HCF may be one of the newest voices on the web for all things Horror and Cult, and while our aim is to bring you our best opinion of all the new and strange that hits the market, we still can not forget about our old loves, the films that made us want to create the website to spread the word. So, now and again our official critics at the HCF headquarters have an urge to throw aside their new required copies of the week and dust down their old collection and bring them to the fore….our aim, to make sure that you may have not missed the films that should be stood proud in your collection. This Week Ross Hughes looks back at the two of the best cult horror films that maybe the more modern horror fan has missed. The two delightful horror films starring the icon figure The Tall Man……..
The first thing I had to do when this quite bizarre horror finished was to make sure that David Lynch had not directed or had any kind of involvement in this 70’s cult classic. This is so far up in his radar of the weird and strange, that its like discovering a long lost film of his, but that is probably disrespecting Don Coscarelli, who wrote, edited and directed this piece of film, and fully deserves the credit for what he came up with!
My childhood had witnessed maybe too many horrors, but this seemed to miss my radar for the only reason I could think of is that my dear Mum must have seen this once and thought “What the heck!” and so deemed that if she could not understand anything that went on here then how could a ten year old boy be able too!
And I can see her point! Even after watching it for the very first time this week, even to write down the plot for this very thread as got me scratching my head and wondering how the heck I can even start. One thing that stands out is the clear and good reason as to why Phantasm is considered one of the most original horrors of not just the 70’s but all decades gone bye.
12 year old Michael (Michael Baldwin) is struggling to get over his grief of losing his parents and the fear that his older brother Jody (Bill Thornbury) will somehow abandon him. Michael, anxiety and grief filling every inch of his body needs to follow Jody everywhere he goes and its this path that brings his watchful eye to the going on at Morningside Mausoleum, a morgue where there something quite unique is going on!
Right time for a deep breath and for everyone to take this in and for those who have not seen this film then be prepared for what the plot is about. There is this very TALL MAN (Angus Scrimm) who is creepy and an undertaker who is also an Alien who is taking the bodies of the recent deceased, turning them into dwarfs, then putting them into canisters and sending them to different planets so they become slaves!!!!…………….
Yeah I know!!!!!!!!!
In a age where horror as become a mission to out shock the last film with scenes of bloodshed and torture, thoughts of any kind of originality or even plot is well off the planning stage. Phantasm may be 33 years old and as dated quite badly, it still offers a breath of freshness that even recent horrors would wish to have! To be quite honest I really did not know what to make of it all! Did I love it? Found it too strange? Hate it? Its a kind of horror that requires more than one watch, as the first viewing actually blows you mind with its ambitious approach and surreal horror moments.
The fact that it builds a suitable atmosphere is a credit considering the low budget, the score that plays out through every image is like an offspring of John Carpenter and there are also some unsettling moments. None more so than the opening shot of a man and woman having sex in a graveyard but then the woman turns into the Tall Man, kills the unsuspected guy and immediately setting the tone of the film.
I really can not get my head around this. Its like no horror I have seen before, an imagination blast of verve and style than can not be questioned. Its intriguing as it is bold with flying spheres around every corner and questions that can not be answered.
The feelings of loss and abandonment fulfil the screen, death as never been quite told like this and I very much doubt it will never again and as I get ready to clap eyes on the sequel, one lingering thought occupies my mind, surely the sequel can not match the same blast of freshness?
When those know it all film fans that were meat for a certain GhostFace in the wonderful Scream 2 were discussing sequels that were better than the original, the usual suspects were mentioned. T2, Aliens that Gangster flick, all the ones widely regarded as worthy follow ups were spoke and yet while Randy who was known for his vast knowledge of horror films spoke his usual good sense, there is no getting around the fact that the man who ended up dead in the back of a van, did not know as much as he thought. As how he did not mention Phantasm II to his merry bunch of fellow students is a mystery, just as how this franchise of flying steel balls is not as popular as it should be!
Phantasm II like its original, as many faults to its name and like I thought, fails to recapture that magical mystery and freshness of its original, but for all its flaws, I was deeply surprised at how well the film works, its a typical sequel in terms of bigger field but better effects, but unlike others, also manages to keep its unique charm that makes the brand of Phantasm totally different to what is out there!
Carrying on from where the original left off in which we saw the “Tall Man” get his hands on the young boy Mike, we see that Reggie managed to rush to his rescue and save him off from an unkind fate. The film skips forward six years later and we catch up with Mike whose head as been replaced by James Le Gros – a decision enforced by the studios and somehow damages the film continuity-has spent years in a Mental Instituation and after leaving decides to track down his friend Reggie (still played by Reggie Bannister, in all Bruce Campbell glory).
They both re-team and decide to track down this “Tall Man” and his gang and put to bed his wicked ways, but they do not account for the man’s balls and I mean that in no sexual terms……
Its amazing how much a bigger budget can change a film, the flying balls of death that had a crap but great style in the original are made so fearsome in this. They do not just drill the face of people these days, they liquidise and slice and are pretty much a fantastic horror creation that are so overlooked in the genre, that remembers the likes of Freddy’s gloves and Jason’s ski mask with so much affection.
The slight trouble I had with the film and its only minor that it feels “big!” More mainstream than the original, like it hoped to branch out away from its cult status. It is shown with a plot that makes more sense as
one of the delights of Phantasm is that even after a second watch I still could work out what the heck it was all about! The plot for this is more easy on the brain and also seems to be more heavily influenced with the Evil Dead’s hence a chainsaw and some minor riffs on that loved franchise!
Its only dips into other films in a minor touch as make no mistake Phantasm II is one rare beast. A great ride of an horror that all makes sense up until the final scene that will leave you feeling both ways- Frustrated and confused, as it carries the tradition of the series in a “WTF” is going on!
Its quite a shock to say that Phantasm II is a sequel that may just match the original. You can see why some fans prefer this to the original, it takes the story to a new direction, as a creepy but all 80’s score, and is much bigger than what the original offered, and once you get to the Gold Sphere, then you either totally love this barmy franchise, or just not get it and as a horror fanatic, I hope you rushing out to get these two wonderful movies……….