Phantasm (1979)

“The funeral is about to begin” 

Over the past few years Phantasm has slowly climbed the ranks of my favourite horror movies to become a legit contender for the top spot. What sets it apart from so many other horror movies of the 70s and 80s is the sheer amount of imagination and invention Coscarelli managed to conjure with his minuscule resources. Phantasm is inherently strange and weird, with an entire universe and imagery wholly unique to itself. It also feels like a dream, occasionally a nightmare, with its skewed editing patterns, narrative dead-ends and short-cuts only adding to the overall sense of delirium. 

The graveyard setting’s gothic tinge combined with the fantasy/sci-fi comic-book stylisation – the futurist gloss of the mausoleum interiors are a delight – all work together to tap into something both primal and fantastic that lies at the core of any great heightened fiction. There’s so much subtlety in the world building too – notice how the town is strangely depopulated – that works alongside the broader brush strokes. Basically, it’s a film that utterly works on every level, both major and minor, text and subtext. The shot of the Tall Man in the street with the steam from Reggie’s truck swirling around him is one of the best singular images I’ve ever seen in a horror movie. Just magic.

Watched on Arrow blu-ray

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