"Phantoms" Review
© 1998 Fontaine L.
- spoilers -

I thought it couldn't get any worse after I saw "Firestorm."

I now stand corrected.

"Phantoms" is actually better than "Firestorm," but seeing two bad movies in a row really pisses me off. :P

Okay, enough with my whining. This being my first contact with anything related to the celebrated author Dean Koontz, I expected it to be more thrilling and more unique. Instead, the film comes off as a rip-off of the abundant monster flicks that have emerged in Hollywood over the past few months: "Relic," "Mimic," dinosaurs and aliens. Like "Relic" and "Mimic," "Phantoms stretches the rules of biology and evolution too far - you say, yeah, like I'd know anything about biology. True, I don't know anything about biology, but I can tell you for certain I'm not one who believes a thousand-year-old monster lives in gutters and utilizes modern technology, like light switches and computers. Wow, this thing can even see your deepest fears. Wow, I'm amazed. There are those of you who will argue that this is a science fiction film (sort of), and that in order to enjoy it you must suspend your disbelief to a certain degree. I agree, but I also argue that in order for a film to truly scare me (and I assume it's what "Phantoms" was meant to do), the situation it presents must have a certan degree of reality to it, as in the universe of "The X-Files."

I must admit the movie starts off well - the empty streets, flickering lights, and infernal sounds gave me the creeps; but as soon as we knew what we were dealing with, the film dissolved into nonsense. The two female characters are utterly convincing and manage to blunder through this movie looking kind of scared and sort of tough - and yes, at the end, it must be this precocious little girl who ingeniously discovers the monster's secret. She even gets to deliver enigmatic dialogue like: "I think [the monster] wants to dance with us." Peter O'Toole turns in an OK performance, but I still have no idea what his character was all about. The movie succeeds, however, in dealing with nail-biting suspense (the scariest thing is seeing something familiar turn against you: in this case, ordinary life in a small town) - if only the payback had been greater. Implausible situations may well have worked in literature, but they don't come off well on the big screen. I'm sorry, but although two heads falling out of an oven is scary, I also found it uproarious. I mean, PUH-LEEZ.

Like too many other films, this one blunders because it hurries along with plot, not really caring about logic; and at the end, not really caring about suspense, either. The monster comes off as fantastical and ultimately comical, and really, "the souls are not at peace" was my last straw. By then, I've ceased to try and make sense of anything at the risk of my brain turning into goo.

Rating: D+ (First viewing, 1/23/98)