Welcome to The Daily Cup a movie blog/writing project by Kyle B. Dekker, presented by Hot Chocolate Media. You can read series concept here. The basic rules, Kyle must watch 365 movies in 2018 and write about all of them. 292 of them have to be movies he's never seen before. Thanks for reading.
My only other previous exposure to the work of Don Coscarelli were The Beastmaster and John Dies At The End. Both are films that I enjoy for wildly different reasons. The Beastmaster is pure 80s cheese. John Dies at the End is a wildly strange, yet compelling movie you can’t stop watching. Phantasm (1979) is one of Coscarelli’s earliest features and fits in the strange, yet compelling category.
The IMDd description of Phantasm is “A teenage boy and his friends face off against a mysterious grave robber known only as the Tall Man, who keeps a lethal arsenal of terrible weapons with him.” This is both mostly correct and wildly inaccurate. Phantasm features two brothers Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) and Jody (Bill Thornbury) who work together to stave off the evil forces killing people in their town. They are joined by their ice cream truck driving buddy Reggie (Reggie Bannister) in the fight and a handful of random women who just scream and run away.
The narrative is a mess, half the time it is presented as a dream, or is it? Characters come and go with little explanation (the women mentioned earlier, some caretaker guy in the mausoleum), there is a brief tease of another dimension, and there is a flying silver sphere of death that is never explained. There is a random visit by Mike to a fortune teller with a mysterious bene gesserit style hand trap box she tests Mike with and more. In spite of this mess, I couldn’t stop watching.
The visuals were pretty fantastic with my favorite bits being inside the funeral home/mausoleum owned by the villain known as The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm). The black and white marble walls and stark lighting is eerie and off putting, which totally works in this film. The Tall Man and his army of zombie dwarves, silver spheres, giant inspect creatures, and more assault Mike and Jody throughout the film. They fight competently, none of the helpless stupid horror film victim tropes to be found (big bonus points). The ending of the film leads you to thinking none of what happened is real, or is it? Was the whole film from the point of view of a unreliable narrator in Mike, or are we watching his point of view as he descends into madness? I have no idea, but I was interested is the journey.
If you like clean and concise narratives, clear and logical endings, and hate gorgeous well-groomed 1970s man-coifs this movie isn’t for you. I found it fascinating and will likely watch the other Phantasm films to see what the hell Coscarelli took this very strange, but facinating story.
Movies new to me watched: 9/292
Other movies: 1/73
Total movies watched: 10/365
Have your own thoughts or opinions on this movie? Comment below or contact Kyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @kbdekker.