Phantasm is both one of the most enduring and one of the oddest horror franchises. Or is it sci-fi? Fantasy, maybe? The first film was released 38 years ago and the fifth – and reportedly last in the sporadically produced series- released late in 2016. Last month, the entire saga was released as a deluxe Blu-Ray Box Set [Amazon] making it a great time to revisit this often overlooked gem.
The films are the passion project of writer/director Don Coscarelli [IMDB], who also gave us the cult classic “The Beastmaster” [IMDB] and the wonderfully mind-bending “John Dies at the End” [My Review]. He once described Phantasm as “barely linear”, a characterization that some might call generous. The films are a loose mixture of original ideas, interesting imagery and budget-induced compromise.
Tommy Tilden (Brian Cox [IMDB]) is thrilled that his son, Austin (Emile Hirsch [IMDB]) is following in his footsteps. He’s been the county coroner for many years and has earned his reputation as a perfectionist. When the local sheriff finds a perfectly preserved corpse with no outward signs of trauma lying serenely among the tattered victims of a multiple… homocide? Suicide? Accident? – he goes to Tommy for answers.
Some children – let’s face it – truly deserve to be devoured by whatever monsters can be coaxed under their beds. Samuel (Noah Wiseman [IMDB]) may be one of these. He drives his poor mother, Amelia (Essie Davis [IMDB]), to the brink with his paranoia and the contraptions he concocts to defend himself. Alone, and never truly recovered from the tragic death of her husband, his mother simply cannot cope.
In the future nearly everybody on Earth lives below the poverty level, forcing people to take dangerous work. Mankind has implemented faster-than-light travel via a technology called “slipstreaming”. Matter is broadcast, somehow, to a specific point in the universe, where it’s reconstituted. It can then be called back at any time. This process is rife with danger and is extraordinarily error-prone, often leading to “data corruption”.
Some people get down around the holidays. The influx of annoying relatives is an inconvenience; an intrusion into their ordered lives. Some are simply jaded and can’t see why others get so excited; presents are nice and all, but do we need all the hoopla? This movie dares to declare: “Hey! If you don’t like Christmas, you and your family should be brutally murdered!”
It’s impossible to discuss Simon Pegg without mentioning The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy (it’s already been mentioned several times during Peggapalooza). The films are directed by Edgar Wright [IMDB], written by Wright and Simon Pegg [IMDB] and star Pegg and Nick Frost [IMDB].
Cornetto’s, for those unaware, are a popular prepackaged ice-cream treat popular in the United Kingdom. Each of the films in the trilogy features a distinct, thematically appropriate, flavor.
The “sharks in places that aren’t the ocean” genre has been woefully under served lately. Sure, we have enough “Sharknado” movies to field a Little League team, but purists rightfully scoff at these periodic, vacuous money grabs. They know that real “sharks in places that aren’t the ocean” movies have something more, something truer. They have heart.
[Personal Note: my wife and I finished this movie and, as you’ll see, enjoyed it thoroughly. I began writing the review and, a short while later, learned that Anton Yelchin had died. Considering the subject matter of the film, this created some eerie sensations to say the least. He was a damn good actor and seemed like a damn fine human.]