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by Jim Wunderle


Directed by: Joe Chappelle

Starring: Ben Affleck, Peter O'Toole, Joanna Goings, Rose McGowan

Rated: R

It's always hard for me to commit to absolutes when it comes to film. I don't really have a "favorite" movie, but rather a list of two or three dozen at any given time. When it comes to comedy, there's everything from W.C. Fields, to Woody Allen, to Mel Brooks, etc. Drama? There's "Taxi Driver," "The Godfather," "Night of the Hunter" ...

There's really only one category that I can think of where my choices are fairly unwavering, and that's the "scary" movie.

William Friedken's "The Exorcist" scared me out of my wits, and still does every time I see it. Situations such as those portrayed here have been truthfully documented, and if the people involved weren't necessarily possessed by demons, something happened to them, and it was totally beyond their control. That's what scares me.

A close second, and similar in theme, is a much lesser-known movie, Roman Polanski's "The Tenant." Closely related to another Polanski movie, "Repulsion," "The Tenant" takes a look at a man going mad and suffering from paranoid delusions. Or is he? If you're a scary-movie fan and haven't seen this one, look for it at the video store. You won't be disappointed.

I saw "Scream" when it came out and found it fairly ho-hum, so I skipped the sequel and the knock-off version, "I Know What You Did Last Summer."

So, I've been in the mood for a good scare lately, and since not much of substance opened this weekend, "Phantoms," with a screenplay by noted horror writer Dean Koontz (based on his novel), seemed a good choice.

I need to preface this review with a small disclaimer and let the reader know: I won't defend this film as being a good one. I might even agree if someone wants to point out some of the really negative aspects of the work, but overall, I've got to say, I enjoyed the movie and think there's an audience out there for it.

The strongest aspect of the film (despite the credible talents of Peter O'Toole and Ben Affleck) is definitely Koontz's writing. While the plot borrows from a handful of other movies, overall it keeps its intensity level up and remains interesting if admittedly ludicrous throughout.

A young woman has "kidnapped" her sister, more or less, to get her away from an alcoholic mom, a boyfriend with less-than-honorable intentions and the general atmosphere of modern-day L.A. The girls are going back to the older sister's home of Snowfield, Colo.

When they arrive, they notice something a bit strange, inasmuch as everyone in town is dead. While looking around, trying to decide what happened, the pair is treated to a never-ending series of bizarre happenings. And when the local deputy and his sidekicks show up, things just keep getting weirder.

As the plot develops, we're introduced to the editor of a tabloid newspaper (played by Peter O'Toole) who has written a series of articles about "the ancient enemy" and the strange disappearances of entire civilizations (not to mention the dinosaurs).

Somehow, government officials make the connection and bring O'Toole to Snowfield to help them fight whatever it is that's out there. I should say "down there," because this thing is fond of traveling through sewers, drains and toilets.

The remainder of the film incorporates elements of movies such as "Alien," "The Exorcist," "The Thing" and "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."

It also brought to mind a few episodes of "The Twilight Zone." Those in the know say it's an "X-Files" clone, but I've never seen the show, so don't say you heard it here.

Anyway, most of the bases are safely covered, and even if Koontz borrows a lot from other sources, he still manages to put his personal stamp on the screenplay. It didn't give me the creeps the way "The Exorcist," "The Tenant" or "Rosemary's Baby" did, but it was pretty good, dumb fun.

(Jim Wunderle works at Associated Video Producers and is a Springfield free-lance writer and musician.)


Overall, I've got to say, I enjoyed the movie and think there's an audience out there for it.[[In-content Ad]]


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