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I've got another classic to add to my collection of Great Moments in Bad Movies. Michael, the young hero of “Phantasm”, slams a door on the hand of a sinister figure that is chasing him. Then he slices off the fingers with a knife. The hand spurts bright yellow blood. The plucky youth takes one of the severed fingers home with him and sticks it in a little box. The next morning, the box bounces around because the finger is still alive. Michael explains this to his older brother, Jody, who doesn't believe him. So Jody ever-so-gingerly opens the box. Inside is a severed finger squirming in a pool of yellow blood. "OK," says Jody, closing the box. That Jody has a gift of gab.

“Phantasm” has a couple of other nice moments like that. It features, for example, the most ingenious device I've seen in a horror film since Dr. Praetorious furnished his laboratory. It's a flying stainless-steel sphere with hooks on either side of it. When it slams against your forehead, the hooks hang on, a little screw comes out and drills into your forehead, and the sphere pumps all of your blood out in a steady stream. Technology Comes to Vampirism, or, the Cuisinart Lobotomy.

The movie itself is not, alas, up to the high standard of these Great Moments. It's put together rather curiously out of disjointed scenes, snatches of dialog, and brief strokes of characterization. It's about the two brothers, who live alone, and about the younger brother's penchant for spying on the activities in a mysterious nearby funeral home.

The funeral home is not any funeral home; It's an enormous white ante-bellum mansion in the midst of a giant cemetery, and inside--well, there's The Tall Man, who makes John Carradine look plump. And there's the evil undertaker. There are sinister marble corridors and basements full of shadows and hearses that drive themselves--and then there is the mystery of what really does happen to the corpses that disappear into this haunted house.

The movie's a labor of love, if not a terrifically skillful one. It was written and directed by Don Coscarelli , who was 22 at the time, and made his first feature, “Jim, the World's Greatest,” when he was but 17. He was one of those Hollywood wunderkinds who seem to move directly from sophomore civics to the back lot at Universal.

Coscarelli has a nice visual feel; his pacing and camera placement, indeed, have to do yeoman work in “Phantasm” because what happens in the film is so disconnected. Half the time, he's scaring us by default; We're so boggled by the moments that do work, like the stainless steel bloodsucker, that we keep waiting for more.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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Film Credits

Phantasm movie poster

Phantasm (1979)

Bill Thornbury as Jody

Angus Scrimm as Tall Man

Michael Baldwin as Mike Pearson

Written, directed, photographed and edited by

  • Don Coscarelli

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1979, Horror, 1h 27m

What to know

Critics Consensus

Phantasm: Remastered adds visual clarity to the first installment in one of horror's most enduring -- and endearingly idiosyncratic -- franchises. Read critic reviews

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Phantasm videos, phantasm   photos.

The residents of a small town have begun dying under strange circumstances, leading young Mike (Michael Baldwin) to investigate. After discovering that the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm), the town's mortician, is killing and reanimating the dead as misshapen zombies, Mike seeks help from his older brother, Jody (Bill Thornbury), and local ice cream man Reggie (Reggie Bannister). Working together, they try to lure out and kill the Tall Man, all the while avoiding his minions and a deadly silver sphere.

Genre: Horror

Original Language: English

Director: Don Coscarelli

Producer: Dac Coscarelli

Writer: Don Coscarelli

Release Date (Theaters): Mar 28, 1979  wide

Rerelease Date (Theaters): Oct 7, 2016

Release Date (Streaming): Oct 4, 2016

Runtime: 1h 27m

Distributor: AVCO Embassy Pictures

Production Co: New Breed Productions Inc.

Cast & Crew

A. Michael Baldwin

Michael "Mike" Pearson

Bill Thornbury

Jody Pearson

Reggie Bannister

Kathy Lester

Lady in Lavender

Terrie Kalbus

Fortune Teller's grandaughter

Kenneth V. Jones

Susan Harper

Lynn Eastman-Rossi

David Arntzen

Ralph Richmond

Double Lavender

Mary Ellen Shaw

Fortune Teller

Angus Scrimm

The Tall Man

Don Coscarelli


Dac Coscarelli


Film Editing

Original Music

Malcolm Seagrave

Kate Coscarelli

Production Design

David Gavin Brown

Art Director

Costume Design

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Critic Reviews for Phantasm

Audience reviews for phantasm.

Silly and with no sense of structure, this movie is basically a series of random scenes put together and with a bunch of random creatures attacking the characters over and over until boredom is all that is left, with the Tall Man being one of the most stupid and unscary villains ever.

movie called phantasm

"Phantasm" is a surprisingly well-done film for a low-budget, amateur project. It's original and thrilling to watch. Unfortunately, the acting and dialog are too weak to garner five stars.

Don Coscarelli's cult classic is admittedly disjointed. It's not quite the sum of its parts, but there are many individual scenes that are wonderfully conceived and executed, some even with unexpected humour. The amateurish acting, odd transitions, and plot holes keep Phantasm from being great in my eyes, but the film is an exercise in creativity and ingenuity, not to mention in showcasing the coolest flying killing device in recent memory.

"Phantasm" is hailed as one of horror's best, but I just don't see it. It has aged awkwardly and feels confused and strange, and it doesn't even seem like there was an attempt made by its creators to make it scary. Even the infamous "silver sphere" scene contains very little gore. On top of this, the main villain has less than five minutes of actual screen time, the acting is questionable and there are too many elements left unexplained. This is sad news because "Phantasm" has an awesome premise and Don Coscarelli has a great, macabre sense of humor, but it just ends up being pretty average.

