Phantasm (1979)

Article 5420 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-10-2017
Directed by Don Coscarelli
Featuring A. Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury, Reggie Banister
Country: USA
What it is: That’s a good question.

Two brothers find themselves contending with bizarre events at a mausoleum involving a sinister tall man, a gaggle of hooded dwarfs, and a murderous metal sphere.

I’ve actually been looking forward to seeing this one for years. What intrigued me about it was that I was mostly hearing about the various elements of the film, and rarely hearing anything that sounded like an explanation for them. So how did I react? Well, as the end credits rolled, I found myself…. laughing. IMDB classifies the movie as horror, science fiction and fantasy (and it falls within all three categories), but I would also add comedy as well. Why? Because there’s something here that gleefully makes hash of logic and expectations; like an Ed Wood movie, it breaks rules that you didn’t even know existed, and it seems to be doing it on purpose. The dialogue often engages in ridiculous-sounding overwrought cliches, and at other times it obsessively overlooks the elephant of the room. The plot seems to keep looping back on itself (how many times do people go back and investigate the mausoleum?) and even flatly contradicts the action you’ve seen up this point. The end result is a movie where almost everything in it feels unreal and outside the normal rules of the universe. To my mind, the movie is a joke on the audience and its expectations, but, to my mind, it’s a good and funny one. I’m not surprised the movie has an uneven reputation, but I’m also not surprised that it’s a cult film, and I think I’ve joined the cult.


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