One of the movies that was deemed unworthy for Bloody Hearts:
Believe it or not, it doesn’t actually start out too bad.
. . . and then Ben Affleck pops up in a cowboy hat.
Minor spoilers in this review. Nothing that’s going to ruin the movie for you . . . assuming that there’s anything I could write here that’s actually capable of ruining your cinematic experience with Phantoms.
Also, this is going to be a pretty short review, at least for me. The movie’s not fresh in my mind anymore, plus, there’s only so much one can say about a movie like this.
Dr. Jennifer Pailey (Joanna Going) decides to go get her sister, Lisa (Rose McGowan), out of a bad situation (i.e. LA) and take her back home to Snowfield, CA. Unfortunately, by the time they arrive, Snowfield appears to be missing about 350 of its inhabitants, and those who aren’t missing are dead. Not only must the Pailey sisters figure out what the hell’s going on, they must stop the same thing from happening everywhere else in the world! Ben Affleck, Peter O’Toole, and various red shirts assist.
1. This movie is based on a Dean Koontz book that I read a million years ago and barely remember anymore. I’m afraid I can’t say if this is a good adaptation or not, but I can say that it has to be a closer adaptation than Watchers, and I’ve only seen about fifteen minutes of that movie.
2. Phantoms actually starts out okay. Not good, exactly, but it’s enjoyable enough. A handful of people stuck in a town full of dead bodies is just inherently creepy. It’s fun watching the sisters poke around, finding corpses in weird places and encountering otherwise spooky phenomena. And I was kidding before; even Ben Affleck and his cowboy hat don’t really ruin that—although the potential for mockery explodes exponentially the second he arrives on scene. Still, the movie is silly fun for the first hour or so.
But then Peter O’Toole and the government shows up, and everything slows way the hell down. When Phantoms is a survivors-stuck-in-a-creepy-town movie, it’s fine. Once you get to the conspiracy theory portion of the evening and you figure out what the monster is and what it wants and so on . . . I don’t know, it’s just like someone sucks the good guilty pleasure right out of the movie.
Which is really too bad because . . . come on . . .
. . . this could have been a classic guilty pleasure.
3. We should talk a bit about acting. Let’s start with Mr. Affleck, cause we’re already laughing at him.
I don’t despise Ben Affleck. I like him in some things, dislike him in others, and have been under the general impression that he’s much more talented at filmmaking than he is at acting. (I wouldn’t know for sure, though. I haven’t actually seen any of the movies he’s directed.) But I figure, like all actors, he has a certain range, and Badass Sheriff Dude is way, way outside of it.
He’s just . . . he’s simply just not believable. At all. Affleck’s about 25 here, I think, and he’s got that stupid pompadour hair that he was sporting in the mid to late 90′s, and I could maybe, maybe, buy him as an inexperienced cop . . . but as a sheriff who used to be a kickass FBI agent? Fucking please. It’s like watching a kid play dress-up in his daddy’s clothing. He has neither the command nor the charisma to make up for the fact that’s he clearly ten years too young for this role.
There’s also Liev Schreiber . . .
. . . who, as you can probably tell from looking at this picture, plays the creepy guy. Creepy cop, actually, and since that’s about as much character development as he really gets . . . well Schreiber does a fine job with it, as I certainly find his leering creepy. (Seriously, I assumed there was a reason his character was all dark and squicky, like the monster was influencing him or something, but apparently not. He’s just a random psycho cop.)
We also have Rose McGowan . . .
. . . who is not nearly as bad here as you’re probably thinking. Actually, I think McGowan does as much as she can with some of the truly stupid lines she’s given. See, Lisa’s the one who somehow knows things, like why the creature killed Person X before Person Y. Is there ever a reason for this? Some psychic bond? Of course not. The writers are just using Lisa to tell the audience things without having to actually explain it. Then they try to cover it up with deep lines like, “Well, it’s the Devil, don’t you think, come up from Hell tonight? I think he wants to dance with us.” There’s not a lot you can do with that, so yeah, I think McGowan does the best she can with it.
And Peter O’Toole . . .
. . . yeah, I don’t know why he’s in this movie, either.
Peter O’Toole gives a perfectly acceptable performance. I mean, obviously he’s capable of so much more, but this role doesn’t really require all that much. He’s kind of just there.
Nicky Katt and Robert Knepper also play very small parts. They’re too small to really comment on the acting, but still. Yay for fun cameos!
4. If you’re a fan of silly gore, there may be a few good moments here for you. There’s a moth creature that sucks off people’s faces. Dogs split open from the inside. Decapitated heads in unusual places. You know. That kind of stuff.
5. Phantoms doesn’t have a plethora of witty quotes, but I did rather like this one.
Government Dude: “The first thing we need to know is what we’re dealing with, biological, chemical, or other.”
Ben Affleck: “Well, I’m leaning towards other.”
6. I’m not creating a Spoiler Section, so I won’t write out the very end. Just know that the last bit is stupid and typical of bad horror movies the world over.
7. Finally, if you find yourself searching through a town of corpses, and you wander into a bakery and discover that the oven is on . . . don’t open it and look inside. I mean, why? If you find bread in there, you probably aren’t going to eat it. If it’s not bread, well, you probably won’t eat for the rest of your life.
Enjoyable as a gory guilty pleasure at first but just gets too slow and ridiculous later on. Dialogue that often makes little sense. Ben Affleck in a cowboy hat.
Never leave LA.