Jody is the kind of guy that every 1970s teen looked up to. He's in his early 20s, has a cool car, splendid 1970s hair, a leather jacket, plays guitar and (naturally) snags all the girls. His little brother, Mike, in particular, admires him and emulates him at every turn. Things start to go astray, however, when the two brothers and their friend Reggie attend a funeral for a friend. Mike notices a tall man working at the funeral home; in the course of his snooping, he sees the tall man put a loaded coffin into the back of a hearse as easily as if it was a shoebox. Jody doesn't believe his little brother's stories, though, until he brings home the tall man's severed finger, still wriggling in what appears to be French's mustard. From there, the film picks up a terrific momentum that doesn't let up until the sequel-ripe twist ending.
Phantasm was one of the first horror movies to break the unspoken rule that victims were supposed to scream, fall down and cower until they were killed. Instead, Mike and Jody are resourceful and smart, aggressively pursuing the evil inside the funeral home with a shotgun and Colt pistol. Furthermore, the script has a great deal of character development, especially in the relationship between the two brothers. The film even has a surprisingly glossy look, despite its low-budget origins, and little outright gore (except for the infamous steel spheres that drill into victims' heads). This drive-in favourite was a big success at the time of its release, and spawned three sequels. Little wonder; it includes an inventive story, likeable characters, a runaway pace and, of course, evil dwarves cloaked in Army blankets. The end result is one of the better horror films of the late 1970s. Hot-rod fans take note: Jody drives a Plymouth Hemi 'Cuda, the pinnacle of 1960s muscle cars, rounding out his status as a Cool Guy. --Jerry Renshaw
All four films in the horror franchise. In 'Phantasm' (1979), shortly after losing his parents, teenager Mike (Michael Baldwin) grows suspicious of a tall man (Angus Scrimm) he sees lifting a coffin single-handed at the local graveyard, and decides to investigate. It turns out that the funeral parlour is being used as an assembly line for zombie slaves, and it is left to Mike, with the aid of his brother Jody (Bill Thornburg) and ice cream man Reggie (Reggie Bannister), to stop them. In 'Phantasm 2' (1987), the Tall Man is still terrorizing people in their dreams and raiding cemeteries with the assistance of his evil gnome-like helpers. Mike (James Le Gros) and ice cream man Reggie resume their battle with the deathly spirit after a recurring dream about a beautiful girl convinces Mike that she must be next on the Tall Man's hit list. In 'Phantasm 3: Lord of the Dead' (1993), the Tall Man returns after fifteen years, hell bent on taking Mike Pearson (Baldwin) to his grave. Mike's friend Reggie, orphan boy Tim (Kevin Connors) and one-woman army Rocky (Gloria Lynne Henry) attempt to stave off the Tall Man's threat once and for all. Finally, in 'Phantasm 4: Oblivion' (1998), the Tall Man's true identity is finally revealed. Mike bends the contours of time and space to wage war against the Tall Man and his deadly metal spheres. The forces of darkness are ranged against him, and Mike's only allies are his friend Reggie and the spirit of his dead brother.