WRITER: Screenplay by Dean Koontz
DIRECTOR: Joe Chapelle
STARRING: Peter O'Toole as Timothy Flyte
Rose McGowan as Lisa Pailey
Joanna Going as Jenny Pailey
Liev Schreiber as Deputy Stu Wargle
Ben Affleck as Sheriff Bryce Hammond
Nicky Katt as Deputy Steve Shanning
Clifton Powell as General Copperfield
Rachel Shane as Scientist Yamaguchi
Michael De Lorenzo as Soldier Velazquez
QUICK CUT: A pair of sisters bond over a weekend in a small Colorado town, troubled by deeply held religious beliefs.
Lisa - A bit of a rebel, lives in California, but we never really get to see that side of her, as she mostly runs along and stares at the monsters.
Jenny - Lisa's sister, a doctor in a small town, and easily the grown up and mature adult. She's trying to give her sister a vacation and a normal life in the mountains, and ahahahaha that fails miserably.
Hammond - A former FBI agent who has some darkness in his past, and has since become a sheriff in Podunk Colorado.
Deputy Wargle - Hammond's deputy, and a REAL creep. He ogles girls, he's weird, he's got a bleak sense of humour, and just makes you wonder how he became a cop.
Timothy Flyte - A proper British act...gentleman, who works for a tabloid, and is the only one who knows what's going on.
THE GUTS: Welcome back, Triskelions! You have hopefully read my review of Batman v. Superman by now, and while I keep saying the classic Jay line of Affleck being the bomb in Phantoms, I must confess...I have never seen the movie. So in honour of his big screen debut as Batman, let's rewind the Affleck clock and see if there's any truth to this and finally watch Dean Koontz's Phantoms!
As we slowly drive through the credits, we meet Lisa and Jenny, a pair of sisters, with Jenny abducting her sister for a month vacation at her home in the Colorado mountain town of Snowfield. Lisa's not thrilled with living a more small town life, she loves it in LA, with the smog and gunfire, and her other two witchy sisters.
Lisa is a doctor in the small town, and wants to give her sister some time away, to enjoy a nice, relaxing time in a quiet, rural town. But as they pull into Snowfield, things are a little TOO quiet, even for the bucolic locale. No cars, no people...something is wrong, and the movie isn't wasting any time to tell us that.
They get to Lisa's home and practice, and discover the housekeeper is dead, with no blood anywhere, no signs of struggle, she just kinda...stopped.
After hearing noises upstairs, the sisters run out of the house and get in the car...but that's as dead as the housekeeper. They make their way to the sheriff's and find more dead bodies.
I gotta give credit for doing the smart thing after Lisa checks out the bodies. She immediately turns to the sheriff's locked gun cabinet and borrows a few.
Now that they're armed, they head to the...the local bakery? It seems pretty random, but Lisa says the owners are always there, so I guess it makes some kind of sense? But as long as the plot keeps rolling along, let's grab some bread and pie!
They find a pair of hands in the middle of rolling out dough, and little else, as the movie gives us one of THE cheapest jump scares I've seen, when possibly THE loudest oven timer buzzes off.
What could possibly be in the oven? Could it be a body? Could it be a cat? Could it be a baby?? Could it be Hansel and Gretl??
NOPE, it's just pie! Sorry, folks! Oh, and then the heads of the bakery owners topple out of the top of the oven, somehow.
They try and make a run for it, but shadows lurk around every corner the sisters, revealing...it's just Sheriff Batman and his deputies, Dick Grayson and Jason Todd.
Okay okay, it's Deputy Sabretooth and Deputy Some Other Guy. ...OKAY FINE, Stu Wargle and Steve Soontodie.
The group heads out and walks down the street trying to figure out what is going on, when anything that can make an annoying noise in town starts going off. Nooo, the honking, the horror of the honking!
When the cacophony stops just as suddenly as it started, they see lights at an inn, and Deputy Warglebargle heads towards them. Yes, go into the light!
They pauses in the empty inn, but suddenly hear music coming from somewhere. The cops clear the area to check it out, and things are going well until Sheriff Batman sees a little boy and starts to freak out. Look, Bruce, I know you're still sad that Jason Todd died...
Bruce finds a message in a locked bathroom with no windows, and come ON. Batman should be able to figure out a locked room mystery like *that*! World's Greatest Detective, my ass...
As this continues to be "hear noises then investigate: the movie" the deputies hear some rustling, and go to investigate. What they find is a pile of metalic objects, stripped from the vanished bodies, and inside the vanished bodies. All traces of organic material, just gone.