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Phantasm Movies Ranked Best to Worst

My ranking of the Phantasm series

  • Movies or TV
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  • Release Year

1. Phantasm II (1988)

R | 97 min | Action, Fantasy, Horror

Mike, now released from a psychiatric hospital, meets with Reggie, and discover his dreams (the events of the original film) are real, and they both journey to find and stop the evil Tall Man from his grim work.

Director: Don Coscarelli | Stars: James Le Gros , Reggie Bannister , Angus Scrimm , Paula Irvine

Votes: 16,339 | Gross: $7.28M

2. Phantasm (1979)

R | 89 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

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

Director: Don Coscarelli | Stars: A. Michael Baldwin , Bill Thornbury , Reggie Bannister , Kathy Lester

Votes: 39,877 | Gross: $11.99M

3. Phantasm IV: Oblivion (1998)

R | 90 min | Fantasy, Horror, Sci-Fi

Mike travels through time and dimensions to find the Tall Man's origins.

Director: Don Coscarelli | Stars: A. Michael Baldwin , Reggie Bannister , Bill Thornbury , Heidi Marnhout

Votes: 8,222

4. Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994)

R | 91 min | Action, Fantasy, Horror

Mike and Reggie continue to hunt the mysterious Tall Man, discovering along the way that the invasion has already begun.

Director: Don Coscarelli | Stars: Reggie Bannister , A. Michael Baldwin , Bill Thornbury , Gloria Lynne Henry

Votes: 10,337

5. Phantasm: Ravager (2016)

Not Rated | 85 min | Action, Fantasy, Horror

The final installment of the long-running Phantasm series.

Director: David Hartman | Stars: A. Michael Baldwin , Reggie Bannister , Dawn Cody , Gloria Lynne Henry

Votes: 4,976

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Thanks for sharing this info! :)

My pleasure, Mike.

I Always enjoyed watching that "Flying Cuisinart" doing its Job Cleaning up the Mausoleum of unwanted Visitors!!!!!

awesome pics

Wow, most everything looks pretty much the same except the fortune teller's house, but it looks like maybe there's some work going on. And the background scenery to the Dunsmuir estate looks different, in both Phantasm and A View To A Kill it looked like maybe there were hills behind it, or at least much taller trees. Maybe it's just the angle. The landscape looked nicer back then though, I think the world was just prettier in the 80's. The Pearson House still looked pretty nice whenever you took that picture, on the outside at least, I can't believe it was torn down.

I bet a softy bought it an couldn't handle seeing closets the Tall Man could be lurking behind.

The red planet I think is at a nearby dam/reservoir based on a behind the scenes video on youtube.

I am sure you know that Dunsmuir was also the location for the horror film Burnt Offerings with Karen Black.

I just caught that and never knew. I love both movies

Also was used in "So I married an Axe Murderer" with Mike Myers.

Proper gutted Jody & Mike's house is no longer there

Thx for sharing location pics

I just found this site. Youre doing gods work my friend keep it up. Ill definitely have to add some of these stops to my next vacation. Thanks you.

Im such a nerd for stuff like this! Thank you! : )

Very cool I've always enjoyed that movie it happens to be on today too

The mortuary house also appears in the James Bond thriller " A view to a kill"

Dunes cantina looks more like pioneer town in Morongo valley out by Joshua tree...

Den of Geek

Phantasm: The Strangest Horror Franchise of Them All

After four decades the dream world of the Phantasm films remains unlike any other.

movie called phantasm

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Over the years, a number of people have drawn parallels between George Romero and writer/producer/director Don Coscarelli, and I suppose it makes sense. Both made a couple no-budget indie films that were mostly ignored before hitting it big with a surprise cult classic. In both cases the breakthrough horror films were utterly unique at the time, and accidentally spawned their own franchises.

Despite efforts on the part of both Coscarelli and Romero to break away and make some very different films (like Martin and Knightriders in Romero’s case, The Beastmaster and bubba Ho-Tep in Coscarelli’s), for one reason or another both were forced back into feeding the franchise. Both filmmakers, for the most part, spent their careers working independently with very small budgets, but while Romero’s Dead films grew smaller, repetitive, and, let’s be honest, pretty shabby and tired, the wild imagination that gave birth to the original Phantasm only expanded and grew wilder over the next four decades, with the continuing storyline leaping back and forth between universes and dimensions.

The big difference between the two is that while Romero’s first three Dead pictures went on to spawn an overcrowded genre of zombie films and TV shows, Coscarelly’s Phantasm pictures (apart from their clear influence on Wes Craven (remain an indefinable and inimitable genre unto themselves.

As he tells it, at a screening of his light comedy Kenny & Company in 1976, Coscarelli noted the positive audience reaction to a cheap scare, and so decided to make a horror movie next. But unlike the classic Universal horror films he’d grown up with, he’d make something that offered a solid scare every five minutes.

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John Carpenter’s Halloween was still two years away, and so the clear blueprint for the standard form and structure of horror films over the next fifteen years had yet to be laid out. The landscape was wide open.    

Coscarelli had two starting points when he set to work on the script. First, he wanted to do something about the potential horrors that lay behind the closed doors of a funeral parlor. Most of us have no real idea what morticians actually do, after all. They could be up to all sorts of diabolical shenanigans in those embalming rooms! And the second was a nightmare he’d had as a kid, in which he was chased down endless white corridors by a flying silver ball equipped with a large needle. After that, and following a sort of dream logic (again two years before David Lynch’s Eraserhead ), the script came together.

