Ginger Nuts of Horror
Though the recent years have seen a surging regeneration in horror, we’ve also seen some sad losses. The most recent of these is actor Angus Scrimm, more likely known to horror fans as The Tall Man, lost to the world at the grand old age of 91.
There are certain names and faces in the creative arts that just become instantly irreplaceable. After all, would Nightmare on Elmstreet have been the same without Rober Englund as Freddy? And could anybody but Bruce Campbell have led the cast of Evil Dead 2? These people may not be the most well known of stars, or even the best of actors, but they’re the kind of people that, if you tried to picture anybody else playing their roles, you’d come up empty.
Angus Scrimm was such a man.
Not everybody is as familiar with Phantasm as they are with more mainstream horror franchises, but the collection, spanning four movies (with another yet to be released,) has garnered a dedicated following. And it’s easy to see why.
In 1979, auteur Don Coscarelli brought the world Phantasm, a low budget, high concept horror that had people scratching their heads as well as peeing their pants. The surreal movie kicks off a saga that introduced us to horror dwarfs, twisted monsters and the relentless Orbs, and commanding all of these; the sinister Tall Man, played by Scrimm.
With Scrimm’s twisted snarl, booming voice and imposing physicality, he brought presence and value to a villain that required no special makeup or effects. The Tall Man could do more with the twitch of an eyebrow than most horror movie villains could achieve with a roaring chainsaw. Intimidating, cruel and unknowable, the Tall Man was the perfect End Boss of the horror world, and the perfect foil for the franchise’s lovable smart-ass protagonist, Reggie Bannister.
A great measure of any movie in the horror genre is the strength of its mythos, the rules and handling of its creatures, places, history and logic. Phantasm, though erring on the esoteric, has mythos in spades, and as the heroes travel through a nightmare parallel of a small-town America slowly succumbing to evil forces, it is the relentless Tall Man that serves as an anchor. Whenever it felt like Phantasm was succumbing too much to silly humour or vague plot direction, the Tall Man would appear like a head teacher in an unruly classroom, bring that unique ‘Oh, Shit’ moment that other horror villains quickly lose the power to project.
With Phantasm V: Ravager being released this year, we’ll all have the opportunity to see Scrimm, a man who lost none of his presence in his advanced years, reprise his iconic role. It’s a great excuse to revisit one of horror’s more quirky, but undeniably important, classics. I myself will taking my limited addition Orb DVD display case and having a marathon of my own tonight, raising a glass to Scrimm, and re-immersing myself once more in the dark insanity of Coscarelli’s gift to the world of horror. And I’ll leave you with some chilling words from the Tall Man himself— “Death is no escape from me.”