Long before J.J. Abrams was handed the keys to the Star Wars kingdom, he got his start composing part of the score for Don Dohler’s 1982 cheapie Nightbeast. So it makes sense that, presumably in tribute to his drive-in roots, Abrams’ Bad Robot has been secretly working on a 4k restoration of the 1979 drive-in classic Phantasm. Not only that, but Abrams stated earlier this year that The Force Awakens’ chrome-plated bad girl Captain Phasma was influenced by the deadly silver balls in Don Coscarelli’s film. According to Ain’t It Cool News, the Bad Robot-funded restoration of Phantasm will come from the original camera negative, will be the first “flat-out beautiful release (high def or otherwise)” of the film.
Phantasm is a weird little film,—shot on nights and weekends over the course of a year—that features a “hot as love” guitar-slinging ice cream man and two brothers who do battle with an evil transdimensional alien, the Tall Man, who is stealing the dead from Morningside Mortuary to create an unholy army of the night. It’s uncertain watching Phantasm whether the filmmakers were creating a deep, involving mystery, or simply throwing a bunch of cool stuff on the screen and hoping that audiences dug it. Either way, dreamlike atmosphere gives way to a nightmare that the ”phans” keep coming back for. (The 1979 original spawned three sequels, with another one planned in 2016.) It should come as no surprise that Abrams is such a big fan of Phantasm, actually, as the film features not one but two “mystery boxes,” one of which transforms a severed finger into an action figure from the Sectaurs line.
While no release has been set for the restored film, presumably it will tie in with the release of the fifth film in the Phantasm saga, Ravager.