slasher

Shaun vs. Phantasm (1979)

phan1Directed by Don Coscarelli

Starring A. Michael Baldwin, Reggie Bannister, Angus Scrimm

Two brothers happen upon an interdimensional being’s plan to take over our world by creating an army of undead with the dead bodies he finds in cemeteries.  It’s up to the brothers and their friend, the ice cream man, to stop the Tall Man.


After attending the funeral of a friend, Jody, Michael and Reggie discover strange happenings up at the Morningside Mortuary. Michael discovers that the undertaker there isn’t what he seems. They find out that bodies aren’t really being buried, rather they’re stolen by the undertaker who shrinks the bodies into demonic dwarves (think Jawas, only evil) and brings them to his alternate dimension as slaves and uses his flying metal spheres to kill anyone trying to stop him. Did I just start puffing on something mid sentence? Nope, that’s what this movie is about, although you wouldn’t know what’s going on unless you read about it somewhere else.

phan2

I wasn’t kidding when i said I had more balls than you.

While watching the movie, I tried to dig on the plot because it was unique, but unfortunately it’s very uneven. It may have to do with the fact that the movie was filmed on weekends over a long period of time, but either way, there are some confusing scenes that don’t make a whole lot of sense. Another major problem is that unless the Tall Man was on the screen doing something, the movie was boring. A lot of the movie was about young Michael idolizing his older brother Jody and not wanting to be alone since their parents are dead. It makes for a nice drama but this is a horror movie, and there isn’t enough of it. It gets a little more exciting towards the end, but it’s not enough. We also get an ending that says, “Hey, it’s a dream! Or maybe not! I dunno!”

phan3

Head On: Apply directly to the forehead.

Michael Baldwin and Bill Thornbury are great as the brothers, they’re believable as can be. Reggie, the ice cream man, plays their friend who gets involved and though he looks ever so slightly ridiculous with his trademark ponytail (he’s bald on top) and ice cream salesman attire, he rises above that and shows us that he really can act. Angus Scrimm has one or two goofy scenes but otherwise is very menacing as the Tall Man, giving us something to be scared about.

The effects are simple but they work quite well. If it’s one thing the series is known for, it’s the metallic spheres. As they fly through the air, they stick out retractable blades that stick into your skull as a drill comes out and bores through your head and shoots out the blood and gore behind it. Nasty! The film isn’t too gory, but back in the day, that scene got them an X rating!

phan4

This is my boomsti…oh, wrong movie.

What may have been scary in 1978 doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s scary now. It’s an uneven, boring movie that was appreciated back in the day but doesn’t hold up very well today. As against remakes as I am, a more focused remake of this film would be really good in the right hands and as if Coscarelli still has some say in it.

TL;DR

Story: 5 – Provides a definite unique story, but the storytelling is unbalanced and really takes away from the movie.

Blood: 5 – The sphere attack is great, everything else is tame now.

Nudity: 6 – A woman is so nice as to show off her rack several times.

Rating: 4 – Might be worth a watch for an older, nostalgic crowd, but it shows it’s age and not in a good way.

Trivia

– The first cut of the film ran at three hours.  Director Don Coscarelli cut the film to a more appropriate running time and used some of the excised footage in Phantasm IV.

– Although being very tall, standing at 6 feet 4 inches, Angus Scrimm wore suits several sizes smaller and boots with lifts inside that added 3 inches to his height.

– The iconic bed nightmare sequence was number 25 on the cable channel Bravo’s list of the “100 Scariest Movie Moments”.

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