The plot is sort of simple: a group of young lads do battle with an evil mortuary attendant known only as The Tall Man. Phantasm is so much more than that, obviously (in fact, if you want to put on your magic analyzing hat, it's a film about fear of abandonment, loss, and death...but who's got time for that right now?), but the more you pick it apart, the less sense it seems to make. All I know is, from the weird purple-clad broad who transforms into The Tall Man to the dwarves scuttling around to the mustard-oozing finger that turns into a flying bug to the mortuary setting to the dwarf world to The Tall Man himself and of course to the ball, this film unsettles me like few others can- even as I simultaneously find the whole thing unbearably silly.
This is perhaps going to sound strange to anyone who's not...well, me...but Phantasm is like watching a Pink Floyd double LP unfold before my very eyes- particularly their album Ummagumma. More particularly, the track "Several Small Species of Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving With a Pict". I can't tell you why, exactly, but that...err, song, if you want to call it that...left me completely fucking terrified whenever my parents listened to it. Terrified as in I would have to go sit outside until it was over. Terrified as in I still can't listen to it (and believe me, I've tried) without the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. As I said, I can't really pinpoint why that is; most likely, everyone's got his or her own Ummagumma, that innocuous thing that scars his or her brain. It's completely irrational.
And there's something about Phantasm that makes me feel that way, too, despite its ridiculousness.
Isn't that awesome??
In related news, Phantasm's Mike (Michael Baldwin) was the winner of the 1979 Nellie Oleson Looky-Likey Contest.