If you like to continuously scratch your head while watching horror movies, the Phantasm series is just for you. Writer/director Don Coscarelli may be considered a genius in some circles, but all signs point to mental retardation. Consider the plot: two brothers, Mike and Jody, are at a funeral when they witness the mysterious Tall Man (that’s his fuggin’ name), a mortician, stealing corpses from graves. Upon further investigation, they find out he’s turning these poor dead folks into zombie demon dwarves with robes, that look suspiciously like the jawas from Star Wars. These domonic zombie jawa things are filled with embalming fluid that looks suspiciously like French’s mustard. But wait – the Tall Man apparently isn’t human either, since he’s filled with the mustard too. And he can’t die. And if you lop off one of his fingers, it comes to life. And as a bonus, there’s these evil flying silver balls that fly at people, attach onto their heads, and drill their brains out. The blood and brains, mind you, look suspiciously like Kool Aid. And because it’s a horror movie, there’s tits. Demon tits, actually. And graveyard sex. And alternate dimensions. And dream sequences. And dreams within dreams. And JESUS FUCK WHAT IS GOING ON?!
This bullshit continues over three more movies, each one more narratively fucked than the one that preceeded it. Jody dies in the first one (whoops, spoiler) but comes back in the form of one of those silver balls in part III. But is it really him or just another evil apparition engineered by the Tall Man? I dare you to give a shit! So anyway Mike and Reggie (Jody’s friend) go on the hunt for this motherfucker, who’s now looting cemeteries all over the country, and going after the living as well. Lucky for him, cops apparently don’t exist in these movies. Actually I think a cop turns up in part IV, but he turns out to be an evil zombie demon, natch. Phantasm II also brings psychotic alcoholic Catholic priests and regular zombies (as opposed to dwarf zombies) into the mix, so we the viewers can all have as much fun as possible.
The hilarious thing about these movies is that the scale and scope of the story broadens with each one, while the budget seems to get smaller and smaller. So by parts III and IV how does Coscarelli show us that the all-powerful Tall Man is slowly turning the entire country into zombie demons, leaving an ever-increasing trail of ghost towns and empty cemeteries in his wake? He tells us, of course! (And then pays his actors in food stamps)
For the past few years there’s been threats talk of a fifth installment, but it’s unclear whether the principal cast members are willing to take a leave of absence from their pizza delivery jobs. Though seeing as how actor Angus Scrimm (The Tall Man) is practically older than the telephone, Coscarelli better get a move on.