On Thursday night , Feb 15, 2007, a friend and I ventured out in the midst of an icy chill that had descended in Southern Ontario for a late night excursion. Our destination; the Bloor Cinema in downtown Toronto . Our EyeCraveDvd mission; attend the screening of a horror classic – Phantasm. Anchor Bay Entertainment in conjunction with the Horror magazine Rue Morgue, presented a screening of the movie to celebrate the upcoming Anchor Bay DVD release of the movie on April 10, 2007 . < link http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com/index.asp?p=CatalogDetail&SKU=DV15081&PriCatID=3 >
An added inducement came in the form of series star, and everyone’s favourite Ice Cream truck driver, Phantasm star Reggie Bannister. He would be present to do a Q/A after the show. Between that and the chance to see the film in a theatrical presentation, what more could a horror fan ask for?
Before we made it to the theater the lure of Honest Ed’s warehouse near the subway stop was too strong so money and time were spent there. The Bloor Cinema is one of those old theaters playing second run movies that are now a rare beast. We arrived in time to secure the optimal central seating and settled in for the show.
After a quick introduction by Reggie Bannister the film started and the fun commenced. Phantasm is one of those films I caught on late TV years ago but most of the details are forgotten. My memories consisted of vague images of a pre-Harry Potter Snitch device which instead of being evasive, seeked out human targets. Once successful the tennis ball sized silver sphere would affix itself to its quarry via vicious edged blades, often in the forehead, drill into the victim, and eject copious amounts of blood. The other two indelible images I can recall were Angus Scrimm – ‘The Tall Man’ and his feral Jawa-like minions.
The print we saw was in bad shape. The opening titles and scenes near the start of reel changes suffered much dirt, hair, and visible damage. The rest of the print was in better shape but the image was faded, dull, and plagued with poor blacks. The soundtrack was surprisingly good and in some cases, certain sound effect were too overpowering. Like John Carpenter’s Halloween, Phantasm is blessed with an excellent score, courtesy of Fred Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave. The synthesized strains not only carry the movie but could be argued, rescue it.
Phantasm has not aged well. The movie is a collection of thin characters, thin story, obvious budgetary restrictions, and a disjointed storyline. Many moments have now taken on an unintentional hilarity which had the audience in stitches throughout. A lot of the dialogue has the same issue and there is a scene in the garage between the two brothers which is capped off by a statement so politically incorrect, it is priceless in its hilarity.
For a horror movie, such crowd reactions should be a death knell but Phantasm skirts the edge of falling into the Abyss of the Absurd. There are moments of brilliance contained in the scenes with the sphere, the Tall Man portrayed by Angus Scrimm, and the score. The movie has a goofy charm to it that disarms cynicism and makes it one of those good times at the movies.
Director Don Coscarelli shows flashes of talent despite the limitations of special effects technology of the 1970s and the budgetary limitations under which he toiled. Proof of Coscarelli’s talent can be found in later efforts such as Bubba Ho-Tep and the Masters of Horror episode – Incident On And Off A Mountain Road. See this link for my review of the episode – <link – http://www.eyecravedvd.com/dvd/dvdReview.php?dvdID=954. >
Phantasm requires work on the viewer’s part. If you can rein in your critical faculties for a bit there are definite payoff moments to reward a show of patience.
Thanks to Sharelle Haghani of Starz Entertainment for the invite. Additional thanks go out to Rue Morgue magazine and Starz Entertainment for hosting the event. We had a great time!