Phantasm is a 1979 American horror film directed, written, photographed, co-produced, and edited by Don Coscarelli. It introduces the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm), a supernatural and malevolent undertaker who turns the dead into dwarf zombies to do his bidding and take over the world. He is opposed by a young boy, Mike (Michael Baldwin), who tries to convince his older brother Jody (Bill Thornbury) and family friend Reggie (Reggie Bannister) of the threat.
Phantasm was a locally financed independent film; the cast and crew were mostly amateurs and aspiring professionals. Though initial reviews were mixed, it became a cult film; both positive and negative reviews focused on the dream-like, surreal narrative and imagery. It has appeared on several critics' lists of best horror films, and it has been cited as an influence on later horror series. It was followed by three sequels: Phantasm II (1988), Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994), and Phantasm IV: Oblivion (1998). The last two were released direct-to-video. In 2014, a fourth sequel titled Phantasm V: Ravager (2015) was announced
Following the death of his parents, 24-year-old musician Jody Pearson raises his 13-year-old brother Mike in a small town disturbed by the mysterious deaths of its citizens. Reggie, a family man and ice cream vendor, joins the brothers in their suspicions that the local mortician, dubbed the Tall Man, is responsible for the deaths. Mike relays his fears to a fortune teller and her granddaughter about the possibility of Jody departing and leaving him in the care of his aunt, along with his suspicions about the Tall Man. Mike is shown a small black box and told to put his hand into it. After the box grips his hand, Mike is told not to be afraid, and, as the panic subsides, the box relaxes its grip. The notion of fear itself as the killer is established, propelling Mike toward his final confrontation with the Tall Man.
Minions of the Tall Man, deceased townspeople who are shrunk down to dwarf size and reanimated, pursue Mike after he investigates further. After convincing Jody and Reggie, who are initially skeptical of his stories, they find a strange white room with containers in the mausoleum. Mike discovers a gateway to another planet, which he enters briefly; there, he sees the dwarves that have hunted him being used as slaves. While trying to escape the Tall Man, Reggie is stabbed and appears to die, and Mike and Jody barely escape. They devise a plan to lure the Tall Man into a local deserted mine shaft and trap him inside. After doing so successfully, Mike wakes with a start in his house, lying by the fireplace.
Reggie, who is sitting beside him, tells Mike he was simply having a nightmare, something that has been a common occurrence since Jody died in a car crash. When Mike enters his bedroom, he is shocked to see the Tall Man is waiting behind the door. In the final scene, one of the Tall Man's dwarf minions pulls Mike through his bedroom mirror.