Phantasm is a 1979 American science fantasy horror film that was directed, written, photographed, and edited by Don Coscarelli. The first film in the Phantasm franchise, it introduces the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm), a supernatural and malevolent undertaker who turns the dead of Earth into dwarf zombies to be sent to his planet and used as slaves. He is opposed by a young boy, Mike Pearson (A. Michael Baldwin), who tries to convince his older brother Jody (Bill Thornbury) and family friend Reggie (Reggie Bannister) of the threat.
Phantasm was a locally financed independent film; the cast and crew were mostly amateurs and aspiring professionals. Though initial reviews were mixed in regard to the dreamlike, surreal narrative and imagery, later reception was more positive and the film became a cult classic. It has appeared on several critics' lists of best horror films, and it has been cited as an influence on later horror series. It was followed by four sequels: Phantasm II (1988), Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994), Phantasm IV: Oblivion (1998) and Phantasm: Ravager (2016).
While engaging in sexual intercourse in Morningside Cemetery, Tommy is stabbed by the Lady in Lavender (actually the Tall Man, the Morningside mortician, in another form). At the funeral, Tommy's friends, Jody and Reggie, believe he committed suicide. Jody's 13-year-old brother Mike secretly observes the funeral and sees the Tall Man placing Tommy's heavy casket, with seemingly little or no effort, back into the hearse instead of completing the burial.
Later, Jody is seduced by the Lady in Lavender and taken to the cemetery to have sex. However, the two are interrupted by Mike, who has been following Jody and has been driven out of his hiding place by a short, hooded figure. Mike tries to tell Jody about the hooded figure, but Jody dismisses the story. Mike investigates further. At the mausoleum, Mike narrowly avoids a silver sphere flying through the air. He is accosted by a caretaker but escapes after the sphere impales itself on the caretaker's skull and drills into his brain. Mike then flees the Tall Man. As Mike slams a door to get away, the Tall Man's fingers get caught and then cut off. Taking one of the fingers with him, Mike escapes the mausoleum.
The finger is enough to convince Jody about Mike's stories. Jody decides to bring the finger to the sheriff, but it transforms into a flying insect. Reggie, who witnesses the finger-turned-insect attack them, joins the brothers in their suspicions. Jody goes to the cemetery alone but is chased away by dwarves and a seemingly driverless hearse. He is rescued by Mike in Jody's Plymouth Barracuda. Running the hearse off the road, they discover that it was driven by one of the hooded figures, a re-animated and shrunken Tommy, whom they hide in Reggie's ice cream truck.
Reggie and Jody resolve to defeat the Tall Man, while Mike is hidden at an antique store owned by Jody's friends Sally and Sue. There, Mike discovers an old photograph of the Tall Man and insists on being taken home. On the way, Mike, Sally and Sue come across the ice cream truck, overturned. They are attacked by a mob of hooded dwarves. Mike manages to escape, presuming the girls and Reggie dead.
Jody goes to the mausoleum to kill the Tall Man. Mike, who is locked in his bedroom for safety but escapes, runs into the Tall Man, who was waiting for him outside his front door. He kidnaps Mike in a hearse, but Mike escapes and causes the hearse to strike a pole and explode. Looking for Jody in the mausoleum, Mike is targeted by the silver sphere until Jody destroys it with a shotgun. Together with Reggie, they enter a brightly lit room, which is filled with canisters containing more dwarves. Mike catches a brief glimpse through a portal, seeing a red, hot world where the dwarves are toiling as slaves.
A sudden power outage separates the trio. Left alone in the room, Reggie activates the portal, creating a powerful vacuum from which he narrowly escapes. In the ensuing storm, Reggie is stabbed by the Lady in Lavender while Jody and Mike flee and the mausoleum vanishes. Jody devises a plan to trap the Tall Man in an abandoned mine shaft. The Tall Man attacks Mike at home and chases him outside, where he eventually falls into the mine shaft and is buried under an avalanche of rocks triggered by Jody.
After this, Mike wakes up in his bed, still worried about the Tall Man. Reggie, still alive, tells Mike that he had a nightmare, that Jody died in a car wreck and proposes a road trip. When Mike enters his bedroom to pack, the Tall Man appears and hands crash through the bedroom mirror, pulling Mike inside.