Sunday, May 5, 2013

MOVIE REVIEW: Phantasm (1979)

When Mike's older brother Jody doesn't let him attend a funeral he decides to spy on it from the sidelines instead. When everybody has left he sees something very strange, the creepy undertaker loads the casket into his hearse by himself and drives of with it. He suspects something weird is going on but has a hard time convincing his brother who is more annoyed that Mike follows him around everywhere
ever since their parents died. Mike decides to check out the funeral home and comes back with something that makes it plainly clear something odd is indeed afoot. Mike, Jody and family friend Reggie decide to investigate what exactly that Tall Man is up to.

Phantasm is clearly filmed on a small budget, it's got that classic 80's b-movie vibe about it that is just so exciting, you know that you're going to be in for something entertaining. (Considering it was made in 1979 you could even call it a trendsetter.) The plot is pure horror cheese, you've got a lanky creepy dude, blonde babes (one that easily puts out), a mystical, psychic grandma and an awkward looking kid who has to overcome his fear to figure out what trouble he's gotten himself into. 
The actors aren't particularly good, apart from Michael Baldwin who plays the young Mike Pearson and gives an excellent performance, but good actors aren't what you want in a movie like this. You want actors who are game and go all out to make the movie as fun as it can possibly be and they certainly deliver on that. 

The contrast between the quiet suburban town it takes place in and the disturbing funeral home is really effective. Oh my god, is that funeral home disturbing with its huge echoing marble halls, I can imagine plenty of nightmares taking place there. Phantasm is an extremely atmospheric movie, it looks very nice and it's got an awesome score reminiscent of the Nightmare on Elmstreet movies, or  John Carpenters work. Actually, that is the best way I can describe it. Phantasm is like a John Carpenter horror movie aimed at a slightly younger target but for one scene that merited the movies original X-rating. Even with that in it, Phantasm is not particularly gory, it's a movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat biting your nails and giddy at the same time. I bet you're wondering now what that scene is (all I'll say is, it involves that metal ball thing on the poster). It's certainly worth a watch if you're feeling nostalgic for the creativity and fun that is lost in mainstream horror movies now but was so abundant twenty, thirty years ago or if you're wishing you were still at that age you had to sneak in to the movies you were a bit too young for. Not one of the best, but very enjoyable and it puts today's output to shame.