1979, Avco Embassy Films/Starway International
2016, Bad Robot (Remastered Edition)
A. Michael Baldwin (Mike Pearson)
Bill Thornbury (Jody Pearson)
Reggie Bannister (Reggie)
Kathy Lester (Lady in Lavender)
Angus Scrimm (The Tall Man)
From first-time director Don Coscarelli, this classic horror film gets the remastered treatment courtesy of J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot, and it still holds the scares to this day.
When his best friend Tommy is believed to have committed suicide but was actually murdered, Jody Pearson attends his funeral. Riding along to the Morningside Cemetary, where the funeral is held, Jody’s little brother Mike, whom Jody has taken care of since the death of their parents, witnesses something he never imagined. The mortician had taken Tommy’s coffin and lifted it himself as if it was lightweight.
At first, Mike decides to find out what is going on himself. However, he soon finds himself terrorized by dwarf-like zombies that are actually the creation of the mortician known simply as the Tall Man. Even worse, when someone goes into the masoleum who should not be there, there are deadly spheres with two hooks that will latch onto its victim, followed by a deadly drill that will cause instant death. Mike learns he cannot stop the Tall Man alone and gets help from both Jody and Jody’s best friend Reggie. Will this trio be able to learn the deadly secret of the Tall Man and end his reign of terror?
One of the best indie horror films during the late 1970’s, filmmaker Don Coscarelli truly proves himself to be a jack of all trades, having done a lot of the core work behind the scenes from writing, producing and directing to cinematography and editing. It is safe to say that this is truly his baby and it works quite well to the point where he would be involved in a total of five films in the saga, only writing and producing the final film, Phantasm: RaVager.
What is astounding about this film is that the cast consists of virtual newcomers who do quite well in what will become their signature roles. A. Michael Baldwin is great here as the 13-year old Mike, who finds himself embroiled in a crazy and deadly game if you will in which he must solve the mystery of the film’s antagonist, simply known as the Tall Man. Bill Thornbury does quite well as Mike’s older brother Jody, who finds himself conflicted not only with his best friend’s death, but taking care of little brother as well. He sometimes sees this as a burden, but he proves to be a necessary ally as does Reggie Bannister, who brings a bit of comic wit to the role of Reggie. Bannister would be the only cast protagonist member to appear in all five films.
However, if there is a true breakout character in the film, it is Angus Scrimm’s Tall Man. As the evil mortician who protects his masoleum with deadly spheres and causes chaos with his dwarf zombie army, it is clear he has some dark secrets and deadly intentions. However, the viewer will slowly discover this as the film goes on. The highlights are not only the attacks from the Tall Man’s zombie army, but the famous scene where we see the sphere in action. This proves to be very gruesome as we see the sphere embed in its victim’s head followed by a drill that penetrates in between the eyes and blood just shoots out of the sphere. This is the level of gore that we are treated to in what will be a trademark of the film series. The remaster of the film is very crisp and brings that particular scene to life in a very good way.
Phantasm: Remastered is not only a great classic horror tale, but that of a remastered classic horror tale. The cast is great, the effects are great, the story is quite fascinating. No wonder it would become a five-film saga. Definitely worth seeing.
WFG RATING: A
Well Go USA releases this film on Blu-Ray today, December 6. Extras include original interviews from 1979, trailers, deleted scenes, and an episode of New Graveyard Carz.