Today I watched Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm (1979)
13 year old Mike and 24 year old Jody are two brothers whose parents very recently died. Now Jody’s friend has just committed suicide, so the two are going through quite a lot. Jody doesn’t let Mike go to his friend’s funeral due to this, but Mike is still sneaking around the cemetery anyways. While spying on the funerary proceedings through a set of binoculars Mike notices something strange, the Tall Man who runs the funerary home hoists an occupied coffin all on his own. Mike knows something foreboding is going down but no one will listen to him as they think it is just his grief. Later he breaks into the morgue and the Tall Man finds and pursues him, ending with Mike cutting off one of his fingers and escaping. With the Tall Man’s still twitching finger leaking strange yellow blood Mike finds it easy to get his brother and Reggie, a local ice cream truck driver, to help him in continuing to investigate these disturbing occurrences.
The 70’s was a wild and diverse time in the history of horror film and Phantasm serves as a fascinating capstone to the transitional period between the more heady and surreal Giallo influenced works of the early decade to the growing American slasher phenomena. Phantasm stands somewhere between those two worlds with the typical small town americana of the slasher blending with a plot that goes full steam into the absurd and bizarre. The film is a nightmarish meditation of western funerary practices and our rituals of death wrapped up in a pure genre exercise that leaves logic at the door in exchange for evocative imagery and creative imagery.
If you are one of the many people who enjoyed Stranger Things earlier this year, I would highly recommend this film. It is a story about young protagonists dealing with horrors that can be seen as metaphorical of real world trauma, and is mistaken for such by characters in the film, and said horror is most certainly of the cosmic and incomprehensible variety, Stranger Things must have taken a great deal of influence. The Tall Man himself is one of my favorite horror monsters and as a lover of the absurd this film holds a special place in my hear, I absolutely think it is worth the watch. 5/5