here
are certain films that hold a unique place in history… and Hollywood
had better keep their grubby, remaking mitts off of them! While the
trend to “re-imagine” or “re-envision” everything around them has been
going on for some time, these films have so far managed to escape the
fate of some of their less fortunate compatriots. I speak of course
of…

SACRED COWS
The 25 Movies They’d Better Never Remake.


These
films are not just near and dear to our hearts, they should be
considered OFF-LIMITS to those jerks at the studios. The films on this
list were special when they premiered and continue to be so today, and
we’re going to explain why they shouldn’t be remade – as well as why
they can’t be. So enough jabbering, on with the list!

Day Sixteen:
Phantasm (1979)


DIRECTED BY: Don Coscarelli
WRITTEN BY: Don Coscarelli
STARRING: A.
Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury, Reggie Bannister, Angus Scrimm


THE SACRED RUNDOWN

 



An
orphaned boy (Baldwin) has to deal with the trauma of a recent funeral, and in
doing so sees The Tall Man (Scrimm) doing weird shit, midgets, and balls that
aim for your face. Well, a silver ball with knives in it. Oh, and seventies
boobs. They’re in this too. And a musical number. It was the late 70’s, after
all. 


THE REASON IT’S SACRED



 

Phantasm is one of those great low-budget wonders of 70’s
horror that manages with its limited means to be visceral,
fascinating and very effective. Told from the young boy’s perspective, it’s
very much about coming face to face with mortality, and personifying what death
means, but even if the fear is not literal, it’s effective in getting across
the horror and fear of death from that viewpoint.

Phantasm – even with its multiple sequels (directors have to
work, and often sequelizing successes are the best way) – still delivers a
gut-punch, and manages to have really effective scares without resorting to
obvious cat maneuvers. Though perhaps not held in the same regard as many of
the films around it (be it Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or The Evil Dead). It’s one
of the great horror films that plays well to youth as it taps into adolescent
feelings of inadequacy and abandonment without overstepping itself. And when stuff
gets weird, it’s great to see the adults of the film believe almost immediately
that there’s bad stuff happening. I hate films that waste time with characters
who doubt the premises of their films.

It also plays a lot like someone’s home movies.
The low rent-ness of the film helps magnify its charms. You root for the film,
but it never uses that to cheat the audience. Yes, there are limited sets and
means, but everything works on its own. You step into this world, and you get
behind everything that’s happening, but not in a distracting way – you never
have to come face to face with performances that are terrible (ala Clerks) or
effects that don’t work, but you can also feel that this film was done by
people who were invested in the material, and gave everything to it. It’s a
little film that could.


ICONIC MOMENTS

  • “We’re as hot as love.”
  • Ball, meet face. Spurt.
  • “Boy!”
  • Good, ominous music
  • I love the locked on camera dissolve that makes
    something disappear. Such old school magic.
  • The ending, clichéd but effective.
WHY A REMAKE WOULD MAKE ME RUN OFF SCREAMING

There’s nothing more ripe for remaking than a horror
franchise. It obviously has a built-in fanbase who might see anything with the
same title, and then there are the possibilities of new viewers. We’ve seen
this as the business model for Platinum Dunes since its inception. And the
majority of horror franchises have been rebooted over the last twenty years.
Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolfman were all done. The Invisible Man? Check.
The Mummy, etc. And now we’ve seen Freddy, Mike Myers and Jason all get their
redos. As such, it’s shocking that Phantasm - which has gone four films now –
has not been snatched and redone.

Perhaps it’s because the franchise has always been done on
the cheap. Only the second film – with its namish star James LeGros – seems to
have much money, and even then… For the same reason I don’t think the studios
are going after any of Full Moon’s heavily sequelized titles like Ghoulies or
the Puppetmaster or Trancer franchises, it’s possible Phantasm could stay under
the radar. But if they’re remaking off brand stuff, then it’s possible they’ll
get to this, and the biggest problem with remaking Phantasm is that what makes
the film work is that it’s self-contained. From the gratuitous nudity from a
woman with real but not necessarily photogenic breasts, to the numerous in
camera effects, Don Coscarelli’s first horror film is long on gumption and
elbow grease. It’s a mood piece that benefits from being one of the best
community theater projects put to film.

When you take away that low budget charm, you have a reasonably
compelling story about a young boy afraid of a man at the cemetery who comes
across as the grim reaper (which makes sense because his parents died), but also
a fantastical second half that involves (possibly) aliens. And a flying magic
ball. Part of this works because of the craft, but the film definitely gets
over because the imagination and ideas are stronger than the budget, but
there’s enough on screen to make it an indelible experience.

Unfortunately, even if the film kept with those charms, modern
Hollywood now has a tendency to sell films like that on their budgets. It’s the
“little film that could” phenomenon, which sometimes it makes you say “How did
they do that for thirty million” (District 9), but often it’s “Oh, I can see
how they did that for Thirty Million” (Cloverfield). If we as an audience are
making excuses for a film that was done on a low/no budget, it shouldn’t be a studio
picture, and it shouldn’t be made because it can be done on a budget, so much
as the budget is an extension of the story. Whereas it’s much easier to forgive
and root for a film like Phantasm, because it deserves those sympathies. No
movie made within a studio system could recapture that magic, and if you’re
just trying to remake the story, you’re going to take away the fantastical
elements.


WHAT WOULD PLATINUM DUNES DO (WWPDD)?


 


Michael
Bay’s been producing remakes all over town, using his Platinum Dunes
company as a front. So naturally he’d be the logical choice to spearhead
any attempt at remaking this classic. How would it pan out, you ask?

  • What’s the director from The Amityville Horror up to
    these days? Nothing? Andrew Douglas, you’re up!
  • Elle Fanning stars in one of the film’s “clever”
    changes, playing against sister Dakota’s Hide and Seek costar Robert De
    Niro.
  • Okay, so instead of creepy midgets from outer space,
    they’re just genetically altered evil beasts from The Tall Man.
  • Tall Man backstory of how he’s an evil medical genius
  • Most of the major helpful roles to Fanning’s character
    are now played by women. Too bad Monique won an academy award. Reggie is
    now played by a sassy black woman.
  • Who wants ten minutes of screen time devoted to
    characters not believing what’s plain as day?
  • CGI ball!

BOVINE MISCELLANY


I watched
the film again to write this, and I was amazed at how quick I fell into the
movie. When something works, it works. There were three sequels, and there was
a proposed crossover Ash (from Evil Dead) sequel at some point. That hasn’t
happened, but Coscarelli did get Bruce Campbell in Bubba Ho-Tep.


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Week One:
The Man Who Would Be KingRaiders of the Lost Ark
The Third ManSerpicoBlazing Saddles


Week Two:
The ConversationAuditionGone with the Wind
JawsBlade Runner

Week Three:
RockyNorth by NorthwestThe Outlaw Josey Wales
GreaseApocalypse Now

Week Four:
Phantasm