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J.J. Abrams Breathes New Life Into Another Retro Franchise

Director J.J. Abrams has made no secret of his longstanding affection for Don Coscarelli’s 1979 horror classic Phantasm. As we reported in August, a key character in The Force Awakens was named after the film. “Phasma I named because of the amazing chrome design that came from Michael Kaplan’s wardrobe team,” Abrams said. “It reminded me of the ball in Phantasm, and I just thought, Phasma sounds really cool.”

Released when Coscarelli was just 25, this low budget oddity has become a horror staple, even though it’s increasingly difficult to find a copy on DVD. (Currently, your best bet is to acquire the UK disc or, better yet, the sphere edition containing the whole series.) Further complicating matters, Coscarelli recently retired his personal print of the film. However, some very encouraging news broke over the weekend when the film screened at Harry Knowles’s 17th annual Butt-Numb-A-Thon in Austin, Texas (along with Anomalisa, Eddie the Eagle, The Revenant, and seven other cult favourites). Prior to the screening, it was revealed that Abrams has funded an elaborate 4K restoration of Phantasm through his company Bad Robot.

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Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Coscarelli explained that the finished restoration—a work-in-progress version screened at Butt-Numb-A-Thon—will be released theatrically and on Blu-ray in mid-2016 to coincide with the release of the franchise’s fifth and final entry, Phantasm: Ravager. As he sees it, this restoration (which includes a brand new 5.1 soundtrack) is likely to be a revelation for anyone familiar with the film. “For those longtime fans, it’s going to blow their minds,” he said. “For me, it’s like watching a different movie. It’s like I’ve been watching it with sunglasses for all of these years. It’s pretty amazing.”

For a quick look at Phantasm in its pre-restoration state, watch the trailer below.

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