With no money for niceties like name actors, fancy special effects, lighting set ups, or extras, Phantasm was filmed over the course of 1977, mostly on weekends, and with available light whenever possible. Sam Fuller always instructed young filmmakers that even if they had no money, they had to use their imaginations to figure out a way to get everything in that script up on the screen. Coscarelli clearly took this to heart, even if it meant the film’s iconic silver ball was actually controlled by a guy with a fishing pole, and the giant insect trying to escape from the gunny sack was achieved through a bit of simple method acting and slapstick on the part of the three principles.

movie called phantasm

Phantasm focuses on a 13 year-old named Mike (A. Michael Baldwin), his older brother Jody (musician Bill Thornbury), and Jody’s best friend, an ice cream vendor named Reggie) future low-budget horror regular Reggie Bannister). After a friend mysteriously, um, “commits suicide” in a graveyard after picking up a tall blonde in a local bar, the three witness some strange goings-on at a small-town mortuary. It seems a mysterious figure known only as The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) is in fact an evil shape-shifting being from another dimension who, disguised as a mortician, has been sending corpses back through a space/time portal to his home planet where they are reanimated and forced into slave labor. Given the force of gravity on his home planet is several times what it is on Earth, the corpses are also shrunk to the size of dwarfs and for some reason dressed in monk’s robes. But that’s only scratching the surface. A few of those inter-dimensional midgets are here on Earth, skulking about a nearby cemetery, driving the vintage hearse, and doing whatever else the Tall Man might ask of them. He also has at his disposal that notorious flying silver ball (in many ways the real star of the film), which patrols the endless white hallways of the mortuary.

Equipped with some sinister-looking rotating knives, the ball swoops down upon any intruders and (in a sequence that originally earned the film an X rating) drills out their brains. Along the way there are also disembodied living fingers that transform into giant grotesque insects, creepy blind fortune tellers, psychic activity, copious amounts of yellow blood, a glimpse across dimensions, a giant tuning fork, references to Poe, Dante’s Inferno and Frank Herbert’s Dune (are you putting all this together as we go?), some believable human drama, several terrifying dream sequences that may or may not be dreams after all, and a dark twist of an ending that, together with the rest of the film, was clearly a major influence on the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Unlike the Freddy films, however, the original Phantasm from start to finish operates on the above mentioned dream logic, in which audience members are simply asked to accept this Absurdist universe, no matter how goofy things get at times.

Although the film was completed in 1977, it didn’t find a distributor until late 1978, after Halloween triggered an explosion in the popularity of horror films. In this new horror-hungry climate, maybe even a weirdie like this had a shot.

It was released in January of 1979, and much to everyone’s amazement, actually found an audience among people who loved horror, but were eager for something a little different. No, it wasn’t the game-changing phenomenon Halloween had been, but it was a solid cult hit, raking in $11.5 million on a $300,000 budget.

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Several lean years passed in which Coscarelli didn’t write or direct much of anything, apart from the Conan knockoff The Beastmaster . Then in 1988,noting the success other studios had been having with other horror franchises like Halloween , Friday the 13th and the Freddy films, Universal took note of Phantasm’s respectavle profit margin, and approached Coscarelli with an offer. They’d produce a sequel that Coscarellu would write and direct, they’d provide a top-notch special effects team, they’d distribute the film when it was finished, and give him $3 million to do it,. He’d never planned on a sequel when he wrapped the original a decade earlier, but what the hell, right?

Having not planned on such a thing, Coscarelli wasn’t sure where to go with a follow-up story. Then he decided the easiest thing would simply be to pick up exactly where the first film left off, with Mike in the clutches of the Tall Man who, as luck would have it, hadn’t died in that fiery hearse wreck after all. Then he was further inspired by the pair of vampire hunters hitting the road at the end of Stephen King’s ‘ Salem’s Lot . With Jody dead at the end of the original, he’d have Mike and Reggie team up, going on the road to track down the Tall Man as he emptied graveyard after graveyard in small towns across the country.

Being a major corporate studio, of course, Universal had a few conditions when it came to the production. First, they had some say in the casting. Apart from Angus Scrimm as the Tall Man, they weren’t interested in bringing back anyone from the original cast. If Coscarelli insisted, those original, unknown actors would have to go through the same audition process as everyone else. Even then, they told him he could either cast Bannister or Baldwin to play their original roles, but not both. More importantly, when it came to the script Universal didn’t want to see any more dream sequences, no more loose ends, and in fact none of that giddy weirdness at all. Those things just confused audiences. In short, they wanted to strip the sequel clean of everything that made the original what it was. I never understood that, but it sure seems to happen a lot.

The flying killer ball was still there, though, and was in fact the centerpiece of the ad campaign, whose tagline read, “The Ball is Back!”

As has become standard for most every contemporary sequel, apart from the addition of a few new characters and a change of setting (and James LeGros taking over the role of Mike), a number of scenes and situations from the original are simply repeated. Despite those directives from above, however, dream sequences remain plentiful, and in fact propel the plot along, as Reggie and Mike head for Oregon to save a young woman who’s been appearing in Mike’s dreams (Paula Irvine) from the clutches of the Tall Man. And while the flamboyant strangeness of the original is mostly lost, there are a few neat little unexpected touches, like a deadly Frisbee and a drunken priest (the great Kenneth Tigar) desecrating a corpse.

