4 days ago
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Being Chased By Metal Balls Part One
Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) has recently lost his parents. It is now up to his older brother Jody (Bill Thornbury) to take care of him. Jody wants to get out of the small town that he has grown up in, and get out to explore the world. Mike feels his brothers need to leave, and is afraid that Jody will leave him behind. This has caused Mike to follow Jody everywhere he goes. As the movie opens, we see Jody attending a funeral of a friend, where he meets up with his good friend Reggie (Reggie Bannister). Mike hides in some bushes while watching the funeral, and keeps thinking he hears weird sounds. After everyone leaves, a tall man (Angus Scrimm) shows up and picks up the coffin by himself and places it in the hearse. The tall man sees Mike as he rides off on his bike, and somehow manages to knock him off of it with just a look. Mike, and eventually Jody, start to believe there is something weird going on at the funeral home. They don't know the half of it.
It has been a long time since I last watched Phantasm. Even though I own the DVD, this was the first time I have watched this movie on that medium. While this has nothing to do with the movie, I feel like telling this story anyway. The very first horror movie convention that I went to had A. Michael Baldwin there. I walked around for a good while before I started getting autographs. I had my Phantasm DVDs with me and had planned on getting Baldwin's autograph while I was there. Every time I walked by his table, no one was there. I started to feel bad for the guy, as he seemed pretty bored. Being my first convention of this kind, I was not aware that it was $20 per autograph, so I was pretty shocked when Baldwin told me it was $40 for the two DVDs that he signed for me. I haven't made that mistake since then. Anyway, back to the movie itself.
Writer/director Don Coscarelli has said that the original run time for Phantasm was over three hours long. I believe it was also said that the tall man didn't first appear until around the 90 minute mark. Realizing that this was asking a lot of people, and knowing it may not hold their attention for that long, Coscarelli made the cuts to make it closer to an hour and a half. For some, this has made Phantasm feel disjointed. In a way I understand the complaints. For example, we see Mike spying on the funeral and it ends with Mike wondering what is going on when he sees the tall man lift the coffin by himself. But then later on we find out there was more to it, the tall man somehow knocking Mike off his bike. I guess I didn't really see the point of telling us that later instead of sooner. Even so, I have also liked the story and the way it keeps you guessing as to what is going to happen next.
Phantasm didn't hold up as well as I hoped it would. I still liked it, but it didn't hold that same magic that I seem to remember it having. Part of that was that some of the effects look dated now. I still love the metal ball flying around, but once is starts to drill in, it didn't look all that great. The blood looked a little to bright to me, but it was still cool seeing it shooting out so far. Hard to believe that Phantasm was given a rating of X at first because of that entire scene. The bug that shows up later was also very silly to me now. It looks bad and the whole way the actors played out that scene also feels silly. Not all the effects were that way though. The hand getting stuck in the door looks cool still, as well as the severed finger still moving around.
The acting was also a bit of a problem for me. I didn't think it was bad at least though. Considering that A. Michael Baldwin was just 14 at the time of filming, I thought he does an okay job with the role. However, there were times I couldn't stand him, and if I remember right, that goes for the other movies as well. I liked Reffie Bannister more in the other films, and was surprised that he didn't have a bigger role in this one. While Angus Scrimm never really says much, he doesn't have to. I don't see how people don't find his Tall Man character to be scary. Maybe it is a girl thing, having a old guy chasing after me while trying to grab me. Bill Thornbury's acting just feels flat to me in most of his scenes.
I think what keeps Phantasm in favor with me is that it is set in a small town. This helps give it the feel that this story could happen anywhere. I also like that while it throws out who the Tall Man is, and his reasons for what he is doing, it also doesn't explain it. There are still a lot of unanswered questions by the movies end. I also like how it will make you look at mausoleums in a whole different way. I'm a little disappointed that I didn't enjoy Phantasm as much as I used to, but it is what it is. There are other movies I have felt this way about as well, and ones I hated at first but like now. I still think it is worth a watch, and I'm sure I will watch it again someday. Now I'm off to watch a few more movies.
3 out of 5 Going to have bad dreams of old men chasing me now, great