They head back to the lobby, more confused than ever, and find the hand with the lipstick that scrawled the message about Timothy Flyte and the Ancient Enemy in the locked bathroom. The music starts up again, there's screaming outside, and Deputy Third Wheel runs outside, only to disappear in a screech.
Back at the sheriff's station, the guys arm back up, and Warglebargle reveals more of his weirdness. The guy has been acting wonky all night, and if he's normally like this, I have no idea how he became a cop. Stu has problems. And he's a bit of a perv. And Sheriff Batman gets tired of him checking out the ladies' asses while they cock their guns.
Suddenly, the phone rings, with inhuman noises coming through. Batman asks who it is, and more inhuman screechings and hisses are the response. Well, okay Mister Eeeeuuuuaaaaaauuuggghhhsssss, do you mind if we just call you Aughie?
Finally stuff starts happening when strange screechy fluttery things start bashing against the building. Lisa blurts out, "Is that a bird??" NO! It's a plane...no, IT'S SUPERMAN!! GET HIM, SHERIFF BATMAN!!
It's a good thing they loaded up all their weapons, because they unload like...a hundred shots into a single window trying to kill the batscreecher. And since they destroyed the window, it easily flies in being not dead, and eats off Sheriff Warglebargle's face.
While the thing flits about in the flashing lights and editing, you can catch glimpses and it looks like a giant moth. Quick, get an equally giant flyswatter! Or just light a candle and watch it fly into it!
Just as things are getting interesting, we jump across the country to a tabloid newspaper office in I dunno, New York City, I guess. It's here that we meet this Timothy Flyte we keep hearing all about.
One of his pet projects is researching this Ancient Enemy, an entity responsible for mass disappearances throughout history. His ideas got him laughed out of the scientific communities, so he landed at the Wide World News. I feel like Flyte and Daniel Jackson would have a lot to talk about.
Now that we've solved that mystery, it's back to Snowfield, and some Character Backstory Infodumps while we pause during the second act slump.
We do at least learn that the Robin that Sheriff Batman keeps seeing is a kid he shot while working for the FBI, and that's how he ended up as a sheriff in a nothing town like Snowfield. But enough backstory and character moments, Lisa needs to go to the bathroom, and ain't going alone.
Once Sheriff Batman clears the room and leaves her to do her business, Lisa is visited by the Ghost of Warglebargles Past. She runs out and Bats runs into the bathroom, but again, there's nothing there. Yeah, how does it feel when people disappear on YOU, Bruce?? And he is having the worst luck with people disappearing from locked bathrooms.
There's no Deputy Sabretooth there, but when they check where they left the bodies, the body bags are empty. Now, they don't know how the bodies could have evaporated, they didn't walk out, but the sheriff does see a dripping faucet and surmises...AH HA, they escaped through the plumbing!!
On the one hand, that's absurd, and a mighty leap of logic. On the other hand, it's exactly the sort of impossible solution I'd expect to have Batman think of.
While this is going on, Flyte is being transported to the town, and he starts talking about all the mass disappearances throughout history. And yes, he dutifully namechecks Roanoke, as he should.
The government's science squad rolls into town with Flyte, and investigate the town pretty quickly. breezing through the stuff they find, and the audience kinda already knows. Thanks to the movie for supplying these dozen new characters to wander around and get eaten for 10 minutes.
Science Team Six also finds a dog in a church. Puppy!! Sadly, puppy does not seem too happy, and oh right, horror movie. Remember The Thing? Yeah, we totally rip off and do a lesser version of the monster dog here.
After the puppy tears through the entire team, save for Flyte, it addresses him and the entity tells him he was brought here for a reason, and it just won't take Flyte.
Once he reconnects with the rest of our main group, another soldier gets eaten by the creature, and gives them a lizard shaped sample to play with.
Sheriff Batman decides they need to get into the science tank the government brought, and I am sure this is his new Batmobile. He wants to use it to escape, Flyte wants to stay and learn more, because why not?
We get some sciency infodump about what the creature is and how it absorbs knowledge from stuff it eats like a wendigo. And along the way, it ate some people that thought it was a demon, so it found religion and believes itself to be the devil.
Batman ain't having any of that, and doesn't care that it's been around since the dawn of time. He's the goddamned Batman, and everything has a weakness. Given enough time, he'll find it, and can defeat anything!!
I do really like that the weakness is the creature's ego, that it is so sure in its own immortality, they can use that against it. We are such clever monkeys, after all.