Phantasm II hit theaters in August of 1988, and brought in only a meager $7.3 million. The reasons are probably fairly simple. While the other Big Three horror franchises began putting out sequels almost immediately, Phantasm II came out nine years after the original. Nobody remembered that first Phantasm anymore. While the small core audience from 1979  (like me) was still there, the new younger crop of filmgoers was by that point far more accustomed to cookie cutter slasher films and the splashy big budget effects of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, and likely couldn’t make heads or tails of this thing. As straightforward as it was in comparison with the original, compare it with any other horror film in theaters at the time, it must have seemed like surreal madness. What American teenager would want to sit through that?

While Phantasm II ’s ending, which echoed the original’s, clearly hinted at another sequel, that lackluster box office prompted Universal to drop the franchise idea. They’d distribute a Third if Coscarelli decided to make one, but that was all. The financing and everything else was up to him.

In a way, it might have been the best thing that could have happened to Coscarelli, because having started construction on the Phantasm universe, he was now free to continue as he pleased without interference from dull-witted studio exacs.  

With that freedom, and after securing a $2.5 million budget, Coscarelli went a little hog wild, beginning with rounding up the original cast (including A. Michael Baldwin as Mike and Bill Thornbury as Jody), now some sixteen years older than they’d been in 1979. He also tossed in a new gun-crazy youngster named Tim (Kevin Connors), Gloria Lynne Henry as a military officer and martial artist, and a whole armada of flying spheres.

movie called phantasm

Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead , released in 1994, was a return to the wild unpredictability of the original, only more so. To even begin sketching out the plot is an exercise in futility, Let’s just say that the film once again picks up with Part II ’s final scene, but within three minutes you know no major studio had anything to do with this. Along the way, insignificant details from the original become major story points, we learn a bit more about the Tall Man ’s methodology and the secret of the silver (and now sometimes gold) spheres, we see why you should never trust a nurse, we’re introduced to a trio of comically villainous zombie looters, and spend a bit of time in other dimensions. There’s also a hot pink hearse.

The whole thing makes as much sense as the dream I had last night about the autistic handyman, the steel cage and the flying dog, but that’s the simple joy of it, and what a Phantasm film is supposed to be.

As expected, with audiences buy that point liking their movies (and particularly their sequels) simple retreads of the well-worn and familiar, Lord of the Dead only brought in $350,000. But now that he was in full indie mode once again, and with a small but hardcore cult fan vase anxious for more, Coscarelli was free to charge ahead.

Giving things a boost, one of those hardcore fans was Roger Avery, who’d co-written Reservoir Dogs and won an Oscar for co-writing Pulp Fiction . He wrote his own Phantasm screenplay, entitled Phantasm 1999 A.D. , which he hoped might be the fourth installment. This time the story was set in a post-apocalyptic future, and included a major part, none too surprisingly, for bruce Campbell.

Unfortunately the estimated $10 million budget needed to pull it off was out of reach, so Coscarelli shelved the idea for the time being as he wrote  and directed his own Phantasm IV: Oblivion , designed to lead directly into the Avery script.

Necessarily pared down some thanks to its $650,000 budget, Oblivion, again with the same cast, stretches even deeper into dream logic.

As per tradition, the film opens with Lord of the Dead ’s closing scene, as Mike, now with a golden orb in his head as the first stage of his transformation into one of the Tall Man’s minions (see?) escapes and drives away, determined to uncover the Tall Man ’s origins. Over the course of the film, Mike hops back and fore through assorted times and dimensions looking for the Tall Man , Reggie does the same looking for Mike, Jody appears in a variety of forms (though mostly as a flying sphere himself(. We meet the Tall Man’s first earthly human incarnation in the form of a seemingly kindly and gentle 19th century innkeeper named Jebediah (who may or may not be married to the blind psychic from the first film, we get a glimpse of the abandoned Los Angeles of the future, and assorted family tensions are aired in Death Valley . And Reggie picks up a woman who turns out to have flying spheres for boobs. Beyond merely working with an Absurdist dream logic, as the series progresses the films (like David Lynch’s very early and very late work) come to  feel like actual dreams, which make some kind of sense as you experience them, but apart  from a few random flashes, are almost impossible to piece together again afterward.

Sadly, Oblivion , which ends on an unexpectedly melancholy note, didn’t turn out to be the stepping stone toward bankrolling that Avery script, and the idea was eventually abandoned.

Despite persistent rumors that seemed to crop up from a variety of sources every few years, that was apparently  that for the Phantasm franchise, even with all the loose ends, unanswered questions, and open-ended storylines. But isn’t that just like a dream?

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Then in 2016, nearly four decades after the original, Phantasm returned from the dead, just like the Tall Man had so many times before.

It only makes perfect sense, given that by this point Angus Scrimm was in his nineties, Bannister and Thornbury were in their seventies, and Baldwin was in his mid-fifties, that 2016’s Phantasm: Ravager would close out the series with a storyline about Alzheimer’s, with Mike taking care of Reggie in a nursing home. Suffering from dementia, Reggie slips into and out of consciousness, dividing the film into dream sequences interrupted by dreamlike reality populated with characters from throughout the franchise’s previous entries. There are still a lot of shotguns and flying orbs and evil inter-dimensional midgets, but in the end the overall tone is melancholy, as a man whose grasp of current reality is tenuous at best, tries to take  stock of a life that has essentially been lived in a dream.

