Last weekend, I checked out the new 4K restoration of Don Coscarelli's 1979 film Phantasm.
|Restoration poster art by Aaron Lea.
Coscarelli's classic sees the a small town thrown into chaos when an otherworldly being called The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) sets up shop at the local mortuary.
Like many who came of age in the eighties, I discovered the Phantasm series by way of the sequel Phantasm II. It wasn't until several years later when I was able to actually able to track down a copy of the first film that I was able to watch. It was very much how I experienced Evil Dead 1 & 2, which is fitting as both their sequels feature an extremely accelerated & kinetic visual style from their predecessors. For years, I viewed the originals as lesser versions of their do-overs.
I mean, after the full throttle road movie that is Phantasm II, the first film seemed decidedly sedate by comparison. It was not until seeing again in this gorgeously restored version that I discovered there was a lot more going on than I originally thought. Even the rather obvious themes of loss and the manifestation of death went way over my head upon my first viewing many years ago.
The American horror films of the seventies were largely grounded in realism, but Phantasm brought in a fantasy element that I have since learned was influenced by Star Wars, which at that time had just recently warped into the public consciousness. This has since led to cross-pollination as current Star Wars engineer J.J. Abrams not only spearheaded the 4K restoration, but also named Captain Phasma after the franchise. No accident either, was the character's chrome armour.
With Phantasm's colour palette fully restored, it was not a stretch to see how Dario Argento's output (namely Suspiria) influenced the visuals and audio of Phantasm, as well. There was also a dream logic to the piece that justified the often disjointed narrative and off-kilter character behaviour. These were all things I never picked up on when I first saw it some twenty years ago, but fully appreciate now.
If this restoration happens to play your city, I fully recommend you check it out.