Boy catches peek of movie. Boy watches movie. Boy loves movie. If only my tales of chancing upon Phantasm were as conventional as every other nostalgic story out there. Unfortunately for me (but fortunately for you, dear readers), the process by which I came to view each chapter of the quadrilogy was always a tangled one, fraught with embarrassment. As there’s a price to pay for sharing these tales (a pair of red cheeks), I’ll dole these out one at a time throughout the future, and always in relevance to some event or release. Phantasm II is now carving an ethereal glow on the shelves of horror enthusiasts everywhere (including mine – thanks, Amazon gift voucher) so let’s begin with this one, probably the lesser of the offending incidents.
Circa 1988 – having read about Don Coscarelli’s sequel in Fangoria around time of its US Theatrical debut, I didn’t hold ouch much hope for it hitting Australia. After all, we only received an almost random filtration of the larger base of genre releases that America would, then there was “The Never Dead” – while Phantasm had hit big in Australia, it was under a different title. How would they address this? The answer to that was “needlessly confusing”. I was amused and surprised to see a movie hitting one of our cinema chains under the title of “Phantasm II: The Never Dead Part Two”. The fact they took this route, when the smarter option would have been to swap out the title card on the film print for a simple “Never Dead II” showed how little they cared about making the most of the release, and exploiting the original’s drive-in infamy down under.
I was only 12 or so at the time and the film got the Rated R 18+ “Seal of Death”. Too young, too timid and definitely too stupid to engineer a sneak-in, I could only sit idly by with the typical groan of the restricted life of a youth as the release came and went in all of a paltry week, or two tops. And in fact, it disappeared so quickly, I knew I would eventually wonder if it had even been there to begin with. My only proof, a cutout of a b&w newspaper advert for the release, was literally fading away – the cheap newsprint on this popular metropolitan rag blackened and blotched, lost to both the touch of my fingers or simply the rapid aging process.
To combat that and to record its appearance in my city and country for historical and personal purposes, I immediately reproduced by hand the advert onto a full size piece of paper using a blue biro pen. I used chalk and pencil to add color where none existed on the monochrome original. And showing just how badly printed the original advert, the sphere has no eyes, because I couldn’t make out any on it. To this day, I wonder if it was the ink work to blame or if there actually was an eye-less version of the artwork used for the Aussie release. I’ll never know, and I don’t know if I want to – unlike that advert, which held true on its promise to decay into nothingness, this drawing I did has managed to remain in viewable condition despite 20 years of natural aging and crappy storage.
Of course, things got better – I eventually got to see the flick on home video via the confidence of taking a horror movie to the counter where you’re served by lax video store employees, the same way we all have one time or another – those of us that indoctrinated ourselves young in the sacred order of the genre affectionado. Have you ever done something that could be considered weird or slightly embarrassing as a horror fan, whether younger or in these current days? Do reveal in the comments section below, now that I’ve laid myself on the line by reproducing my very vintage fan art below.