Although Coscarelli is credited as screenwriter, this time around his co-writer David Hartman took the director’s chair, and did a masterful job. I can’t think of another contemporary genre franchise, particularly a horror franchise, with the guts to not only push its own boundaries with every outing the way the Phantasm films did, but actually mature along the way. Looking at them the right way, from its origins as a low-budget weirdie shocker (and with the exception of Part II ), the films quickly evolved into darkly comic avant-garde narrative experiments. Coscarelli invented his own complex and closed universe, a singular world of shifting realities and few constants, a world of daylight and bright colors and a kaleidoscope of incongruous imagery, with a set of rules perhaps only he understood completely. At least a few of us are perfectly willing and happy to accept that. And to this day the Phantasm films collectively remain the only films I can think of where I don’t want to put my head through the screen when I’m told at the end it was all a dream.

Jim Knipfel

Jim Knipfel

Jim Knipfel is the author of Slackjaw, Quitting the Nairobi Trio, These Children Who Come at You With Knives, The Blow-Off and some other books. His latest book, A Purposeful Grimace: In…

Every Phantasm Movie Ranked

Don Coscarelli's Phantasm is one of the most iconic horror franchises in the last 3 decades, but every film doesn't always knock it out of the park.

Phantasm is easily one of the best horror movies in the genre. With it's tightly constructed plot, the film often moves from accessible to opaque with careless abandon. However there is enough there to really create a film that is inimitable. It's why we still discuss/debate it today. It's also why yours truly recently turned in a podcast to this site in which I broke down the film on a minute by spine tingling minute basis.

As excellent as Phantasm is, like any franchise, it certainly doesn't hit a home run every time out of the park. That said the "Phans" of this film are a rabid lot. I consider myself a part of this group. So no matter how much I might get frustrated by any one film in this franchise, I am always going to come back for more when it is offered.

For this article my ranking system was fairly basic. Phantasm has always been about how the films make you feel. Taken as a whole the Phantasm canon is brilliant even if the each and every single story in the canon isn't. I don't think that any Phans would argue that the whole in this franchise is greater than the sum of its parts. All the films in the franchise, Phantasm , Phantasm II , Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead , Phantasm IV: Oblivion and {Phantasm: Ravager) have their merits. Truthfully, however, ranking them was a fairly easy process.

Why? Because when Phantasm is good it is really good. When Phantasm misses the mark and things fall a little bit short, that effects the entire franchise as a whole. I feel this way because, for example, the Reggie we see in Phantasm might be wholly different in Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead . In a 5 film series there are certain expectations of the characters. When those expectations are tampered with too much, it has a ripple effect across all the films.

What sets Phantasm apart? Why do I hold it to a different standard than A Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th ? I think because Phantasm creator Don Coscarelli has had control over the franchise the whole time. Sure, there was the casting mishap of Mike (when James LeGros replaced A. Michael Baldwin in Phantasm II ), but for the most part this is Coscarelli's deal. So, he isn't as exposed to the kind of meddling that say a Wes Craven or Sean S. Cunningham gets from studio-types. So get ready for the Phantasm films ranked best to worse from a true Phan!

5 1 Phantasm

The film that started it all, Phantasm is one of the most original, most bizarre, most layered horror films in the history of movies. What starts off as a fairly straight forward story of two brothers dealing the loss of their family, soon snowballs into something bigger. How big? How big is the fight for civilization? After snooping around a local funeral home Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) spots a "person" called The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) and is shocked when he sees The Tall Man lift a casket by himself. Mike can't let this go and soon discovers some very strange things happening at his local funeral home. His brother Jody (Bill Thornbury) and family friend Reggie (Reggie Bannister) get involved, and suddenly they find themselves in a full scale battle with a being of epic supernatural proportions. This says nothing of the flying spheres and the Jawa-looking dwarves that The Tall Man employs to do his bidding. Aided by the Lady in Lavender (Kathy Lester), who is also The Tallman (I told you this movie was layered), we are taken on one of the creepiest, cinematic rides ever. In the end, we are left with more questions, fewer answers, and none of that matters because this movie is so good. It's scary, gross, confusing, and as weird as a movie can be while also being impossibly excellent. Clearly, the best film of the Phantasm films in the franchise, this is the kind of movie that needs to be revisited every 3-5 years just because as we age there's always something to be gleaned from it. The ability of Phantasm to take the subject of death and make it this entertaining and visceral, is something that in its nearly 40 years of release has never wavered.

4 2 Phantasm: Ravager

There are many Phans that are going to think this choice is blasphemous. They are going to see my listing of Phantasm: Ravager as the second best film in the franchise as some sort of stunt or click-bait. As much as I love this franchise, no other film in the canon made me feel the way the first Phantasm did as much as this one. Who knows maybe it was how Phantasm: Ravager tipped its hat to the nostalgia of the whole series? Perhaps it was the fact that, honestly, until I saw this film I didn't think the other sequels were really that good? Or, it most likely is the fact that Phantasm: Ravager , if it is quite possibly the last film in the franchise, was really that good. It neatly wraps up everything we have seen with a nice little bow tie, however, like all the other films it stays away from any definitive answers. If for no other reason, this movie deserves respect because of that. The story isn't so much an action packed adventure as it is one of reverence and age. Phantasm: Ravager shows us the young kids we fell in love with in the first Phantasm , only now they are older, somewhat wiser, and still battling flying orbs, dwarves, and now multiple versions of The Tall Man. Making this movie even more confusing is the fact that it takes place in multiple universes. However, none of this matters because chances are you are familiar with the Phantasm world. This is just what the movies do. Sure, the first film was semi-grounded in reality, but Phantasm: Ravager will make you call even that viewing experience into question. These movies aren't meant to provide easy answers. Why? Because we don't have answers about the afterlife. In fact, at some point, if it ever was possible, somebody who has died should figure out how to transmit a Phantasm review from the world to come. Then and only then would we know what Don Coscarelli and Co. got right. Hats of to David Hartman for making a movie that has really done this series proud.

