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Don Coscarelli
Angus Scrimm, Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury
Writing Credits:
Don Coscarelli

A teenage boy and his friends face off against a mysterious grave robber known only as the Tall Man, who keeps a lethal arsenal of terrible weapons with him.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
English Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 90 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 12/6/2016

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Don Coscarelli and Actors Michael Baldwin, Angus Scrimm and Bill Thornbury
• “Graveyard Carz” Episode
• 1979 Interviews
• Deleted Scenes
• Trailers & Previews
• DVD Copy


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BDT220P Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Phantasm [Blu-Ray] (1979)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 28, 2023)

1979’s Phantasm never became a smash hit, but with a super-low budget, it turned an immense profit and established a strong enough fan base to spawn multiple sequels. This run continued through 2016, as series creator Don Coscarelli helped make that year’s Phantasm V: Ravager.

In the original film, we meet Jody Pearson (Bill Thornbury), a 20-something man who raises his young teen brother Mike (Michael Baldwin) after the death of their parents. The carnage doesn’t end there, though, as other residents of their small town die under suspicious circumstances.

Along with Jody’s friend Reggie (Reggie Bannister), the brothers suspect that the local mortician – who they dub “The Tall Man” (Angus Scrimm) – bears responsibility for these deaths. It turns out they’re correct – and the Tall Man possesses powers that will test and terrify them.

Until I got the DVD a few years back, Pnantasm falls into the category of movies that I knew of but never saw. I was 12 when it hit screens in 1979 and missed it back then, partially due to age but more likely due to lack of parental interest.

My parents took me to the occasional “R”-rated movie back then, but I couldn’t persuade him to hit films that didn’t also interest them. Alien and ”10” yes, Phantasm no.

Now that I’ve seen Phantasm, I can’t claim I missed anything really great, but I do think the film works pretty well. Unusual and original, the movie offers a fairly compelling horror experience.

Part of the appeal comes from the creepy atmosphere Coscarelli creates. While set in the “real world”, Phantasm always seems slightly askew, with a morbid, surreal vibe that sets the viewer on edge.

This becomes a real asset. Even when Phantasm lacks overt scares, its unsettling tone acts to keep us engaged and intrigued.

Once the true weirdness sets in, though, that’s when the movie really takes flight. Coscarelli takes us on a mix of strange, warped trips, most of which are a perverse hoot. The film manifests a crazed air in which anything can happen, all to the viewer’s delight.

If forced to pick a weak link, it’d stem from the actors. Face it: low-budget horror flicks from little-known filmmakers don’t tend to attract “A”-level talent, and the performers here fail to show much skill.

Beyond Scrim, that is – though I’m not sure I’d classify him as a strong actor either. Nonetheless, Scrim creates an indelible impression – he doesn’t display the greatest acting chops, but his foreboding demeanor adds to the film, whereas the others in the cast tend to be mediocre at best.

Despite that weak link, Phantasm turns into a memorable supernatural experience. The movie shows a highly inventive side that keeps us entertained and involved from start to finish.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

Phantasm appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Given the film’s age and low-budget origins, this proved to be a pretty decent image.

Sharpness became erratic but generally good. Some shots – usually interiors – could feel a bit tentative. Still, overall clarity worked well most of the time.

I detected no issues with moiré effects or jaggies, and the image lacked edge haloes. The movie also suffered from no print flaws.

Though the movie came with some light grain, I couldn’t help but suspect at least a bit of noise reduction. The film just seemed awfully grain-free for a low-budget effort from 1979.

Still, it didn’t suffer from the usual “tell-tale signs” – like ugly skin textures or smearing – so perhaps the product accurately represented the original grain.

Colors tended toward the brown side of natural, so they didn’t boast a lot of pep. Nonetheless, they appeared to suit the film and came across with reasonable clarity.

Blacks tended to be dark and tight, whereas shadows were largely positive. Some nighttime shots appeared a bit dense, but those issues didn’t become problematic. While not demo reel material, this turned into a mostly satisfying presentation.

I also felt pleased with the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. Remixed from the original mono – which also appeared on the disc – the multichannel track showed a pretty good soundscape.

Within reason, that is, as the mix didn’t go nuts. That was fine with me, as I prefer remixed material like this to keep matters restrained, and that’s what Phantasm did much of the time.

Music showed nice stereo spread, while effects blossomed to the side and rear channels in a fairly convincing manner. Horror/action scenes offered the most bang for the buck, and the whole mix showed good delineation and localization.

Movement seemed surprisingly strong. When the movie’s famous “killer ball” went into action, it zipped from one channel to another in an effective manner. The track kept things low-key for the most part and used the spectrum to its advantage.

Audio quality also held up, with speech as the weakest link. Though intelligible and without edginess, the lines tended to seem somewhat flat and dull – inevitable given the age/origins of the source recordings.

Effects came across with better range – they didn’t dazzle, but they showed decent pep. Music worked best of all, as the score boasted nice kick and offered better than expected warmth. Again, this wasn’t a killer track, but it suited the film.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD version? The lossless audio seemed slightly warmer, but given the limitations of the source, it couldn’t do much.

Visuals offered the usual format-related boost, as the Blu-ray offered superior delineation, colors and blacks. The DVD actually looked pretty good for its format, but the BD topped it.

A few extras fill out the disc, and we open with an audio commentary from writer/director Don Coscarelli and actors Michael Baldwin, Angus Scrimm and Bill Thornbury. Recorded for a 1990s laserdisc, all four sit together for a running, screen-specific look at story/characters, cast and performances, sets and locations, music, effects, working on a low budget and related topics.

Though all four participants throw out some good notes, Coscarelli dominates the commentary. Happily, he does so in an informative, engaging manner. Coscarelli ensures that we learn a lot about the production, so this ends up as a very good chat.

An episode of Graveyard Carz runs 11 minutes, 24 seconds. It shows attempts to restore a “tribute car” that resembles one from the movie. Coscarelli and Baldwin pop up to give their approval in this mildly interesting show.

Next we get 27 minutes, 58 seconds of 1979 interviews with Coscarelli and Scrimm. Film professor George Capewell chats with them about aspects of Phantasm and its production. Shot for a Florida station, it’s a good piece that works much better than one would expect for local TV.

Six Deleted Scenes fill a total of 10 minutes, 22 seconds. Some minor creepy bits emerge, but most of these offer tedious character sequences that add nothing of merit.

The disc opens with ads for Train to Busan, The Wailing and Kill Zombie. We also get Phantasm trailers from 1979 and for the remastered home video release.

A second disc provides a DVD copy of Phantasm. It includes the same extras as the Blu-ray.

Phantasm made a dent in the horror scene almost 40 years ago and it continues to entertain today. Weird, wacky and wild, the movie takes us down a series of crazy paths and packs a nutty punch. The Blu-ray offers generally good picture and audio as well as a decent selection of bonus materials. Phantasm deserves its status as a cult classic.

To rate this film, visit the prior review of PHANTASM

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