14 December 2011

Clarky's Review: Phantasm

After raising some eyebrows, and possibly Fin's ire, the other week when I suggested that if asked to sum up my fellow HC members with a style of horror film I would say that I choose films that are more jumpy (The Silent House, The Descent etc), Al is more of a classics man (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Exorcist, Don't Look Now etc) whilst Fin is a child of the 80's. This went down badly, and Fin was nothing short of affronted.

I'm not sure why, as I didn't mean this as a criticism. Read any of my reviews and often some of the greatest plus points is the "80'sness" of the proceedings. It's clear to me that Fin's heart is with 80's films. He owns the Friday the 13th box set, has brought Re-Animator, Near Dark, and Fright Night to the table along with countless other films that have shared DNA with these films (plus outside HC you'll be hard pushed to find a modern movie in his collection).

Maybe it was with this in mind he decided to live up to (my) expectations with last weeks choice - Phantasm (which I am aware was made in 1979 and not the 80's). Directed by Don Coscarelli (who is also behind the rather enjoyable, silly and schlocky B movie extravaganza that is Bubba Ho Tep), the film opens with some incredibly hammy acting as a couple are having sex in a graveyard. We get a gratuitous tittie shot and then "Boom" the guy with the shockingly bad mouser gets it. With an opening like this - what's not to like?

Probably quite a lot in reality. The acting is universally bad. The plot is ridiculous (as are some of the characters decisions which are almost always contradictory). There is a quitar jamming session, with a bald guy who has a ponytail. There is a ridiculous session with a psychic, that seems so out of place given what follows. Mike somehow figures exactly what is going on within 5 seconds of "visiting" the morgue's secret room! There is the dreaded "twist ending" which is genuinely straight out of an 80's soap opera and some of the scripting is simply unbelievable. Here are a few choice excerpts:

Reggie: Okay. I see it, I see it all now. What we gotta do is we gotta snag that tall dude and stomp the shit out of him, and we'll find out what the hell is going on up there. Yeah! We lay that sucker out flat and drive a stake right through his Goddamn heart!
Mike: You gotta be shittin' me, man! That mother's STRONG!

Jody: I just don't get off on funerals, man, they give me the creeps.

Reggie: Hi guys. Heh heh, just thought I'd come over and see what was going on before the kids got out of summer school. Hey Mike, you want to ride along with me today? It's pretty warm outside and the ice cream's going to be flying fast and furious. Remember how good you were at crowd control last time? Hey, what's going on here?

Mike: I know you're not going to believe this, but these things were here, right in the garage, and they were going to get me!
Jody: Aww, give me a break, would you?
Mike: They were jumping on the car and making these weird sounds!
Jody: You're sure it wasn't that retarded kid, Timmy, up the street?
Mike: No, it was the same thing that chased me last night!

Written down they don't look great, but I think the delivery may be even worse. Which in a weird way is what makes this film so great!!!

All these things that should be bad points, make into an excellent B movie whole. If you're not a horror fan then this film is not for you, that's a given. But if you have a lot of horror hours already under your belt, you can't help but enjoy this film. It lives up to the stereotypical 70's / 80's cheapo horror movies, but is fun and, to a certain extent, inventive (even if the acting can't keep up with some of the ideas). It also includes some (funnny) gory scenes, which come from nowhere, and the obligatory late 70's early 80's breezies (even if they don't get enough screen time).

In summary, embrace the cheesiness, the bad acting, poor scripting and plotting and sit back and enjoy a film that is so bad it is good.

1 comment:

  1. Good read. Some of those quotes are absolutely brilliant. I thought I was known for bringing ultra-violence to the table? I'd rather be known for the classical approach.


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