3 3 Phantasm IV: Oblivion

When I first screened Phantasm IV: Oblivion I had such high hopes. I actually saw the Phantasm movies out of order. Sure, I started with Phantasm but I couldn't find a copy of Phantasm II . So rather than wait, I used the trusty DVD service from Netflix (which also delivered the wonderful Kenny & Company to my door) and I screened Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead . I'll get to that review later. After that I watched Phantasm IV: Oblivion and I was furious. I would say I was more upset than when I saw the first Phantasm . (I was very young at the time and I was told Phantasm was a good movie for me to watch. Sadly, I wasn't ready for this brand of horror movie.) I found Phantasm IV: Oblivion to be completely incomprehensible. It looked like it was made with left-overs from the first film, and for a little while I wondered if the movie was a "cash grab" from Don Coscarelli and his team. Sure it had orbs and the space gate from the first Phantasm , and yes, it attempted to illuminate more about the characters. This 4th installment really seemed to be long in the tooth. However, I am a Phan. I love these movies and I had to revisit them. I was inspired by the books of Dustin McNeill and it was with renewed vigor that I went back to this movie. Suddenly, it wasn't like everything made sense, but I honestly saw where Phantasm IV: Oblivion stood in the bigger picture of this franchise. That alone made this film better. It was on my second viewing that I realized the concepts and ideas in Phantasm had not only been transcended, but they were still at the forefront of this many years old franchise. There's not many horror films that can boast of still bringing their A-game when they are 4 films deep. Surely, the Phantasm franchise wasn't always bringing it, but in every film there's a bunch of scenes that make us remember why we fell in love with this whole crazy circus in the first place. That alone is enough to redeem Phantasm IV: Oblivion for me.

2 4 Phantasm II

Okay, without A. Michael Baldwin as Mike it would seem that Phantasm II would have to be the worst film in the franchise, right? Wrong. Phantasm II starts off quite spectacularly as The Tall Man shows up at Mike's house to basically tie itself into the ending of Phantasm . Then we see Mike get discharged from a mental institution with one goal: end The Tall Man. The biggest problem with Phantasm II is that, coming 9 years after the original, it felt disjointed. Also, director Don Coscarelli has revealed that he was pressured to make this sequel more linear. So basically all the nuance, dreaminess, and subtly of the first film was excised. I've already mentioned that James LeGros played the part that A. Michael Baldwin made famous in Phantasm . It truly seems like Phantasm II was born under a bad sign. Now I know that this film certainly has its supporters. The fact that Don Coscarelli directed it means that at least some of the Phantasm magic had to be maintained. This film just feels like the odd man out. In many ways I wonder if Coscarelli doesn't hope to redux this film digitally and somehow add A. Michael Baldwin in? I am sure that there is enough footage from Phantasm that he's had to at least thought about that. Still, that would be a a massive amount of work and even his Phans at Bad Robot (who made the Phantasm 4K release possible), probably don't want to spend the copious amount of hours that would entail. Still, there is a lot to like about Phantasm II . Viewers get Reggie Bannister, they get some answers to pressing Phantasm questions, and this film is probably the most accessible in the series. It's just so off the mark in so many ways that its relative merits get obscured.

1 5 Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead

Alright, of all the Phantasm films this one was the most wanting. There is a lot here that foreshadows the direction of Phantasm IV: Oblivion and Phantasm: Ravager . How? Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead is very Reggie-centric. Also, A. Michael Baldwin returns as Mike (in a role he never should've lost), and we once again see him and Reggie going up against The Tall Man. This film also returns a bit to the airy, bizarreness of the original Phantasm so Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead certainly isn't without its merits. There are just some things in the film that I never was able to get on board with. First of all, there's the scene where Reggie wakes up next to a woman and she has orbs where her breasts used to be. That was kind of a deal breaker in regards to me taking this film seriously. Yes, Phantasm has always brought the fun but this scene made me wonder if the production had gone off the rails a little bit. Sort of like a once funny kid still thinking they're funny as an adult. The second problem I had with Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead was when Rocky (Gloria Lynne Henry) took out one of the silver sphere's with her nun-chucks. In my mind those spheres have a mystical quality. They can't just be destroyed because they are hit hard. I honestly almost felt offended when I saw this! I know I need to lighten up, but the original Phantasm did such an excellent job of mythologizing those orbs. Why take what you've established and throw it all away just for cheap laughs? Overall, the tone of Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead never really sat right with me. I felt that the film just never got settled tonally. Considering what had happened with Phantasm II (the studio exerting pressure on Don Coscarelli; A. Michael Baldwin not playing Mike), I would've thought that Coscarelli and Co. would've thrown the kitchen sink of their ideas at Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead . Instead, we've gotten a film that is clearly the loss leader in its own series.

Screen Rant

The phantasm movie franchise, ranked worst to best.

