The ’70s Horror Movie JJ Abrams Loves So Much That He Saved It

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown | Published


The 70s horror classic Phantasm recently underwent 4K restoration thanks to J.J. Abrams and Bad Robot, according to Vulture, and you can watch the remastered version on Amazon Prime. Phantasm is a 1979 science fantasy horror movie written and directed by Don Coscarelli, and it is the first installment in the iconic Phantasm franchise.

The film introduces audiences to the enigmatic and sinister Tall Man, portrayed brilliantly by Angus Scrimm, who serves as a supernatural undertaker with nefarious plans. 

The 70s horror classic Phantasm recently underwent 4K restoration thanks to J.J. Abrams and Bad Robot

Phantasm tells the story of a young boy named Mike, played by Michael Baldwin, who, along with his older brother Jody and family friend Reggie, stands as the last line of defense against the Tall Man’s ghastly plot. The film is a classic among horror enthusiasts, including legendary producer and director J.J. Abrams.

As a teenager, Abrams was profoundly impacted by the film, and the movie continued to influence the director long into his filmmaking career, leading to many nods to the 70s classic throughout Abrams’ movies.

One such nod is Captain Phasma, the chrome-armored Stormtrooper officer from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, whose name is a clear homage to one of Phantasm‘s iconic images: the Sentinel Sphere. Another nod appears in Abrams’ work on the TV series Alias, where he cast Angus Scrimm, the actor who portrayed the Tall Man, in a recurring role.

As a teenager, J.J. Abrams was profoundly impacted by the film, and the movie continued to influence the director long into his filmmaking career

In 2014, Abrams reached out to Don Coscarelli, the film’s original director, for a 35mm print of the film so he could show a screening of the classic film with his Bad Robot staff, Abrams received some disappointing news. The print was in a state of disrepair and urgently needed restoration. Abrams didn’t hesitate; he and Bad Robot took it upon themselves to perform a meticulous 4K restoration of Phantasm

This project was a labor of love, with every frame of the movie carefully scanned and cleansed of damage and dirt. The result is a remastered version of Phantasm featuring a pristine image with vibrant colors and deep black shadows, audio overhauled with an elevated score, and updated visual effects that removed wires and enhanced key effects shots that had irked the film’s original director for decades.

But even with the new shellac, Abrams made sure the new 4K version of Phantasm contained the original charm and essence of the original edition, free from modern CGI embellishments.

The movie itself is a true cult classic, much like Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead. However, Phantasm also carries a distinct proto-Amblin feel due to its youthful protagonist and sci-fi elements. The story revolves around young Michael, who suspects the mortician in his small Oregon town, known as the Tall Man, of being responsible for his older brother’s friend’s murder. This simple premise of Phantasm sets off a series of increasingly bizarre and terrifying events.

Michael, along with his older brother Jody and the town’s ice cream man Reggie, must confront a mysterious blonde woman, the undead, a mutant housefly, and flying silver spheres with a gruesome appetite for brain-drilling.

Phantasm lays the foundation for a complex ecosystem of horrors, inadvertently paving the way for four sequels. Don Coscarelli skillfully weaves intricate setups and payoffs, both visually and verbally. Beyond its premise, the film serves as a metaphorical exploration of a young boy’s grief, a theme that Abrams himself would revisit in his film Super 8.


Abrams’ restoration of Phantasm not only preserves a piece of horror cinema history but also reaffirms the enduring power of masterful storytelling, even in the face of modern technological expectations.

It’s a great addition to the watch list for the new generation of horror enthusiasts, especially those captivated by series like Stranger Things and the films that inspired it.

J.J. Abrams‘ 4K restoration of Phantasm breathes new life into this horror gem, allowing both longtime fans and a new generation of moviegoers to experience its unsettling and imaginative world.

Now, that the original Phantasm and its sequel, Phantasm V: Ravager, are available for streaming, horror enthusiasts can savor the enduring allure of the Tall Man and his terrifying universe while also recognizing the profound influence that Phantasm has had on one of Hollywood’s most celebrated filmmakers.