The Tall Man is my latest obsession.
This past weekend I attended a mini film festival at my friend Graham Skipper’s abode. He showed numerous cult horror films. Many of which are deserving of a wider appreciation.
One of the films that Graham chose to show was Phantasm II. Previous to last weekend I was aware of the Phantasm franchise but had never delved too deeply into it. I’m not sure why. They always looked right up my alley, but circumstances never brought us together, I suppose.
You know how it is. You see a DVD box from across a crowded video rental store or a poster J-peg on a legal, or maybe not so legal, streaming site, and you say to yourself, “Self, I’m going to fucking watch that movie. That looks right up my alley.” But inevitable an avalanche of diversions, cult classics, and trips to the local comic book store eat up your time.
Needless to say, after the first few frames of Phantasm II, I was hooked. Phantasm is my new favorite horror franchise. From the atmosphere to the grit of the initial entry to the low budget charm of the later installments, Phantasm is the horror franchise that I’ve been waiting years to discover.
I also had the unique experience of watching the out of order, which made things extra creepy cause I didn’t really know what was happening at times. I consumed the Phantasm movies in this order:
Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead
I’m not sure why I didn’t go back and watch the initial entry that sparked the franchise first, before immediately going on to the third film, but I did. I couldn’t help myself. One of the most interesting parts of the Phantasm films are the endings. The films are structured more like old serials. They’re episodes in a television show. You just have to wait a decade in-between installments. It’s both maddening and exhilarating. The ending of part 3 is particularly wonderful.
The face of the franchise is Angus Scrimm aka The Tall Man and he is one of the most interesting performers I’ve seen in a long time. I know I’m about forty years late to the game but he really is delightful in the part of the unnamed inter-dimensional grave thief. There’s an understatedness to his at times campy delivery that I find mesmerizing. I realize that’s a contradiction, but it’s true. He straddles that line very well.
The real person to discuss when waxing romantic about the virtues of Phantasm is writer/director Don Coscarelli. The man’s imagination and storytelling prowess are on display at every turn. It’s quite inspiring.
The Phantasm series is the perfect example of a franchise that is both intellectually stimulating, visually exciting, and, at times, shit your pants scary. It’s the perfect cocktail of fun, scares, gore, and action.
The Phantasm series needs a new installment. It needs a fifth, and probably final, entry. I desperately want to see Reggie, Mike, Jody, and the Tall Man on screen one final time. Phantasm: OblIVion is great, I really love that movie, but it’s not how the franchise should go out. It’s been fifteen years since the last direct to video installment was released. The franchise has a rapid fan base and is in perfect position for a comeback.
You hear what I’m saying, Hollywood Producers?
Make it happen.