Phantasm is a cult horror franchise with an iconic villain in Angus Scrimm's Tall Man. Here's every entry ranked from worst to best.

Here's a ranking of the Phantasm franchise from worst to best. While the Tall Man isn't quite as iconic as Halloween's Michael Myers or A Nightmare On Elm Street's Freddy, he's still a horror favorite. Director Don Coscarelli quite literally dreamed up the series, which was inspired by a nightmare where he was being chased by a flying sphere. The original Phantasm was a low-budget, dreamlike tale about a teenager teaming up with his big brother - and their ice-cream man friend Reggie - to take down evil mortician The Tall Man.

Angus Scrimm played the imposing Tall Man and brought a unique menace to the unkillable being. The Phantasm franchise has been produced mostly outside of the studio system, and what they lack in budget or polish they more than made up for with imagination and fun. J.J. Abrams is also a big fan of the first entry, with the chrome design of Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) from Star Wars: The Force Awakens inspired by the famous flying spheres from the movie.

Related: Michael Myers Vs Jason Voorhees: Who Would Win In A Fight?

The Phantasm franchise ran from 1979 to 2016, so let's rank this cult favorite series from worst to best.

5. Phantasm: Ravager

For a time following the fourth movie, it seemed Phantasm: Ravager wouldn't happen. An ambitious, apocalyptic script for a fifth entry dubbed Phantasm's End written by Roger Avary ( Silent Hill ) couldn't secure funding and it lingered in development hell. Don Coscarelli later handed the reins over to director David Hartman for the fifth movie, which began life as a planned series of web shorts.

Sadly, Phantasm: Ravager is a mess. Reggie Bannister still holds things together as Reggie, but it looks like a slightly bigger budgeted fan film loaded with poor visual effects, weak action, and an unsatisfying showdown. Angus Scrimm's poor health sadly limited his appearance as the Tall Man too. Ravager at least gave the series a proper ending, even if it wasn't quite what fans hoped for.

4. Phantasm III: Lord Of The Dead

Phantasm III: Lord Of The Dead  was the first of the series to go straight to video and featured the return of A. Michael Baldwin as Mike, after the studio replaced him with James LaGros ( Point Break ) for the second movie.

Phantasm III leans into the horror-comedy aspect of the second one, with Reggie essentially promoted to the series lead. It's a fun adventure but a lot of the goofier humor falls flat, it's never particularly creepy and Reggie's new kid sidekick is quite irritating. It did introduce Gloria Lynne Henry's Rocky, however, who became a fan-favorite character.

Related: Jet Li / Jason Statham Collaborations Ranked Worst To Best

3. Phantasm IV: Oblivion

Phantasm IV: Oblivion was shot with a tiny $650,000 budget and re-used many props from previous entries to keep costs down. It also recycled unseen footage shot for the original that was never used and provides an origin story for The Tall Man. The pace can drag at times but Oblivion manages to recapture some of the dreamy, surrealistic qualities of the first movie that was missing in other entries and cast all do good work.

2. Phantasm II

Phantasm II is the highest budget of the sequels and was Universal's attempt to make The Tall Man a horror icon. This resulted in the weirdness being toned down and saw Mike and Reggie take to the road to hunt the villain and his minions. Phantasm II is similar to Evil Dead II , mixing horror and action and introducing series tropes like Reggie's quad barrel shotgun. While the tone is starkly different from the first Phantasm , the sequel is a lot of fun.

1. Phantasm

Phantasm follows a young boy as he uncovers the dark secret of his local cemetery, which spirals into a bizarre nightmare. Don Coscarelli's 1979 horror classic is loaded with surreal visuals and a creepy score and atmosphere, and while the acting and dialogue can be a little rough, they don't drag it down. From The Tall Man himself to the floating spheres and the shock ending, there's simply nothing else quite like Phantasm .

Next: Phantasm's The Tall Man Origin & Powers Explained

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movie called phantasm


  1. Phantasm (1979)

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  2. Phantasm: Remastered

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  3. Phantasm (1979)

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  4. Ranking the Phantasm Movies. From worst to best:

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  5. Phantasm (1979)

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  6. Phantasm Movie Review (1979)

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  1. Phantasm: Ravager (2016)

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  1. Phantasm (film)

    Phantasm is a 1979 American science fantasy horror film that was directed, written, photographed, and edited by Don Coscarelli. The first film in the Phantasm franchise, it introduces the Tall Man ( Angus Scrimm ), a supernatural and malevolent undertaker who turns the dead of Earth into dwarf zombies to be sent to his planet and used as slaves.

  2. Phantasm (1979)

    76 Play trailer 2:00 3 Videos 73 Photos Horror Sci-Fi A teenage boy and his friends face off against a mysterious grave robber, known only as the Tall Man, who employs a lethal arsenal of unearthly weapons. Director Don Coscarelli Writer Don Coscarelli Stars A. Michael Baldwin Bill Thornbury Reggie Bannister

  3. Watch Phantasm (Remastered) (1979)

    1979 · 1 hr 29 min R Horror · Sci-Fi Remastered 1979 horror classic about two brothers who discover that their local cemetery is run by a ghoulish mortician wreaking havoc on the damned. StarringMichael Baldwin Bill Thornbury Reggie Bannister Angus Scrimm Lynn Eastman Directed byDon Coscarelli

  4. Phantasm (1979)

    Phantasm (1979) cast and crew credits, including actors, actresses, directors, writers and more. Menu. Movies. Release Calendar Top 250 Movies Most Popular Movies Browse Movies by Genre Top Box Office Showtimes & Tickets Movie News India Movie Spotlight. TV Shows.

