The Phantasm Movies Foreshadowed Films Like A Nightmare On Elm Street

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Featuring a macabre tall man and his diminutive minions, the Phantasm movies are weird, eerie and heavily influential upon later slasher flicks.

Though regarded more as cult films than classics, the Phantasm film series is definitely one that horror movie fans should check out. Featuring a macabre tall man and his undead diminutive minions, the Phantasm movies are incredibly weird, eerie and heavily influential upon later slasher flicks. Despite this, not many people know about the movies, which feature a continuing story and a consistent cast.

The most recent movie was released five years ago, but the original flicks are the most interesting for just how different they are from other, more mainstream horror movies of the time. They also helped to expand the genre’s themes beyond pure fantasy to feature science fiction elements, albeit in the weirdest of ways. Here’s a look at the legendary series and where the movies can currently be watched.


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The Story of the Tall Man and the Phantasm Movies

The series began in 1979 with the first Phantasm, which was directed by Don Coscarelli. The story features a young boy named Mike, who realizes that a series of deaths around town is tied to a mysterious Tall Man. When he and his brother Jody look into the situation, they’re met with a short, hooded figure of tremendous strength that chases them away. And they soon discover that this figure is made from the mutilated body of their deceased friend Tommy.

The Tall Man begins targeting them, namely the young Mike, in order to keep his plans of world domination from being discovered and stopped. Jody and Mike find out that the Tall Man has a portal to another planet where his minions function as slaves. From then on, the series would follow the continuing efforts of Mike and family friend Reggie to take out the Tall Man once and for all.

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The Legacy of the Phantasm Film Series

The Phantasm movies, namely the first few, are just strange, being full of idiosyncratic concepts, surrealism and eccentricities. This initially made them something of a head-scratcher to both audiences and critics, though this uniqueness has since earned it a cult fan following. The Tall Man’s backstory and motives aren’t typically very clear, and interactions with him take on an almost dreamlike aura. While this may have confused viewers back in the day, it likely inspired another, far more prominent slasher series.

A Nightmare On Elm Street scared a generation of teenagers into wanting to never sleep again, as its clawed killer Freddy Kreuger casually murdered the franchise’s cast in their sleep. With the exception of the failed reboot, Freddy Krueger is always played by Robert Englund, while the Tall Man is always portrayed by Angus Scrimm. Freddy has many other similarities to the Tall Man, such as a backstory that goes back several years before the first movie’s events, amorphous and surreal powers and vendettas against the teenagers that discover their plans (Nancy and Mike).

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Another interesting parallel is that, initially, Mike in his younger years has a very soft and feminine appearance, making him something of a gender-swapped inversion of the “final girl” trope in horror flicks. Furthermore, Phantasm’s sharp, Pumpkin Bomb-esque Sentinel Spheres, which are controlled by shrunken brains, are similar in some ways to Freddy’s claws. The Tall Man is also known to have inspired the legend of the Slender Man.

After the original, the Phantasm series would continue for four more movies, most of which kept the same cast members. The films can now be watched in time for Halloween on streaming services like Tubi TV, Peacock and Crackle, meaning fans of weird and bizarre horror movies can add the series to their watchlist.

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