I’ll never forget my first time watching Phantasm. It had nothing to do with the movie itself but rather the VHS tape I rented from my local video store (which I later became an employee of). My mom was a child of the ’70s and during my first real foray into exploring the horror genre I constantly asked her if she remembered any horror movies she saw during that era. After a few of the more recognizable titles were checked off the list, she brought up Phantasm and remarked that it was the weirdest horror movie she ever saw. She described the movie like it was a dream and could barely recall anything from it other than the feeling of being immensely creeped out. That was good enough for me, so I nabbed the VHS from the video store and excitedly brought it home to watch.
And it was blank. Someone wanted Phantasm so badly that they had removed the tape from inside the VHS casing and replaced everything before returning it. While I was momentarily upset, I also became even more curious about this movie. If someone was willing to go to these lengths to procure it (albeit illegally), it had to be something special.
And boy (“Booooooy!”) is it. I love Phantasm a whole bunch and a big chunk of that love came from the unbearably eerie villain named The Tall Man played by Angus Scrimm. There was definitely a brief period in my life where The Tall Man was pulling boogeyman duties in my nightmares.
Scrimm passed away yesterday at the age of 89. He’ll be seen one final time as The Tall Man in the fifth Phantasm film, Phantasm: Ravager, due out later this year. We’ll also be getting a new 4K restoration of the original Phantasm at some point in 2016, courtesy of Phantasm phan J.J. Abrams (The Force Awakens‘ Captain Phasma was named in honor of Phantasm thanks to her chrome exterior reminding Abrams of everyone’s favorite flying murder balls).
Do yourself a favorite and watch Phantasm today (or at the very least Phantasm II). We don’t get horror icons like Scrimm anymore and his defining role deserves some celebration.