  5. Phantasm (1979)

    A teenage boy and his friends face off against a mysterious grave robber, known only as the Tall Man, who employs a lethal arsenal of unearthly weapons. Mike, a young teenage boy who has just lost his parents, afraid to lose his brother follow him to a funeral, where Mike witnesses the Tall Man lifting a coffin on his own.

  6. Phantasm movie review & film summary (1979)

    Half the time, he's scaring us by default; We're so boggled by the moments that do work, like the stainless steel bloodsucker, that we keep waiting for more. Horror. Roger Ebert. Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

  7. Phantasm (1979)

    What does the title mean? According to the Webster's New World College Dictionary: Phantasm: noun 1. a perception of something that has no physical reality; figment of the mind; esp., a specter, or ghost 2. a deceptive likeness 3. PHILOS. a mental impression of a real person or thing

  8. PHANTASM REMASTERED Official Trailer

    PHANTASM REMASTERED: Watch Now On Digital, Blu-ray, and DVD |Since its release in 1979, director Don Coscarelli's epic tale of The Tall Man, his deadly silve...

  9. Phantasm

    Phantasm - Rotten Tomatoes Trending on RT New TM Scores Loki The Creator Saw X Killers of the Flower Moon -- 1521: The Quest for Love and Freedom 100% Into the Weeds -- Love Reset 72% Strange Way...

  10. Watch Phantasm: Remastered

    Phantasm: Remastered. Don Coscarelli's beloved 1979 sci-fi horror classic returns in a new restoration. 1,551 IMDb 6.6 1 h 29 min 1979. ... Find Movie Box Office Data : Goodreads Book reviews & recommendations: IMDb Movies, TV & Celebrities: IMDbPro Get Info Entertainment Professionals Need:

  11. Phantasm (1979)

    Helpful • 247 1 The genesis of the story came to Don Coscarelli in a dream. One night in his late teens, he dreamed of fleeing down endlessly long marble corridors, pursued by a chrome sphere intent on penetrating his skull with a wicked needle. There was also a quite futuristic "sphere dispenser" out of which the orbs would emerge and begin chase.

  12. Phantasm (1979)

    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.

  13. 71. Phantasm (1979)

    71. Phantasm (1979) Chuckler Comedy 13.6K subscribers Subscribe Share Save 9.1K views 3 years ago Weekly comedy on Chuckler Phantasm is a 1979 American science fantasy horror film directed,...

  14. Phantasm (franchise)

    Characters Mike Pearson (played by A. Michael Baldwin in the first, third, fourth and fifth films, and by James Le Gros in the second) is the main protagonist of the series. He is an ordinary boy, who notices suspicious activities in the Morningside funeral home where the Tall Man operates.

  15. Phantasm: Remastered

    The 4K remastered original classic that started it all, in which two brothers discover their local mortuary hides a legion of hooded killer dwarfs, a flying drill-ball, and the demonic mortician...

  16. Phantasm (1979)

    Phantasm - The Tall Man Attacks: The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) attacks Mike (Michael Baldwin).BUY THE MOVIE:

  17. Phantasm Movies Ranked Best to Worst

    A teenage boy and his friends face off against a mysterious grave robber, known only as the Tall Man, who employs a lethal arsenal of unearthly weapons. Director: Don Coscarelli | Stars: A. Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury, Reggie Bannister, Kathy Lester Votes: 39,736 | Gross: $11.99M 3. Phantasm IV: Oblivion (1998)

  18. Then & Now Movie Locations: Phantasm

    Phantasm was released into theaters on March 28th, 1979. Filming locations include Agoura Hills, Alhambra, Altadena, Huntington Beach, Irwindale, Julian, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland and Woodland Hills, Ca. The film was written and directed by Don Coscarelli who would go on to write and direct the first three sequels in the series as well.

  19. Phantasm: The Strangest Horror Franchise of Them All

    Phantasm focuses on a 13 year-old named Mike (A. Michael Baldwin), his older brother Jody (musician Bill Thornbury), and Jody's best friend, an ice cream vendor named Reggie) future low-budget ...

  20. Every Phantasm Movie Ranked

    All the films in the franchise, Phantasm, Phantasm II, Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead, Phantasm IV: Oblivion and {Phantasm: Ravager) have their merits. Truthfully, however, ranking them...

  21. The Phantasm Movie Franchise, Ranked Worst To Best

    Published Mar 9, 2020 Phantasm is a cult horror franchise with an iconic villain in Angus Scrimm's Tall Man. Here's every entry ranked from worst to best. Here's a ranking of the Phantasm franchise from worst to best.

  22. Phantasm

    10 Old School Horror Classics To Binge On Shudder This Halloween By Benjamin H. Smith and Anna Menta Updated: Sep. 11, 2023 You can't go wrong with the classics. 'Phantasm' Is the Surrealist...

  23. Watch Phantasm: Remastered

    1,552 1 h 29 min 1979 X-Ray R Science Fiction · Horror · Dreamlike · Eerie ads Free with ads on Freevee Watch with Prime Start your 30-day free trial More purchase options Details Customers also watched Phantasm II Rent or buy The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1977) Army of Darkness House Dracula Hellraiser Nightbreed C.H.U.D. Night Creatures