Phantasm (1979) — Kicking off a bizarre horror franchise

“OK, I see it all now. We gotta stomp the s**t outta that tall dude!”

Kyle’s rating: Flying metal orbs with knives and blood-draining capabilities . . . what would Freud say?

Kyle’s review: For the most part, if you’re seeing a movie made since the 1980s, you can pretty much ignore the fashion and lingo influence factor. However, a lot of stuff from the ’70s, at least the stuff I’ve seen, is so hopefully inundated by the Age of Aquarius and whatnot that you can’t sit there and just watch the movie unless you’ve flipped your “Hey, this was made a long time ago when things were really different and I must deal with that” switch in your head prior to viewing.

Phantasm is such a film. Doesn’t mean it’s a bad film, far from it. There’s a lot to enjoy, you just have to accept the long flowing locks on the dudes and a general sense of acid-wash coating everything. Ah, acid-wash.

This is the (convoluted and chronologically-challenged) story about a young dude, Mike (Michael Baldwin), who just lost his parents and now all he has left is his older brother Jody (Bill Thornbury) and family friend Reggie (Reggie Bannister). Or does he? The local funeral director that oversaw his parents getting buried, a very tall old man (Angus Scrimm), only has the best intentions for those corpses and certainly won’t be digging them back out of the ground for nefarious purposes. Or will he?

After the movie is over, you’ll turn off the television and go to bed with a feeling of safety, certain that your locked front door will keep out any flying balls or killer dwarves that might be attacking your house. Or will it? Will you? What was the question? What tense am I writing in? Who am I? Gridlock! Gridlock!

Look, I tend to be the one who hits the bulk of the vast horror library here, and I’m always explaining that if you pay close attention to these movies most of the confusing plot threads will be tied up in the end. I can’t say that about Phantasm. I’m sure that the creators know what’s going on and where everything is going, but I happen to think the dude stapling the shooting script back in the day borrowing a few papers for rolling purposes, if you know what I’m saying, because there is a fragmented and dreamlike quality to these cinematic proceeding. They “claim” that this was purposeful and they wanted the film to be wacky and wild. Hmmm, I wonder. No way to tell now, though.

This review is pretty fragmented itself, actually. I’m writing it in abnormal psychology class instead of paying attention, and that seems to fit for Phantasm. Anyway, Phantasm is the crazy film your freaky friend and/or older “of age in the ’70s” brother told you about, with crazy dwarves, weird images, an evil tall man chasing a young boy and screaming “Boy!” and has floating silver orbs that follow people and hit them in the head with Wolverine-like claws that pop out. I want a Phantasm ball! Imagine the merchandising possibilities!

Until that happens, and I know you all want one too, we must settle for having this great first film which ultimately makes no sense and is more like watching someone else’s dream that somehow imprinted onto celluloid, but it’s cool! And kinda bloody. It’s a scene, man, dig? So watch it and watch out! Solid!

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