Hello, Good Evening and Welcome to Darlene and Elliot’s Halloween Movie Countdown, where we’re gonna start at the second most evil of numbers, Number Five – but only cos we ain’t doing a number six!
Today, we call it Halloween, a hundred years ago it was All Hallow’s Eve and a thousand years ago it was Samhain – a European pagan festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the “darker half” of the year.
Whatever you call it, nowadays, it’s the time of year when people dress in black, paint their faces to look like skeletons, wear masks and go around blackmailing people under the banner of “trick or treating” (or, to put it another way – “do what our gang of fourteen eight-year-olds want or we’ll fuck you up.”)
But if you’re an Alderson, you already dress in black, look like a skellington, wear masks and go around blackmailing people all year round!
That said, Halloween is Elliot and Darlene’s favorite time of the year and these guys love nothing more than to hang out, smoke a bowl and watch their fave scary movies together. That’s quality time when your mom goes insane and your dad is a Force Ghost.
Only this year, Darlene seems to have escaped custody and turned up on Elliot’s doorstep a few days early – begging the question how are they gonna pass the time?
With Elliot and Darlene’s Halloween Movie Countdown, of course!
Just like our Thanksgiving and Christmas, Halloween causes the biggest arguments for our two siblings (or “shitfights” as the Australians colloquially call them!) over what scary movies to watch, so imagine the shitfight they had making this list of five!
Anyways… without further ado, let’s dive on into the countdown with Number Five.
Much more up Elliot’s street than Darlene’s, Don Coscarelli’s 1979 Phantasm is a work of genius. Don’t try and argue because that fact is not up for debate, the only reason it’s not higher than number five in the list is, being totally honest, we had to reel you in with something great. Not that numbers four to one are gonna disappoint – Mr Robot Hacks promises one or two surprises!
Here’s the trailer:
I would love to go into lots of detail as this movie deserves a genuine review, but I don’t want to give too much away in case it’s new to you. So, without giving too much away, Phantasm tells the tale of 13-year-old Mike who is being raised by his elder brother Jody in the immediate aftermath of the death of their parents.
When Mike starts seeing mysterious goings on in their town, Jody puts it down to his brother’s grief and an overactive imagination – sound like anyone we know? Because obviously, Mike is imagining just how fucking creepy this guy and his silver flying balls of death are!
But with a giant, super-strength mortician picking up and stashing coffins, small hooded figures on the prowl and a mysterious silver ball flying through the air, something just isn’t right in this Oregon town.
Again, I wanna tell you more, but no spoilers so let’s just say that events descend from backwoods town mystery into bizarro, surreal nightmare…
Director Don Coscarelli went on to make The Beastmaster, Bubba Ho-Tep and four more Phantasm films. The last of which, Phantasm: Ravager came out in 2016 and featured Angus Scrimm’s last ever performance as the iconic Tall Man.
But in 1979, the twenty-five-year-old American-Libyan filmmaker made Phantasm on a shoestring budget provided by his father and his lawyer friends, while his mother designed some of the special effects and the actors were made up of his friends. In other words, it’s an amateur movie – derided by critics and audiences at first but, over the years, it’s made its way from being a bit of a joke to cult classic. Yes, the special effects are crude, the acting terrible and the filmmaking ain’t up to much but there’s something heroic in the fact that this movie was made without someone getting killed!
Despite its many flaws, the movie just somehow works – mainly due to the very believable themes of loss, grief and support, it just has something very honest, believable and endearing about it. Even for a low-budget horror!
Phantasm famously strikes a chord with young kids and, having lost their own father at a very young age, I reckon this is clearly why Elliot would have wanted this movie to be on the list.
Not the best quality still of this, most TERRIFYING GLOVE PUPPET EVER PUT ON CELLULOID, but just this year, Phantasm fan JJ Abrams’ paid for a 4K restoration of the movie, which was released under his Bad Robot banner.
If you’re thinking the silver ball looks familiar, it inspired Captain Phasma’s name and uniform in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
That’s how big a fan JJ is, how much respect this amateur movie garners and why it’s number five on Elliot and Darlene’s Halloween Movie Countdown List!
Even the tagline walks the line between kitsch and masterpiece! – “If this one doesn’t scare you, you’re dead already!”
Be sure to tune in tomorrow for Number Four in Elliot and Darlene’s list because, while they love their 70’s and 80’s low budget horror, there are also a few surprising, left-field choices on the list!
And remember, please don’t have nightmares!