Where the dead are no longer that way...
At first, with a name like phantasm, you'd think I was showing yet another dang ghost movie. Well I got you good! This old little gem has two things that really managed to become iconic - a silver ball and a tall dude - but was strong enough in following that it had a number of sequels. Tonight, we strap into our nice looking car and look both ways for a stalker of a younger sibling, it's time to take a look at Phantasm.
Now this movie is pretty old - surely there are older movies out there, but 79 isn't exactly on the cutting edge of technology. This can be noticed throughout various moments in the movie, and for some that may be a detracting factor of the movie. Besides the plot-side aspects of the movie, this may really already set this aside as something that might be more enjoyed by fans of budget flicks more so than those who require a high level of polish amongst all aspects. Although some of the effects can be a bit dated though, I will assure you that the film is cut together quite competently, even if at first some aspects seem rather silly.
Some of those aspects take us into the next little segment - the characters. The characters aren't exactly begging to be hated, as one might find in a lot of horror movies, but they aren't always at the top of their game at being sensible and liked either. Our near sidekick - the ice cream man - is likeable enough, never really doing anything that would drive us nuts and even having some nice moments that seem pointless spinning right round and becoming mildly important later on. Heck, even the older brother of the two mains seems likeable enough, despite thinking about throwing his younger brother somewhere else and taking leave of the town. The younger brother though is probably one of the oddest characters in the movie - and considering the creepy tall guy and the hooded dwarves running around, that says something.
You see, this kid follow his brother everywhere almost without fail. It's almost "kid in a Gamera movie" levels of nuisance. His reasoning is sound enough to some extent - afraid that his brother is gonna leave town without him, particularly after overhearing him mention it at one point - but the extremes is kinda off kilter. His brother will drive somewhere - like the bar - and there's brother younger, stalking up to watch in the window. Heck, one scene even has him watching his brother in a cemetery while him and a girl from the bar are starting to get all feely. The Tall Man is probably the closest to a main villain in the movie - which is kind of a bit twisty with it's psychological aspects that makes it hard to necessarily pin him down as the sole villain - and does a good job of being imposing. Not a whole lot of dialogue lines for him, but he delivers them with a demanding vocalization that help relay a form of threat one way or another.
The soundtrack in this thing is... well, not the best. Although I imagine it won't be quite as annoying to some, there's something about the particular sound that starts the re-used theme that permeates this movie that gets me a bit agitated. Beyond that, it's not all that bad if it decides to exist, and the line deliveries of all the characters can be heard fine. There's times when the dwarves kick in and it seems a mite louder than everything else in the movie - perhaps to increase the spook factor of their angry badger rumblings, perhaps just due to my particular sound systems setup - but nothing so much as to suddenly make me deafened. There's one or two decent lines in the movie, but of everything said in the movie the most memorable line to me is probably the way in which the Tall Man delivers the line "Boy!"
As mentioned before, the effects can be a bit dated at times - think that scene in the original Terminator where Arnold needs to fix his eye, and it's noticeably not a real head. The movie does handle it's effects of oozing and wiggling and flying objects pretty well though, so it isn't all bad - especially when you learn some of the behind the scenes stuff and realize just how simple some of those effects really were. For most, the highlight moment would be the flying death-ball drilling into a guys head - and I'd argue that was probably one of the heavier moments of effects work. I'll throw it into this department as well, but there are a few moments of continuity issues as well - particularly in the finger-chop scene - where an object seems to have been forget to be placed, or it's picked up and they just forgot to show it get picked up again. Nothing really a deal breaker in this regard, but I'll point it out anyways.
Now, the last bit here needs to get into a bit of plot stuff, so if you somehow haven't already seen this thing - like you were to young or something - than you can probably skip this paragraph. I don't want to heavy duty spoiler or anything like that, but i have to at least mention the ending to really feel like I did a thorough job here. Just to be safe, I'll the rest of this one behind the spoiler block, so you don't need to worry about it.
Phantasm is as enjoyable as I remember it being. It's not exactly something I personally would find myself watching constantly, but it's fun enough now and then to check out. It's plot can actually be pretty unique for something you'd expect to be a run of the mill ghost horror movie - in fact not even really being a ghost movie at all. A lot of aspects of the movie speak to it's old age and a less than astounding budget, but it takes what it has and uses it well enough to set up an experience. It has missteps, but not enough to overall ruin the experience - not one for everyone, but probably something plenty would enjoy watching if for no other reason but to say they've done so.