Among the Science Fiction and serial killer boogey men of the 1970’s, emerged Don Coscarellis Phantasm (1979). This horror classic does not have a familiar face in the cast, unless you are up to date on lower budget horror productions. However, if you are, then you will undoubtedly recognize Reggie Bannister, who plays Reggie, the rhythm guitar playing ice cream man.
Set in a rural town off of Main Street, during the 1970‘s, Phantasm is the tale of Jody and Michael Pearson, and their good friend Reggie, as they face off against the Tall Man. The story begins when Jody comes home from a concert tour for his friend Tommys funeral. Jody doesn’t tell Michael, because death is a sensitive subject for the two after the passing of their parents. However, it doesn’t matter much. Michael has essentially become Jodys shadow, following Jody everywhere. It is precisely this that gets the two of them into trouble, specifically Michael. Michael ends up seeing more than he should after his brother, and the rest of the congregation, lay Tommy to rest, thus getting the ball in motion for an onslaught of vicious dwarves, flying metal balls and trans dimensional slavery to ensue.
One aspect that gave the movie leverage in its credibility as a solid horror entry and not a low budget sci-fi/horror flick of the time, was the cinematography. Coscarelli is able to command the level of suspense through the camera, as well as catching a masterful display of imagery. A scene that comes to mind off the bat, although words do not do it justice whatsoever, is when the Tall Man picks up on Michaels snooping. Reggie opens the hatch to his ice cream truck, and the cold air, from the cooler, hit’s the hot summer air to create a fog surrounding the Tall Man as he takes it in and stares down Michael. Shots like this bring frightful images from the movie into a beautiful, almost serene, image, but the suspense is maintained and given a full boost by the films musical score.
The hauntingly original score, composed by Fred Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave, drives the blood pressure up a few marks. Comparable with the likes of the Halloween and Exorcist themes, the theme to Phantasm will have you sitting on the couch hoping the Tall Man won’t be standing behind you, with corpses rising from the ground to pull you under. Coupled with the Americana of the main street shots, the music will continue to give you goosebumps years after your first viewing when you hear it.
The movie did suffer its downfalls. Mainly from a couple pieces of unoriginality, stemmed by inspiration from Frank Herbert’s Dune, in a side story, and George Lucas’ Star Wars, in a sub-character. Some of the dialog was also poorly delivered. However, as a whole, Phantasm delivers the chills and thrills, and definitely does not disappoint for any horror fan.