Quickie Review: Phantoms (dir. by Joe Chappelle)


If there was ever an actor in the last twenty years who has suffered ridicule regarding his body of work it would be Ben Affleck. Nevermind the fact that he has actually done very good work as an actor. People tend to view his acting work through some very bad film projects which the online film bloggers (and trolls) have lambasted year after year. One such film which has gained a cult following for all the reasons is the 1998 horror film Phantoms which was adapted from the Dean Koontz horror novel of the same name. This was a film which came out of nowhere and which no one really saw when it first hit the theaters. There’s a reason for this and the main reason for this being that the film was really awful though not without some entertaining bits.

Phantoms starred Ben Affleck in a role that really seemed more suited for an older actor. His Sheriff Hammond in the novel was much older and fit the backstory told in both novel and film that never truly fit Affleck’s youthful appearance and mannerism. He’s joined in this Joe Chappelle production by classically-trained veteran actor Peter O’Toole (who must’ve really needed the money to sign up for this film) in the role of Dr. Exposition dump aka Timothy Flyte who ends up explaining to the surviving cast of characters the very danger facing them in the abandoned town of Snowfield. Rounding out the cast isΒ  Liev Schrieber as the creepy Deputy Stu Wargle who becomes a sort of plot device as the film moves forward. To add to this mix are Joanna Going and Rose McGowan as sisters who first discover that their town has just gone through a terrible event.

The novel this film was based on was pure scifi-horror pulp which stressed one’s suspension of disbelief, but was quite entertaining from beginning to end. Dean Koontz is like the generic fast-food version of Stephen King. This film adaptation borrows heavily from films such as Carpenter’s The Thing and the remake of The Blob. This wouldn’t have been a bad thing since the film’s story does bring into it an interesting concept of an ancient enemy which might or might not have been responsible for unexplained mass disappearances of people and animals throughout history going back to prehistoric times.

What Phantoms ends up doing which ruins the film as a whole was to rush through the narrative it was adapting it. The film pretty much goings through a checklist of all the major scenes in the novel, takes those scenes and truncates them to fit uncomfortably into a 90+ minute film. Some of these scenes could’ve been extended a few more minutes to add to a sense of grandiose to a film that needed it despite it’s B-movie foundation. One such scenes would be the arrival of a special Army unit designed to combat unexplained events, but the film treats this sequence from their arrival right up to their untimely demise in less than 15 minutes. I think in the hands of a much more capable filmmaker these scenes would’ve made the film much more entertaining.

Phantoms was a horror film that could’ve become a 90’s cult-classic if it had been given the proper time and effort from it’s producers, but seeing that it was the Weinsteins of Miramax and Dimension Films this final product was probably the best Joe Chappelle could’ve come up with. Weinsteins during the 1990’s were more concerned of pushing their Oscar-baiting film productions than actually giving time and effort to all their films. If there was any reason to see Phantoms it would be to see just why it kept being mentioned in Kevin Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Other than that there’s really no reason to see it unless there’s nothing else on.

9 responses to “Quickie Review: Phantoms (dir. by Joe Chappelle)

  1. πŸ™‚ That’s precisely why I think Dean Koontz, he’s like Stephen King without all the arrogance and pretension. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ˜‰ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ 8) 8)

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  2. And let’s not forget, this movie was written by Dean Koontz! The guy whose books you read but hope no one notices you reading! At least by saying you read Stephen King you can gain a little bit of “street cred”, instead of people mocking your affinity for Dean Koontz written love scenes.

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    • I would agree to a point. Koontz is like disposable horror/genre, but some of his books have been quite fun. Phantoms was actually a fun book and the same goes for Strangers.

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      • Koontz is a thousand times better than Stephen King because Koontz, at least, is honest about who and what he is. He doesn’t waste time trying to convince people that he’s some modern day Charles Dickens like Stephen King does.

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  3. Does King really think that highly of himself? I mean, I know some people treat him as the master of horror, but it’s not like his track record is 100% flawless or anything. I guess I just remember reading some book by Koontz in grammar school since I couldn’t find a Stephen King one and feeling like I would get in trouble if I knew how descriptive Koontz was about boobs.

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    • Hmmm…I think King’s a bit full of himself, just based on some of the non-fiction that he’s written — for instance, he used to have a column that would appear on the final page of each issue of Entertainment Weekly and he always came across (to me) like a pompous ass. A lot of it has to do with the fact that he tends to refer to himself as “your Uncle Steverino.” But then again, it’s possible that Dean Koontz refers to himself as “Dino” in private. πŸ™‚

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      • Well, King used to be full of himself during the late 80’s and early 90’s, but then I prefer the stuff he worked on before that when they were actually scary and good. King’s back to being like that now especially after he got hit by the van ten or so years ago. I guess almost being killed will make one rethink how they’ve been acting.

        BTW, I love his EW column when he does publish one. Anyone who can say with a straight face that Crank was one of his favorite films the year it came out is aces in my books. I mean even he bought into the Jason Statham mystique. Something Lisa has recently found out to be something one cannot deny anymore. πŸ˜€

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        • Yeah but I think King was lying about Crank. I bet he never saw the movie and just said he loved it because he wanted us to think he was cool.

          πŸ™‚ Speaking of the Jason Statham mystique, I recently reread my Mechanic review and wow, I must have been really starved for entertainment back in January or something because I sure did love the Hell out of that movie. lol. πŸ™‚ Oddly enough, nearly 8 months later, I can barely remember it. πŸ™‚

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