Picks and Pans Review: Phantasm

updated 07/09/1979 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/09/1979 AT 01:00 AM EDT

For those who think Remembrance of Things Past is a homage to the horror film, this is a wonderful time to be an American: The movie houses are crawling with new monsters. This wildly uneven creation is one of the more interesting exercises in cheap thrills. A nearly one-man project by a young unknown named Don Coscarelli, Phantasm is all about what happens when the undertaker gets carried away. Bodies disappear, little hooded monsters snarl and bite, a metal ball with teeth tries to drain everyone's blood and a severed finger literally takes on a life of its own. There's really no plot, only special effects and some stunning, weirdly beautiful photography. An interesting performance is turned in by Angus Scrimm, a pseudonym for old horror movie actor Rory Guy, who plays the funeral director with unabashed glee. Director Coscarelli meant all the mayhem in fun, but the rating board humorlessly assigned the film an R. By present-day standards of gore, it's a very good-natured R.

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