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Phantasm: Special Edition

Phantasm is by no means a good film, but does make for an interesting -- and enjoyable -- example of how ineptitude can work in a movie's favor. Super-hyphenate Don Coscarelli wrote, directed, produced, shot, and edited this bizarre attempt at a horror film, in which the scary scenes are laughable at best, and yet his incongruous approach to narrative underdevelopment creates an unsettling vibe throughout the experience. The high concept (in concept only) plot concerns The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm), an alien undertaker who squishes the dead into cloaked dwarves for the slave-trade on his home planet. This evil scam is uncovered by a goon-faced teen and his "cool" older brother, who then become involved in a number of inexplicable, nonsensical adventures. With no consistency, the boys are attacked by an alien insect, an alien whore, zombie dwarves, and Phantasm's infamous flying metal ball. Coscarelli's approach to editing is equally random, arbitrarily skipping important scenes in favor of odd bits of flavor -- like an acoustic jam session with the ice cream man. The jarring result is a ridiculous 88 minutes of boring suspense, flowing gore, cardboard characters, and flaccid dialog that is somehow unfairly disturbing and mystifyingly effective, but also good for a bewildered laugh. As if Phantasm were a classic worthy of posterity, this special-edition package is awesome. Presented in 1.85:1 widescreen and DD 5.1, Phantasm also comes with a commentary track featuring Coscarelli and actors Michael Baldwin, Reggie Bannister, and Bill Thornbury, plus another 90 minutes of bonus footage, including deleted scenes (some of which seem important exclusions, while others are like bizarre coming-of-age improvs from a different storyline), behind-the-scenes home movies, TV and radio spots, interviews, and clips from Scrimm's appearance at the 1979 Fangoria Magazine convention. Also includes the disco version of the movie's instantly forgettable theme music. Brief introduction by Scrimm. Keep-case.

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