Friday, February 27, 2009

It was little and brown and low to the ground!


I'm going to talk about one of the greatest, yet misunderstood horror films of all time.

PHANTASM.
This one has a special place in my heart. The complaints I often hear are that the special effects are bad and that the acting is terrible. In all actuality, neither of these statements are true. The special effects, while amateurish, are an impressive feat due to the budget constraints of the picture, and besides that, they have a charm which also goes for the acting. Some people just don't understand what makes this movie special, and I'll try to explain it as well as I possibly can.
This is not only a story about mutant dwarfs, flying silver drill spheres, and tall alien undertakers, it's a story about fear of loss. Not just loss through death, but also due to abandonment. This themes of the movie make it something you can relate to and a little more multi-faceted than a typical late 70's early 80's American horror film. While true, none of the actors were going to give Dustin Hoffman a run for his money and attempt to the 1979 Academy Award from him, they aren't terrible, and they play their roles convincingly. Particularly an actor like Reggie Banister, who portrays the role of (you said it) Reggie, there's a genuine quality to the acting that can't be matched, regardless of acting ability. I care about these characters.
Ever seen the sequels? I really don't care about those. Some people scorn me, telling me that "Part 3 is far superior", or "Hell, Part 2 is the greatest of them all". I've seen some of them (not sure how many there are), and frankly, I'm just not overly excited by them. They definitely advance the storyline and expand upon the mythology, but the emotional thrust of the first film just isn't there. Part 3 had some moments that come close, but then Jody turns into a sphere and it distracts me.
What makes Phantasm work is it's lack of explanation. So many things are left to the imagination. Some might say this is because the writing was half finished and Coscarelli didn't know how to tie up loose ends and/or explain some of the things he put on screen, but I say it's because things are creepier when left for your mind to ponder (having the faces of the dwarf's constantly revealed in sequels was a bad decision says this observer). Really though, this is a strange movie. It's completely off the wall. It takes you completely out of your comfort zone in the realm of fantasy/horror because nothing in this movie exists anywhere else. Check this movie out if you haven't already. Even if you don't like it, you won't be able to deny that it is an absolute original.
I'm not sure if anyone is reading this thing (yet?), but I'd love to hear your thoughts on Phantasm, particularly the original, but the sequels as well. Leave a comment.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, you nailed it. The word that perfectly sums up Phantasm is "alien". The flick was so out of left field when it came out, that it has a dreamlike quality like no other. I remember my friends being very divided at the time. It's almost like a fairytale. In a weird way it's simultaneously dated and timeless.

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