Written and Directed by Don Coscarelli
Starring Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury, Reggie Bannister, Kathy Lester, Angus Scrimm

The opening scene of Phantasm shows one of Reggie and Jody’s pals going at it in a graveyard next to a funeral home. The woman he is with shows an obligatory breast shot and then she takes out a knife and kills him. During the funeral scene we see Jody tell Reggie he’d like to leave because the graveyard creeps him out. No more than 10 cinematic minutes later, we see Jody going at it with the same girl in that very graveyard the next night.

Such is the rhythm of Phantasm, which is a few good scenes that are ineptly stretched out into an 89 minute run time. The essence of the story is this gigantic haunted funeral home that is tied through another dimension. The dead that are interred there end up turning into midget slaves of a sort. That these slaves look like Jawas from Star Wars is likely a convenience of low budget as much as anything. I would not want to give Coscarelli too much credit for this pile of slop.

Seeing the commercials for this film when I was a younger viewer fed my imagination. Both the Tall Man (Scrimm) and the magnificent flying orb with hooks made a believer of me. Being unable to view the film until over a decade later just led to a big WTF for how awful the film is in total.

Phantasm is really just a collection of disconnected events that are compiled into something that should be a story, but feels more like a series of synapse gaps. It’s like listening to a story by someone who doesn’t realize that they have dementia. Somewhere in the hour and a half, a story is taking place. Sometimes we’re told after the fact that some of it was sort of a Bobby Ewing dream. Outside of Scrimm’s countenance and the two scenes with the orb, it is not fun.

That the film has four sequels is remarkable. I have seen parts but not all of any of them. There is something of interest in the story, even if Coscarelli doesn’t take any logical path to explore those ideas. The acting is garbage, for the most part. If you took 20 random people you met at a grocery store and put them in front of the camera, they could do as well as any of the people we see, outside of Scrimm. The only good cinematography is the stuff one sees in the trailer. Even that is mostly garbage. Calling this film Remastered is a clever way of saying one has a clearer vision of its awful attempt at film making.

Save your time. Don’t watch this film.

(* out of *****)

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