Watch the story behind the trailblazing horror film Phantasm and its lasting legacy

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Mar 26, 2021, 1:00 PM EDT (Updated)

Much has been said on the Phantasm movie franchise over the years, ever since Don Coscarelli's original shocked and surprised horror fans when it was released in 1979. Now horror writer/director Mick Garris (Sleepwalkers, Critters 2, Psycho IV: The Beginning) is giving his two cents in a new commentary for Trailers From Hell, which you can watch below.

Turns out, Garris knows a thing or two about the movie, as he began working in the publicity department AVCO Embassy Pictures in the horror and science fiction department in 1980, a year after the film was released.


Garris begins by lamenting how the horror flick’s success (making $12 million at the box office, set against a reported $300,000 budget) would influence the future of the independent film company. Spurred on by a positive reaction to the extremely experimental nature of the movie, AVCO Embassy Pictures went on to release other seminal titles, including John Carpenter’s The Fog (1980), David Cronenberg’s Scanners (1981), and Joe Dante’s The Howling (1980).

As Garris points out, the barely-there plot of the movie is just a spine to hang “a string of truly nightmarish sequences together,” and that back in the good old pre-digital days of filmmaking, a low-budget project like this required a lot of imagination. And Phantasm has it in spades.

Garris certainly makes a point for the movie’s trailblazing nature in the horror genre, including some never-before-seen effects as well as having a true iconic villain in the suspicious Tall Man (played by the late Angus Scrimm).

Impressively, the movie spawned four sequels, Phantasm II (1988), Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994), Phantasm IV: Oblivion (1998), and Phantasm: Ravager (2016). You can watch a recently remastered version of the original on Amazon Prime.

Let us know what you think of the Phantasm franchise in the comment sections below.