PHANTOMS-United States/Japan-96 Mins. 1998
Directed by Joe Chappelle
Screenplay by Dean R. Koontz and based on his novel
There’s something that I always wondered about movies like Phantoms. Why is it that even though there is always someone of high intelligence in the film to explain the monstrosity that is being dealt with, but nine times out of ten it’s the average Joe in the film that figures out how to kill the thing.
The ‘someone of high intelligence in Phantoms is none other than Timothy Flyte who is portrayed by none other than Peter O’Toole who only appears comfortable in Phantoms due to his unwavering professionalism. The monster is the Ancient Enemy; which as near as I can tell is incredibly large but can take on any appearance it chooses from a golden retriever to a huge pissed off moth that sucks the brains out of a hapless sheriff’s deputy. Lest I forget, the Ancient Enemy can mimic a human scream and can make the monster equivalent of obscene phone calls.
The average Joe is Sheriff Bryce Hammond as portrayed by Ben Affleck. There’s a priceless throwaway line in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back where Affleck, as Holden McNeil, declares to Jay and Silent Bob that although he wasn’t impressed with Good Will Hunting he thought that “Affleck was the bomb in Phantoms.” The reasons that I find myself watching bad movies are strange ones, indeed.
There is truth to that quote, however. Affleck really is the bomb in Phantoms. He’s one of the two characters, along with Liev Schrieber (who plays the creep card so well in this one but then again when has he not), who looks like they’re having any fun. He’s also the only character other than Joanna Going as the town doctor that keeps a clear head amidst the chaos.
Phantoms the movie is based on Phantoms the book by Dean Koontz. I read the book years ago and loved it. Koontz does duty here as screenwriter and as far as I can remember he’s remained faithful to his source material. Phantoms is not a good movie in any sense of the word. Too many seemingly intelligent people do too many stupid things. When is everyone going to learn that when you hear strange noises coming out of a sink that you don’t stick your face down close to it? Plus, if a town is deserted and you hear a scream do not investigate under any circumstances.
As bad a movie as Phantoms is I will admit to having had fun watching it. There are bad movies that are awful and there are, as the late Harry Chapin said, ‘good bad movies’. Phantoms is in the latter category of bad movies.
The “flatworm theory” used in the movie (that flatworms can eat the remains of their own kind and absorb their knowledge) is based on actual tests given to flatworms which involved seeing how quickly they would make the “correct” turn at a Y-intersection after eating the previous experimenters. The results were more inconclusive than the film says.
Categorically one of the chief cinematic influences for Konami’s original Silent Hill on the PS1 and to the series overall, along with Jacobs Ladder (1990) and Session 9 (2001).
An adaptation of Phantoms was originally set to be made in the late 1980s/early 1990s by New World Pictures & Allied Vision Entertainment but was shelved after New World filed for bankruptcy.
Ben Affleck also appears in Argo and The Town.
Liev Schrieber also appears in Salt and X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Rose McGowan also appears in Black Dahlia and Planet Terror.
Peter O’Toole also appears in Lawrence of Arabia and The Last Emperor.
Joanna Going also appears in The Tree of Life and Runaway Jury.