The JJ Abrams restoration of Don Coscarelli’s 1979 scifi/horror yarn played as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) here in Australia. Watching the film with a packed crowd of filmgoers and first-timers was interesting. Laughs and shocks in unexpected places.
Despite its remastering to blot out obvious technical limitations (such as crew reflections in the silver sphere) PHANTASM: REMASTERED seemed more like a true restoration. From the opening Avco Embassy logo which was missed on home releases, to the warm hue of the cinematography replacing the cold skin colors of previous digital masterings. Up on the gigantic screen it played on, one couldn’t help but watch it with fresh eyes. Or rather, seeing it properly for the very first time.
PHANTASM is a movie that was written in the editing room, compiling and restructuring footage shot for a lengthy, linear version. A theatrical viewing hammers home just how much it plays with convention because you’re stapled in your seat and forced to notice. The storyline runs rampant in service of pacing. Scenes aren’t presented in typical introduction, action and transitional processes. We get mere segments of visual or verbal information so the film can keep moving (with you along for the ride). How many films could employ flashbacks within flashbacks without falling apart?
In short, PHANTASM gets away with narrative murder. It’s for this reason it has been rightfully reclassified as an art-house movie. I traveled a long way to see it. It was worth it.