We spend a lot of time poking at samples and getting bored, when they finally find out the creature's structure is very close to petroleum. And hey! We've developed bacterias and such to eat oil! So we'll kill Satan with a germ!
So the group arms up and shoves Flyte out of the battle tank to draw the entirety of the creature to them, since he is the Ancient Enemy's chosen messiah to deliver the word of Goo.
The plan works and the creature appears, so the group can shoot at a giant CGI oil slick, and it can smash up the town in more blasts of CGI.
Once it's infected, the creature crawls away, and Sheriff Batman gives chase into the sewers, because we gotta keep this plot going for another 15 minutes.
The ladies reload, and confront a reborn Sheriff Warglebargle. He is somehow LESS creepy when he's just a copied drone of an ancient oil slick bacteria.
While they fight off their literal demons, Batman takes care of his more personal demons, when the creature uses the form of the boy he shot to mess with him and attack.
He drops a bunch of needles of the bacteria, and the kid monster picks them up, leaving Batman with the option of once again pointing his weapon at the kid. But instead of shooting him, he shoots the kid's *hand* full of the oil nomming particle, and it makes the kid melt.
And uh, that seems to have conveniently also been the Mother Mass that needed to be infected, to kill the creature extra for sure dead.
The movie ends trying to convince us that the monster is dead, but it actually won, because it wanted Flyte to tell the world his story, and that's exactly what he's going to do. Oh no, the monster sold its movie rights, the *horror*.
At least it picked a good form to copy, Sabretooth has one heck of a healing factor. Take that, pesky bacterias!
Video: This looks surprisingly decent. It's a very early DVD, the look is solid enough though, even if it is an annoying non-anamorphic screen.
Audio: Could be better, but hard to complain.
Sound Bite: "If you people at this newspaper know where Elvis is, we'd REALLY like to know..."
Body Count: If nothing else, this movies delivers a bunch of eaten faces...
1 - After the credits, we find a dead body six minutes in.
2 - Lisa finds another dead body at the sheriff's station.
3 - Two more bodies discovered in the bakery.
4 - Offier Warglebargle finds a dead body in the Candlewhatever Inn.
5 - After finding a bunch of dead bodies, Deputy Shanning becomes a dead/missing body.
6 - Deputy Wargle gets his face eaten by the killer moth.
7 - While the science squad wanders through town, they find a dead priest.
8 - The science squad finds another dead body in a house.
9 - Velazquez finds a monster and gets eaten in the sewers.
10 - Another soldier with him meets the same fate.
11 - Monster Puppy kills one scientist
12 - Two scientists
13 - Three scientists
14 - A soldier
15 - Another solider gets taken by the oil slick once Flyte finds the rest of the group again.
16 - The monster dies. Ahahaha
Best Corpse: Gotta give it to Deputy Wargle. Decent missing face and bloody skull.
Blood Type - D-: I give minor points for the bloody skull, but that's about it.
Sex Appeal: Mmm, sexy entities.
Drink Up! Every time someone says Ancient Enemy with a straight face.
Video: Just a quick clip of Liev Schrieber hamming it up as a tentacle-legged freak.
Movie Review: This movie is...not good. It's not *bad* but it has problems. The idea is sound, and I suspect this is one that reads better than it films. The problem with 'ancient entity' type villains is that they're so impersonal. You can't get a handle on them. They're not even a force of nature you can pit your characters against. A concept is a tough villain, even for the few moments when you personify it with Liev Schrieber. The production values are also lacking, especially with the science tank. It looks like a set from Star Trek. The ideas are sound though, and filmed well, but the translation from page to screen just did not click. A decent idea executed poorly gives it a mere two out of five killer moths.
Entertainment Value: I may have gotten extra bonus entertainment making fun of Sheriff Batman, I won't lie. That upped the fun factor by like, 10. Still, it's a fun campy movie, from the late 90s. Liev's Sheriff Wargle, both normal and entity, are creepy as hell, and he chews the scenery well. The decent story being translated not so great makes for a silly flick that has some entertaining moments. Three out of five left behind pacemakers.
But the real question, the thing that brings us all here today is this, is Ben Affleck truly the bomb in Phantoms? Well...no. He's not given a whole lot to do here. There's no meat to the character. The stuff with the kid does give him some much needed depth, and a young Affleck handles it very well. He's not great yet, but you can see the potential in this kid from Massachusetts here. So while Affleck is not quite the bomb, you can see the makings of an explosive performance to come. ...Not really, but it was a nice turn of phrase. But really, you shouldn't be taking movie advice from Jay in the first place.