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Published:October 30th, 2013 08:19 EST
Don Coscarelli`s 'Phantasm' Is My Favorite Halloween Season Flick, But I Don`t Know Quite Why!

Don Coscarelli`s 'Phantasm' Is My Favorite Halloween Season Flick, But I Don`t Know Quite Why!

By John G. Kays

A horror film *(or better, a fantasy film) sculpted by Don Coscarelli with Tender-Loving-Care, Phantasm (release date of March 28, 1979) is easily my favorite flick for the Halloween Season (which runs roughly from 10/01-11/01 each year like clockwork). In those days, that is 1979, I watched it over and over again for a dollar at AMC Northtown Six Theaters, where I had my first job as an usher more than a decade before (1968). The small, now mostly defunct North Dallas suburban shopping mall was an ideal place to see Phantasm, and I was even aware of this at the time. Phantasm is seemingly a B Flick, but somehow, mysteriously transcends this degradation, rising to a higher plain!

How or why it does this is a mystery still, and remains so; this might explain why so many of us Kooks keep watching it again and again. Well, you can see some of its charm; the music theme (done by Fred Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave) is hypnotizing, coming back in at just the right time, like when the Tall Man swiftly walks past Reggie Bannister`s Ice Cream truck on a street, which is maybe in Chatsworth, California (which is where Charlie and his Fallen Angels lived). Nothing seems planned, which is possibly a mantra to live by.

 Part of the charm for me is the late `70s look, with long hair on the two main characters, Micael Baldwin (playing Mike Pearson) and Bill Thornbury (who plays his purportedly dead brother, Jody Pearson). Another good example is the spontaneous scene of guitar jamming between Reggae and Jody, who`s a minor rock star apparently. I guess I better not forget to mention that funky-looking black Plymouth Barracuda used by Don Coscarelli, that keeps zooming all over the place in the film, trying to elude the spooky hearse of the ever pursuing Tall Man (Angus Scrimm). Okay, so who doesn`t wish it was 1979 again? Raise your hand so we can see you, Boy!

Good mutant, robot dwarves too, the obedient slaves of the power-mad Tall Man, who we hear wants to conquer the universe (yet the particulars of his plan are purposely unclear). The monster dwarves are filled with green slime and sawdust, I suppose, but look fairly harmless to me, although some of them are zonked friends or family to Mike and Jody. And what about those ominous blue dwarf tubs when the Dudes pass over to the other side? I`ve been thinking on those strange tubs for more than 30 years, apparently incubators for dwarf lava, I`ve come to believe! Too much cannabis in those days is another interpretation, I must add.

So many trips into Morningstar Cemetery, with that huge spooky white mortuary, against the tingling tones of synthesizers playing a Phantom of the Opera-like canticle that projects you into Michael`s nightmare without your permission (you can`t control it, which is where you need to keep it). At anytime you could fall into the abyss of the other world, when entering the Weird White Room, or you could return to the safety of your companions. Or is it really safety? Are Reggae and Jody really still alive? These are the themes that Don plays with so cleverly!

My conclusion (or is that my confusion) as to why Phantasm works so well, is that Coscarelli made up the plot on the fly while filming; nothing seems set in stone. There`s a fluidity here where your imagination can run wild, which is just what it will do everytime you view it. Michael`s (supposed) nightmare is our nightmare too; this has become a Cult Film and for good reasons. For we older folk, some of this is nostalgia for the Seventies; it keeps us focused on The Days of Our Lives, which might have been merely dreams if we`re not too careful.