Thursday, October 15, 2015

Top 20 Horror Movies - #14) Phantasm (1979)

One of the things that I'm doing this month as I celebrate Halloween here in the Land of Way is taking the time to rank my Top 20 Horror Movies and my Top 20 Horror Novels.

I want to be clear that I'm basing these choices on my own humble opinion.  I'm not trying to rank these movies in accordance with their place in pop culture, but I'm offering up my take on the best horror films that I have ever watched and enjoyed.  There are some familiar candidates that I consider to be great pictures that didn't make the cut because there wasn't room, and there are some films that are widely regarded as great pictures that didn't make the cut because I feel that they are overrated.  There are also a few instances where it was difficult to determine whether or not a movie belonged to the horror genre (I said "no" to Aliens but "yes" to Jaws), and it may also be worth noting that this is largely a modern list (as long as you're okay with my classification of modern as anything after 1960) that only features one lonely creature from the so-called "Classic Monsters" films produced by Universal Studios.

Thus far, the list includes:

#20) The Fly (1986) 
#19) The Howling (1981)
#18) Night of the Living Dead (1968)
#17) Alien (1979) 
#16) Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
#15) Suspiria (1977) 

Yes, Suspiria was a strange one, but this next one may be even stranger.  We're sticking with the late 70s theme we've got going, and the time has come to throw down with sinister dwarfs and a ghastly mortician armed with deadly spheres that suck people's brains out.  That's right, peeps, it's time we got our Phantasm on.

Top 20 Horror Movies - #14) Phantasm (1979)

Phantasm isn't just one of the strangest horror films out there, it's also one of the coolest.  How often do you get to see a movie where a gutsy ice cream man who plays a mean guitar goes toe to toe with a terrifying mortician from another dimension?  Delightful, right?  Our main characters are an exuberant teenage boy whose brother may or may not be dead, said brother/ghost/I'm-not-sure-what, and Reggie the ice cream vendor, one of the horror genre's most beloved heroes.  While Reggie Bannister absolutely kills it as Reggie (all of the leads in this flick have the same first name as their character), Angus Scrimm dominates the proceedings as the villainous mortician, known simply as "The Tall Man."  Scrimm's work here is so unique and so totally on point that he grounds this delirious flick and keeps audiences riveted throughout all the strange twists and turns that Phantasm takes on the way to a wonderfully bizarre conclusion.  The effects are solid, the score is epic, I treasure the performances, and the script and the direction c/o Don Coscarelli are extremely exciting and expertly realized.   This movie has everything going for it, and it delivers the goods--Phantasm is an awesome blend of scares, chuckles, and crazy shit.  That gonzo finale gives way to one last big scare, cementing Phantasm's status as an iconic horror film that has inspired several sequels aimed to please a rabid fanbase that is still clamoring for more.  I have been a big fan of this film (and Coscarelli's output in general) for most of my life, and I can't imagine putting together a list like this without including Phantasm.

Wildly inventive and incredibly entertaining, Phantasm is a groovy cult classic like no other.

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