In 1979, the movie Phantasm came out. To the best of my knowledge, it was the first grown-up horror movie I watched.
My parents would take my sister and me to the drive-in theater, where the first showing of a doubleheader was usually some kid’s movie. The second showing was geared toward adults. On this particular night, my mom and sister both zonked out, and dad did not protest my watching of Phantasm.
Until then, the biggest scares I’d watched were probably Godzilla and other Japanese monster flicks. Indeed, I’d not seen anything like Phantasm. I was fascinated with the Tall Man, the silver flying balls, and even those little hooded dwarves.
I loved the show, even though the ending, when the Tall Man pulls mike backward through the window, was hoaky.
At no point do I recall being particularly scared by the movie, but it did have some creepy parts, and its impact on horror movies is indelible. And there are a lot of interesting things about filming, such as these 11 things I didn’t know. I’m particularly interested in the Dune homages.
A couple of years ago, I had Covid and was home for a couple of weeks and embarked on a marathon of cheap 1980s Sword and Sorcery movies. Somewhere in the middle, I turned on Phantasm. The movie had lost none of its charm. It was still fun and goofy and had some nice chills. The biggest thing was remembering watching it with my dad.
In my youth, my father and I struggled in our relationship. He worked two jobs and so wasn’t home a lot. By high school, we were in a pretty bad state, not speaking much and certainly not speaking on important issues.
Our relationship has improved dramatically as adults, and we are pretty close and get along well these days (at least if we don’t talk politics). But looking back, watching Phantasm with my dad when I was about ten years old is one of those little memories that stick in my head fondly. It is hard to run across Phantasm on a streaming channel and not hear my dad say, “Far be it from me to hide something from your mother, but maybe we should tell her you slept through this one.”
It is hard to state for certain, but I think Phantasm, combined with those Godzilla movies, had something to do with my love of horror, specifically monsters and strange goings-on, today.
While I enjoy all aspects of horror, I far prefer creatures (and the Tall Man was certainly a creature) over other types of horror, such as slashers and body horror. For me, atmosphere plays a huge role, and that morgue that served as a setting for part of the movie was just creepy.
Today, I still find myself writing variations on Phantasm and looking for similar things to read and watch. I guess it will always be with me.