Phantoms (1998)

What if the blob was a sentient being with a massive ego? That’s basically the summation of “Phantoms,” a film that alternates from tedious, to goofy, to downright silly quite often. The tonal shifting often affects “Phantoms” turning it from a mediocre horror film to just a downright idiotic horror film with no semblance of common sense. Why does every single monster or being with a consciousness suddenly turn in to a comedian when they have the upper hand? Freddy Krueger turned from a specter in to a clown, Pinhead began spewing puns suddenly, and during the finale of “Phantoms,” the being begins spouting one-liners like it’s going out of style. In the midst of possessing Liev Schreiber’s character, the monster screeches with a half body “How low can you go?!” as it chases our heroines through a house slithering along the ground.

In the end, there’s the idea that the begin continues to live on, but for what reason, exactly? What is it hoping to accomplish? And why does the beast only consume certain parts of the body? Why does the monster consume human bodies if it later reveals it can possess their bodies right down to mimicking their voices? If the beast is like crude oil, why are the characters so certain a chemical that can break down the chemical will work on it? Why does the beast show up in the final scene? Was it merely goofing around with the heroes of the film? Why play possum if it’s all powerful and can consume these humans like it’s just another day? And it its goal is to be known and feared like a God, why does it consume a small town where no one notices its residents have been wiped clean? Why not consume a whole city and make its point clear? Sisters Lisa and Jennifer are headed home to their old small town to visit their parents.

In the midst of bickering and obsessing about their lives, they fail to see the signs that their picturesque town is completely quiet and empty. Not only that, but everyone in the town is nowhere to be found. In the middle of exploring, they discover random body parts including hands on a dough roller, and human heads stuffed in an oven. Though no phone works, the being does take it upon itself to call the girls, to which they ask what the person doing these deeds wants. To assume that a single person could pull off these heinous deeds is moronic in and of itself, but it’s tough to figure out why the monster wants itself to be seen by these two women. To offer conflict and sexual tension, there’s the introduction of Ben Affleck as a sheriff with an comically ill fitted cowboy hat, leading two other officers in to the town to investigate. Nicky Katt has a thankless job as Affleck’s deputy who is offed quickly, and Liev Schreiber fills the pervert quota, who takes it upon himself to look creepy and fondle dead people when the others aren’t looking.

The more the story and film unfold, the stupider “Phantoms” gets, and soon enough it’s a spectacle of an idiotic story with an interesting idea beneath the root of the camp and farce. This is a movie that tries to make a Labrador the most frightening monster on film. It’s a hilarious moment of desperation to derive tension from the tedium. A creature inhabiting our thoughts who believes it’s a God or a devil because we believe in such superstitions is a seed for a great story. “Phantoms” isn’t it. Joanna Going and Rose McGowan are an attractive pairing as duel heroines for “Phantoms.” Sadly, the nugget of a good idea is bogged down by an idiotic convoluted narrative, hammy acting, an inconsistent villain, and lapses in logic that are difficult to ignore.

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