Rest in Peace, Angus Scrimm

Phantasm_5_tallMan, it’s been a rough few weeks for both music and movie fans. We’ve lost Lemmy and David Bowie, Alan Rickman and Richard Libertini.

And now we’ve lost the Tall Man. Angus Scrimm (Lawrence Rory Guy), best known for his portrayal of the iconic villain from the Phantasm series, passed away this week at 89 years old.

Before Scrimm got into movies, he’d been a journalist, written for publications like TV Guide, and even won a Grammy for his work writing liner notes for Capital Records.

But for horror fans, Angus Scrimm will forever be the man who commands the silver spheres–the Tall Man.

The Tall Man is right there with Freddy, Jason, Pinhead and Leatherface in terms of iconic horror characters. And he is unique among those icons because he didn’t wear a mask (Jason and Leatherface) or makeup that gave him some sort of gimmicky appearance (Pinhead, Freddy). Angus Scrimm’s performance made the Tall Man. He was a character of few words, with most of his menace being communicated through facial expressions (like his signature raised eyebrow) and body language. Between his 6’4″ height and the platform shoes the wore, the Tall Man was an imposing presence visually, he had that inevitable quality to his gait that Jason is so well known for. Angus Scrimm’s Tall Man carries all of the Phantasm movies–he is the main character, and he elevates the later sequels to watchable status merely with his presence.

Phantasm is one of the coolest, weirdest and at times scariest movies to come out of the 1970s. I didn’t see it until around 1987 or so, when I was in middle school. The movie itself was so trippy, but Scrimm’s Tall Man was terrifying from the moment he appeared on screen. And the fact that he was tormenting a kid who was my age made the movie resonate even more with me. It’s a movie that will always stand out in my memory.

With the Tall Man, Angus Scrimm created a character that was haunting nightmares five years before Freddy even arrived on Elm Street. And Scrimm is the only one who played the character of the Tall Man. Jason, Freddy Pinhead and Leatherface have all been portrayed by more than once actor, whether it be in seuqles or remakes. But Scrimm was the Tall Man for over 35 years, and when Phantasm V: Ravager finally sees the light of day, Scrimm’s final performance as the Tall Man will be enjoyed by all of his fans.

If you’ve never seen Phantasm, I urge you to track it down. It’s much more of a mind trip than most horror fare, and while the movies can be rough at times, Scrimm is amazing and the lore that Don Coscarelli has created with the series has garnered it legions of fans, myself included among them.

I’ll be doing a DIEmonds in the Rough on the original Phantasm for my next blog in two weeks.

Rest in peace, sir. May you forever haunt our dreams.

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