Phantasm – Anchor bay Collection
Anchor Bay – 1978

Written and Directed by Don Coscarelli

Michael Baldwin
Bill Thornbury
Reggie Bannister
Kathy Lester
Angus Scrimm

PHANTASM is the first R-rated movie I ever saw without a parent or guardian.  It scared the crap out of me in the theater and I’ve loved it ever since.

The parents of Jody (Bill Thornbury) & Michael Pearson (Michael Baldwin) pass away.  The younger brother becomes fearful that his older brother will leave him too, so he starts following him around town.  When Michael trails his brother to a funeral, he sees something astonishing that changes the direction rest of the movie.  Michael (Mike) sees the Tall Man lift the casket with dead body into the hearse without help and then turns to look straight at Mike.

This leads Mike to follow the Tall Man to a local funeral home where he discovers the evil secrets within the creepy mortuary: the Tall Man controlling a legion of hooded killer dwarf creatures, and that within the mortuary there is a portal to hell.  Throw in the deadly fast flying silver orb that embeds itself into the heads of anyone who sneaks into the mortuary’s long haunting hallways, and these ingredients all add up to one of the better, more memorable horror films ever made.

The real success of this film for me, was the emotional attachment I felt to young teenage boy Mike (Michael Baldwin), because I was basically the same age at the time.  So when Mike stands up to fight the imposing Tall Man, I felt the amazing courage and conviction of this character and in some ways wished I could be as cool as him.  I mean for Christ sakes, he was battling demons, had a great brother and drove an awesome car (a 1971 Plymouth Barracuda).

PHANTASM is an instance where everything came together.  The story was never done before, it has the right combination of developed characters, a purely evil antagonist, excellent visual look, creepy music and the locations that add to the film’s overall scare quotient.

Writer Director Don Coscarelli has to be given his due for the film’s success.  He focused on the right things as a writer and director and he’ll always be remembered for this film.

The casting of this movie was also done right.  Michael Baldwin comes off as a believable kid who is scared of the situation he’s put into but is able to face his fears and try to battle The Tall Man.  Bill Thornbury is so likable and seems like the kind of person who you can count on.  Reggie Bannister who plays Reggie (the Ice Cream Man) is just so easy going and cool, you’ve got love him.

Anchor Bay does a bang-up job with special features:  Phantasmagora is a 30-minute documentary with cast and crew of PHANTASM.  Don Coscarelli and stars Michael Baldwin, Angus Scrimm and Bill Thornbury all join in for the Audio CommentaryDeleted Scenes, Phantasm: Behind-The-Scenes, Phantasm: Actors Having A Ball.  There’s also Phantasm TV interview, Fangoria TV Commercial with Angus Scrimm, TV Spots, Trailer and Phantasm III Trailer.

PHANTASM is one of the top 20 horror films of all-time.  If that’s not a good enough reason to add it to your collection, then don’t consider yourself a serious fan of horror.