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Written by Dean Koontz (DEMON SEED, WATCHERS), there is an awful lot to like about this movie. I like the fact that it builds up slow, letting the creepiness seep into you.
There is also an awful lot to dislike about the movie: like how everybody's character is written so thin (for the movie). Not that these folks are two dimensional. In fact, with the exception of Peter O'Toole (HIGH SPIRITS), who plays Peter O'Toole as a disenchanted British ex-Professor (huh! Imagine that!), everybody else at least appears to have some depth. As if the actors were capable of it, but the script (also by Koontz) and director didn't give them the opportunity. The director of PHANTOMS is Joe Chappelle. A name you'll recognize if you were unfortunate enough to see HALLOWEEN 4: The Return Of Michael Myers, or if you saw HELLRAISER IV: Bloodline. Believe me when I say that PHANTOMS is Joe's best movie yet. Go Joe!
Joe Chappelle did such a superior job on this movie, compared to his previous efforts, that he might very well be the one to watch as the next Cronenberg or Raimi.
The movie starts out with two women driving through the mountains to get to a small town far from the city. Joanna Going (DARK SHADOWS [TV], HEAVEN) plays Dr. Jennifer Pailey. She is taking over the child raising duties that her Mother can't handle. This means getting her kid sister Lisa, played by Rose McGowan (SCREAM) the hell out of the big city and out to a place where folks are real people. They enter the quiet town of Snowfield, Colorado (just what is the problem over there in Colorado anyway?) which turns out to be just a little bit too damn quiet! They go into Jennifer's house and Merry Mishaps ensue.
Before long they are Damsels in Distress and who should come up but the dashing Sheriff Bryce Hammond, as played by Ben Affleck (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, DOGMA. Also director of 1993's: I KILLED MY LESBIAN WIFE, HUNG HER ON A MEAT HOOK, AND NOW I HAVE A THREE-PICTURE DEAL AT DISNEY), and his two Deputies Steve Shanning (Nicky Kat: GREMLINS, THE BABYSITTER, [TV] THE KINDRED: The Embraced 1.3, STRANGE DAYS), and Stu Wargle (Liev Schrieber: SCREAM, SCREAM 2, SPHERE). Something mighty creepy about that Stu . . .
The picture brings up some wonderful elements, great spooky atmosphere, and the kind of explosively original creature/monster that we've come to expect from Koontz. This is the kind of movie, with its gradual start and ever faster pace, that THE X-FILES has made us learn to appreciate all over again. In fact, this movie has all the feel of an episode of the X-FILES and is far and away better than the X-FILES movie. So how can you go wrong? Well, for starters gang:
!!!UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHÉ ALERT!!!:
For the ever growing list of movies that crash into this category, go to the !!!UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHÉ ALERT!!!
When we first meet Peter O'Toole we see him as Timothy Flyte, a disillusioned sot working at a two bit Rumor Rag. As usual, O'Toole zips through his character's life story with hambone excess and rapid head jerking ("Let us get this wretched exposition out of my damn way and I'll gladly waltz with you to bleeding China, you foul odour of a man!" - Peter never says this, its just the impression I always get.).
The story is very interesting and it has some nicely unique turns. The growing atmosphere of horror and desperation gives this movie a genuine "Twilight Zone" creepiness. The monster was a bit of a disappointment though. By the end, the only person I found myself interested in was Deputy Stu Wargle.
All the same, I enjoyed PHANTOMS enough to give it 3 Shriekgirls.
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