Don Coscarelli's Phantasm is one of those movies whose total value exceeds the sum of its parts. Some of the dialogue is pretty bad, and the wooden acting -- particularly from the performers in minor roles like the fortune teller's daughter -- clearly marks this as a b-movie. This was only Coscarelli's third feature, and his relative inexperience is pretty obvious. Things like the villainous Tall Man, the flying bloodthirsty spheres, and an extra-dimensional conspiracy, on the other hand, set the film apart and mark it as something unique. There are plenty of scares here, and a story with enough meat on it to warrant two pretty good sequels and one pretty bad one.
The story kicks off with the death of Tommy, a close friend to Jody (Bill Thornbury) and Reggie (Reggie Bannister). Everyone believes Tommy has committed suicide, but the audience knows better, having seen Tommy's tryst with a mysterious blonde woman which resulted in his murder. Jody's 13-year-old brother Michael (Michael Baldwin) doesn't attend Tommy's funeral because the death of his own parents is too fresh in his memory, but he watches the proceedings from a distance. Michael is suffering from an overwhelming anxiety that his brother will also leave him, so he rarely lets Jody out of his site. Once the mourners have departed, Michael is the only one present to see an odd site: the hulking and mysterious funeral director known only as The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm), picks up Tommy's casket entirely by himself and loads it into the back of the hearse.