Phantasm (1979)

Phantasm (1979), written, photographed, edited and directed by Don Coscarelli.

Horror film fans have a soft spot for the tiny budget, semi-pro, indie efforts. Sure, the results are often rough, but sincerity counts for a lot and cheap can sometimes be scary. Some outfits spend vastly more money and produce less. Quality horror does not easily survive the corporate studio pipeline.

Phantasm is one of the more ambitious such films of the 70s. Funny, gruesome, and inventive with a surreal dreamlike small town setting, depopulated except for our characters. The combination of graveyards and science fiction portals to other dimensions is almost Lovecraftian, although he had no taste for sex or nudity, of which we have just a bit.

It's gratifying to have characters who know how to do things: fix cars, drive and handle firearms. Unfortunately they are facing the Tall Man, and bullets won't stop him.

The bond of orphaned brothers is balanced against the horrible suspicion that diabolical, unworldly forces are transforming dead loved ones for evil purposes.

This is famous for the evil flying sphere which kills in horrible ways, but my favorite bit is when the kid climbs into the mortuary through a basement window. In the dark, a foam head holding a wig falls on him. He catches it and does not jump.

On DVD with a commentary track from the laserdisc days. No subtitles. Phantasm II is available on Blu-ray.