Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Ten Statements About....PHANTOMS (1998)

"Boogieboogieboogie...I'sa gon' be a bad guy!"
"It was the devil, don't you think, come up from Hell tonight. I think he wants to dance with us."

1) Has there ever been a horror writer with mainstream success who has been so ill-served by Hollywood as Dean Koontz? I mean, even Anne Rice can point to Interview With A Vampire and say, 'Yes, this is my work accurately adapted.' Here Koontz even writes the screenplay and it still stinks of fifteen shades of suckitude.

2) There's nothing quite so frustrating to me as an actor I know is capable of amazing work, who has elevated crap films with his presence before, giving a half-assed performance not because of the quality of the film....but because it looks like he simply can't be bothered to give a crap. Liev Shrieber should've been ashamed to have accepted a check for this shoddy, stupid, giggling, cookie-cutter performance.

3) On the other hand, this proves my theory about Peter O'Toole giving just enough energy to whatever he is in to make it look least as long as he's in it. And even if it sounds really, really weird to hear him say the word 'fuck' a couple of times.

4) Give credit where credit is due--the casting director who put Joanna Going and Rose McGowan together as sisters was doing his or her job that day.

"Hey...I think I see Sam Raimi down there!"
5) The basic problem with the film is simply that it doesn't have the time or space in its ninety-six minute running time to convey the complex idea that's at the center of its story. When you're writing a novel-length book, you have the space to convince the reader of the veracity of your claims. Here, what you've got is a lot of jumbled one-liners about Roanoke and petrochemicals and spiders and flying saucers....

6) It also doesn't help when your designated romantic leads proceed down their designated romance path...and neither Going of Ben Affleck can generate even the barest whiff of chemistry.

7) Another reason why the menace doesn't work--Koontz stuffs all this speculation in...and yet, we still need to see some ooky stuff, and they never quite mesh. It's as if the dog fulla tentacles is from an entirely different movie as the crazy voice speaking in tongues to our heroes. And when you add in the need for catchphrases....

8) The first ten minutes or so takes full advantage of its Colorado setting...and the remaining 86 minutes looks exactly like it's shot on a series of soundstages. If you can't commit to one or the other look, you end up with a film that squanders the former and emphasizes the latter.

"Thanks for the take out?  What's that mean?"
9) What was the point of the whole Hazmat team that O'Toole's Flyte rides in on...oh, wait, they're cannon fodder. And they feel like nothing but....

10) Still...this film could have been salvaged if a stylish, clever director was behind the camera, someone who would be able to obscure all the loose ends and inconsistencies....and instead we get Joe Chappelle, a very unimaginative meat-and-potatoes director (who, oddly enough, seems to excel in television, where he can give individual episodes a more cinematic feel). So there goes that theory...'s films like these, with their self-conscious in-jokes ("I Fall To Pieces" my ass) and knowing winks and disjointed scripts, that killed the mid-90's horror revival. And for the record, the only reason I watched was because it was on the other side of the DVD I purchased at K-Mart because I felt the price was reasonable for a bare bones copy of The Faculty.

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