If you’re going to make a science fiction movie about some nasty and mysterious critters don’t title it Phantoms. It just sends the wrong message that you’re about to see some retro fifties shit. Or even Ben Affleck in tights, something that no one should ever have to witness. In some strange way, the title is actually very fitting as this feels like a B science fiction movie. Now, I know this is a movie based on a novel of the same name but still. They didn’t include all the Lovecraft references that do appear in the novel, so a title change would be a small thing. Set in a small, sleepy town, this is a decent creature feature that will do just fine if you have nothing else to do.
Phantoms starts like any other science fiction movie following an appearance of a mysterious organism. However, this is where things start to get good. The action kicks off within the first five minutes! Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either. So, we’re going to skip the whole getting to know the townsfolk part and dive straight into the action. Well, not exactly straight, as we first have to walk through this foreboding atmosphere. Another thing I liked about Phantoms is the design of the creature. It’s different and original, much like in other, similar movies like Slither, Growth, or The Blob. And I also have to mention Bats from 1999 that features a similar structure.
Dr. Jennifer Pailey is driving her sister Lisa to the small and sleepy town of Snowfield, Colorado. Upon entering the town, they notice that it’s strangely quiet. And then they start stumbling upon corpses of dead residents. Unsure of what’s exactly going on, they carry on, hoping to find someone alive in this spooky town.
And while the first part of the Phantoms is very engaging and full of mystery, the second part feels a bit underwhelming. However, with the running time of just under ninety minutes, I’m sure you’ll be able to finish it. Plus, there are some really nice and original ideas in the second part. I also liked the whole religious angle.
The production values are okay and special effects are also passable. I mean, sure, the CGI could have been better but at least we get a nice makeup and practical effects. So, if you’re a fan of creature features and you’re looking for a decent and atmospheric blend of science fiction and horror, Phantoms is a good choice. And you can always follow it up with Tremors or some of the above-mentioned movies.
Director: Joe Chappelle
Writer: Dean R. Koontz
Cast: Ben Affleck, Peter O’Toole, Rose McGowan, Liev Schreiber, Valerie Chow, Joanna Going
Fun Stuff: 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.