Phantasm is a surprisingly artful and imaginative horror film, an impressive film for 23-year-old director Don Coscarelli who worked with a miniscule budget to create a small masterpiece. When Mike (Michael Baldwin) spies some sinister Jawa-like creatures stealing corpses from the local cemetery, he and his older brother Jody (Bill Thornbury) explore the mausoleum, where they find that the mortician (Angus Scrimm), a towering, emaciated figure with superhuman strength, has somehow bridged the gap between Earth and the afterworld and needs fresh corpses. Among the tools of his trade is a flying Swiss army pinball that bores into the skulls of its hapless victims then extracts their brains. Their allies die off one by one, until only the brothers are left to defend humankind against the nefarious Tall Man and his army of shrouded dwarves. While the film does contain a fair amount of graphic violence, the gore is never gratuitous and, relative to other movies of its day, is used rather sparingly. The effects are fantastic as is the highly stylized direction; the result is a memorable chiller with more than its share of genuine shocks.
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