With now 40 years of age, Phantasm is a rather old movie, and given its $300k budget, it's a movie that is pretty low budget, leading to amateurs and aspiring actors, this movie was reviewed rather negatively during its time, which to me is rather incomprehensible. Not only did this movie inspire a lot of other movies, such as "A Nightmare on Elm Street" or "One Dark Night", it also is surprisingly entertaining to watch, even today.
The story is a bit strange, and incoherent, which is probably one of the main reason people have problems with it - however this incoherence is part of the plot and makes sense if you watch it till the end, and think about the meaning this movie could have, and the point of view we get to experience the story. It is also quite inventive - tell me any other horror movie that has a never-dying undertaker that steals corpses to revive them, shrink them and kidnap them to another realm, and hunts his enemies with small chrome balls that drill into their brains? Phantasm is iconic for so many things, such as these chrome balls, which even lead to the naming of Phasma in Star Wars (a storm trooper captain in chrome armor). One of these iconic symbols is the Tall Man, the evil antagonist, depicted by Angus Scrimm, and Scrimm is one of the examples for the really great acting, that Phantasm shows - there is no other actor who could walk so scary as Angus Scrimm does. Also the child actor, Michael Baldwin, and the family friend Reggie Bannister do their job good - only Billy Thornbury is a bit weak. Also on the down side are some of the dialogues, that are somehow a bit off, and there is one dialogue that really makes me bust out in laughter, because it's so strange and unfitting.
However, for a low budget film, the effects are pretty good: The finger in the box, the chrome ball, even the fly, though clearly fake, does mange to be rather scary instead of beeing to cheesy. That shows some real skill, both on the filmmakers side, as well as the actors.
Also iconic for this movie is the soundtrack, that in my opinion is on the same level as the famous Halloween-theme. And it adds to the overall atmosphere of the movie, that is really spooky, and really great. It's unfortunately - at least for today's standards - not scary overall. But at least the atmosphere is rather scary.
And last but not least, this movie does have another level and a deeper meaning that becomes apparent at the end, which I actually like.
All in all this is a unjustly overlooked must-watch horror classic that is most definitely worth your time!