Phantoms Review (1998)
My History With the Film:
I've always been a Ben Affleck fan. Okay, lemme rephrase that, I was a huge Kevin Smith fan in the 90's and early 2000's, and because of his casting of Ben Affleck in Chasing Amy and Dogma, I became a big Ben Affleck fan. Now, I'm sorta neutral on Affleck, but back in the early 2000's, I watched anything the man did. This included Phantoms, based on a Dean Koontz novel of the same name.
I rented Phantoms while working at Blockbuster and I went in with very low expectations. It had Liev Schreiber and Rose McGowan (both from Scream) joining Affleck. I recall really enjoying the film, although it was flawed. After rewatching it in early 2018, I have to agree with my memory. This is a film that can be broken into two parts: the first half which is awesome and the second half that is pretty terrible.
What the Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
Two sisters arrive in a small town in Colorado where one hundred and a fifty residents are dead and another three hundred are missing.
What I Liked About It:
-The first half of this movie is great. The characters interacting in this amazing town that is abandoned out of the blue works so well. It’s terrifying, but sadly, the film goes a little off the rails after that. I don’t want to ruin what happens, but others characters get involved and slowly the plot goes from creepy horror to strange sci-fi. I would have loved another thirty or forty minutes of exploration in the quaint abandoned town.
-Live Schreiber turns it up to eleven and steals the show.
-The plot mentions moments in history where large groups of people went missing such as Roanoke and I felt like this gave the threat real credibility. The movie instantly went from insane to plausible in just one short conversation.
-The special effects are pretty good and there is one very intense scene early on that is especially impressive.
What I Didn't Like About It:
-The tonal shift in the movie ruins it. I'm not sure how the book progresses but the first thirty minutes are truly a horror film, but then the film begins to shift into a conspiracy film and then finally into a science fiction film. In a way, you want to think it's inspired by The Thing, but John Carpenter showed us how to properly do a science fiction/horror film and in Phantoms the script writer and filmmaker had no idea how to walk that line. It was either horror or sci-fi and the film was unable to walk that fine line and still be entertaining.
-The ending is horrible. I won't even go into it, but it's just horrible.
-Phantoms was in pre-production in the late 80's/early 90's, but New World Pictures filed for bankruptcy and the project was shelved.
-The beginning of this film inspired the original Silent Hill video game.
If I were to rate the film based on the first thirty minutes, it's a solid eight out of ten. Unfortunately, the movie continues and turns into a convoluted mess and while I won't go as far as to say it's unwatchable, it's frustrating to see what becomes of the film. There is just so much potential wasted it's truly tragic.
Phantoms is a four out of ten and is easily skipped.