PHANTASM - Area theaters.
"phantasm" is billed as a horror movie, but that's true only to the extent that it's horrible. There's not true terror here, no spine-tingling suspense. The "horror" consists of a lot of gore alternating with stock scare cliches.
The biggest cliche of all is Morningside Mortuary, the mysterious, white-columned mansion on the edge ot town where strange goings-on have been observed. Two brave souls set out to investigate: a handsome, self-assured skeptic ("Ah, it's only the wind"), played by Bill Thornbury, and his nosy kid brother (Michael Baldwin), a skinny little guy who has the nondescript appearance of someone you'd see riding down your street on a skateboard but who, wouldn't you know, has nerves of steel. The kid thinks people are after him, so what does he do? He takes his evening constitutional in the town cemetery. At midnight. Then he breaks into the morgue, alone, to "check things out."
The daring duo is joined by another staple of the Grade-B thriller, the slow-witted sidekick. "Hey, this thing [a bleeding, batlike monster that they tried to stuff down a garbage disposal but didn't quite succeed in killing] isn't gonna leak all over my ice cream, is it?"
Interspersed with the bloody mortuary scenes are others calculated to interest the teenybopper trade: a fiery car crash, a few dismemberments, a little voyeuristic sex among the headstones. But even this last didn't seem to wake up the preview audience. They were noticeably subdued, reacting only to the violence. Since it doesn't require a great deal of skill to make people gasp with revulsion, that's hardly an achievement on the director's part.
"Phantasm" leaves you with a sick feeling, and a sense of being had, not with that delicious feeling of terror when you've been scared out of your wits by a Hitchcock or De Palma. This movie doesn't affect your wits at all. Just your stomach. CAPTION: Picture, KEN JONES, YELLING, AND MICHAEL BALDWIN, BITING, IN "PHANTASM."