Woke up this morning to find out that Angus Scrimm, best known for his role in the Phantasm movies as The Tall Man, mortician and digger-up of bodies to convert into his interdimensional slaves extraordinaire, had passed away at the rip old age of 89. It was hardly shocking, but still, it was a little bit sad.
Scrimm’s Tall Man remains one of the most iconic horror characters ever created. You only have to utter the word “BOY!” and most horror fans will instantly know what you’re referring to. I don’t even remember the first time I saw Phantasm, but I’m pretty sure it was when I was at the University of Iowa and I checked the VHS tape out of the Iowa City library. I stayed up late at night to watch it since neither of my roommates wanted to watch it and to say it was bizarre is putting it mildly. I was familiar with the Phantasm story thanks to Phantasm II being released in the late 80s, but by the time the end credits rolled on Phantasm, I was more confused than when I started. And I think that’s kind of the point. Phantasms are basically dreams or illusions and Phantasm is full of them. What is real and what isn’t is never exactly clear. The obvious shoestring budget almost lends a home-movie quality to it, way before found footage films (of which I am quite fond) were all the rage.
It’s not exactly scary, but there are certainly more than a few jump scares and creepy images, most of them involving The Tall Man. Scrimm so completely and utterly inhabited the character, cheesiness and all, that it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing the role. He didn’t do a whole lot else that was truly noteworthy, but man, did he OWN being The Tall Man. For that, he has my undying respect. So many actors would try to distance themselves from a famous role, for fear of being typecast. Not Scrimm. He recognized that most actors would kill to be so associated with a role and loved every minute of it. By all accounts, he was a kind and gracious man with a gentle soul – so opposite from the role he was so famous for.
RIP Tall Man. First Zelda Rubinstein, now Angus Scrimm.