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What's your Phantasm?

Posted on 2007.05.01 at 17:57
Tags: , , , ,

Took a break from the routine to watch the gloriously restored versions of “Phantasm” and “Phantasm III,” which were recently released on DVD.   (The second and fourth films in the series haven’t been re-released by the studios that own the rights, but I hope that will soon be resolved.)  Yes, the acting ranges from awful to arresting, and the budget for both movies was less than Toyota spends on a single car commercial, but what sets these films apart is the director, Don Coscarelli’s  imaginative scope.  The films are surreal blends of horror and science fiction, with roving silver “Sentinel” spheres that fly through mausoleums in pursuit of intruders.  The spheres dispatch their victims with hooked, retractable blades that emerge in mid-flight and pierce the victims’ heads.  It gets worse, much worse.  A drill bit emerges from the sphere and bores through the victim’s forehead, and fountains of blood are pumped out of the sphere’s exit port.  Did I mention that each sphere is later revealed to contain the brain of one of the dead townsfolk?  What is it about these mechanical artifacts that so arrest our psyches--the sentinel spheres, or “The Box” in Clive Barker’s “Hellraiser”?  Are these our post-industrial versions of relics?

Then there is the Tall Man, one of the icons of modern horror films, a looming, scowling, towering old mortician who is actually a creature from another dimension.  He is the master of the spheres and a plunderer of graves, who steals bodies and crushes them into monstrous dwarves, which serve him in a blasted otherworld.  The doorway to the otherworld is a pair of chrome pillars, which give out an ominous hum.  The pillars are an interdimensional tuning fork straight out of Lovecraft’s short story, “From Beyond.”

There are reality shifts aplenty, subjective reality, a haunting theme which cribs the opening guitar work from the Door’s “Spanish Caravan,” which itself  “was inspired by” a composition for classical guitar by the master, Andres Segovia.  Not only is reality subjective in Phantasm, but sexual identity and humanity.  There is evolution, transformation, and the shedding of masks.  True to the films’ names,  such stuff as dreams are made of.

All this to say that I love my horror mixed up with fantastic themes, where reality loses its rough edges and we step through the mirror into phantasmagoria.  The most powerful images of horror are rooted in the landscape of nightmares.  These movies, for example, were inspired by a dream Coscarelli had as a child, where a flying, silver sphere chased him through a labyrinth of dark, endless hallways.  Then there’s Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, inspired by a dream of a man sewn together from cadavers.  Robert Louis Stevenson always claimed that The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde came to him in a fever dream while he was seriously ill.  And we must add Poe to the list--his alcohol-fueled nightmares haunt us like no others.

Our nightmares are the language of our deepest fears, our secret sexual desires, our wish to lose control.  They are the chimeral manifestations of our Eros/Thanatos urges, which, were they not diffused in dreams, would drive us like lemmings over the cliff of self-annihilation.

So with that in mind, what’s your favorite nightmare?

Oh, and Happy Beltane. Raise a May pole, rut away and set the world on fire.


Comments:


C.Rae for Today
rae_too_serious at 2007-05-02 03:15 (UTC) (Link)
I told you my favorite nightmare in person. The one that featured hunting wolves, a dark and relentless goddess, and a man dressed in knives. That was quite a journey.
rjcrowtherjr
rjcrowtherjr at 2007-05-05 23:00 (UTC) (Link)
That was such a lovely nightmare. I've always wanted to use the man dressed in knives in a story. Miss you, and love you--Rob
wicked witch of the west
herkind31 at 2007-05-02 21:10 (UTC) (Link)

fave?

i can't really say that this is my fave nightmare, i would not want to have it again. anyways, a spirit came to visit me in my dream and it was hiding behind all these masks trying to act normal, but i knew that it was hiding so i screamed at it, Show your true self, and as it slowly slid away from its mask, i realized that i was about to look into the eyes of pure evil. (i don't really like to call the spirit satan because it was more than satan.) and then that's when i woke. obviously i couldn't get back to sleep for hours.
rjcrowtherjr
rjcrowtherjr at 2007-05-05 23:09 (UTC) (Link)

Re: fave?

This is just fantastic, and horrifying. One of the things that interests me most in dreams is when we experience parallel dream consciousness, where our mind is operating on two subconscious levels simultaneously. We "see" in the dream world, and have a seperate, intuitive level of analysis. In this case, you saw the masks being pulled off, but knew without seeing, what would be revealed behind the last mask, and dreaded the revelation. When we know what we don't see, and can anticipate what hasn't been revealed, the two parallel lines of dream thought suddenly converge and effect each other in the non-Euclidean dream landscape. At this point a third level of consciousness can be engaged, and we can act as "lucid" dreamers and change what we are experiencing, or remove ourselves by waking. Very, very fascinating.
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