There’s something to be said for the kind of horror movie that while not actually scary, at least in my opinion anyway, remains incredibly re-watchable. Maybe Phantoms is scary, but lost some of the chills somewhere around the twentieth viewing. Strangely I feel that Phantoms may be more well-known from the Kevin Smith film Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, rather than for its own merits. Though I do have to agree that Ben Affleck is pretty bomb in this film, he’s not the best performance. That doesn’t even go to Peter O’Toole, but rather Liev Schreiber. Who does a fantastic job and simply nails it. Phantoms is part of a personal stable of horror films that always get dragged out when I watch to watch a film, something that is familiar. So I don’t have to give it my full attention and it has been since I first saw it. Because honestly for a nearly twenty year old film, it’s held up incredibly well.
Phantoms opens with Doctor Jennifer Pailey (Joanna Going) bringing her little sister Lisa (Rose McGowan) to the small tourist town of Snowfeild, Colorado, where she works. When the sisters arrive, they find the town empty and after finding the body of Jennifer’s housekeeper, then a few other bodies. The pair then find the heads of the local bakers in their oven, before running into Sheriff Bryce Hammond (Ben Affleck) and his two deputies, Deputy Stuart “Stu” Wargle (Liev Schreiber) and Deputy Steve Shanning (Nicky Katt). The group is led by an unseen presence to a hotel where they find no one alive. But do find a note scrawled on the mirror “Timothy Flyte, The Ancient Enemy”, in a windowless bathroom, locked from the inside. Sheriff Hammond manages to contact headquarters to call for back up, but is basically only able to relay Flyte’s name before communications once again breaks up and becoming impossible. Flyte (Peter O’Toole) is contacted by the government, who are responding to the events of Snowfeild in a big way, and explains his theory of The Ancient Enemy, citing famous disappearances of small populations throughout history. Before being dragged off to Snowcloak…
Phantoms biggest advantage is that unlike a number of films from its era is that it doesn’t really use that much special effects. Sure the last act has a mixture of CGI and Practical thrown in, but by and large the film just relies on tension. The not seeing being what scary. Though this abandon during the last section of the film, when the film quickly devolves into a creature feature. A good one though.
Liev Schreiber is by far my favorite part of this film and I really like Ben Affleck in this movie. Same goes with Rose McGowan, Peter O’Toole though I’m about fifty-fifty on. Schreiber is creepy and off-putting in every second of screen time he graces. Heck, I find Stu scarier than The Ancient Enemy. Which upon reflection, was probably the point.
Final Thoughts, I really love this film and is certainly among my personal favorites. But honestly does feel rocky in the later half of the film. It’s not that the film dips in quality, there’s just a tone shift that I find jarring. There’s also a handful of CGI Effects that have aged poorly, especially in comparison the rest of the film. Still both those flaws are a matter of taste than substance. 10/10 Also Phantoms is based on the Dean Koontz novel of the same name.