortune for it though! Definitely work 75p! Win.

The balls aren't picky who they choose to gore!
[Picture: New Breed Productions]