Movie Information

In Brief: Dire doings at the local mortuary where a mysterious tall man is resurrecting the dead and doing something obviously unwholesome with them. Don Coscarelli's Phantasm is at once cheesy, creepy, atmospheric and — quite possibly — the greatest drive-in movie ever made. This is exactly what is meant by the loosely-used term "cult classic."
Genre: Sci-Fi Horror
Director: Don Coscarelli (John Dies at the End)
Starring: Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury, Reggie Bannister, Angus Scrimm
Rated: R

I remember when I first saw Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm (1979) — which is being shown in honor of his new movie, John Dies at the End, opening this week. After collecting my thoughts this week — it takes a minute or two to fully process this movie with a flying chrome ball that bores into heads and juices them like an orange — I knew I had to get ahold of everyone I knew and alert them to the fact that they needed to see this movie. I used the same pitch on every one of them: “You know that movie that you hope to see whenever you go to the drive-in and never actually do? Well, someone’s finally made it.” I won’t go so far as to claim that it heralded the arrival of a great new filmmaker. That would be absurd. But it did signal the arrival of an unusual type of new schlockmeister — one with real imagination who (and this is key) actually delivered on what his movie promised. Yeah, it’s cheesy and hokey and some of the acting is less than refined, but it’s so full of wild and woolly ideas that it doesn’t much matter. Or maybe it’s the heady mixture of all those flaws and the gory wildness that makes it work as a whole. It spawned three sequels of variable but always interesting quality (and who knows if Coscarelli’s through with the series yet?), while also paving the way for other, more ambitious loopy films like Bubba Ho-Tep (2002) and now John Dies at the End. But through it all, Coscarelli seems to still be working his drive-in vibe. That’s a good thing.

Here is Justin Souther’s full review of the film from an earlier screening:

The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen Phantasm Thursday, March 14 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge of The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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