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If you are in the mood for a good old-fashioned scare-fest, then PHANTOMS would be an ideal choice for an evening’s entertainment. PHANTOMS runs a tight 96 minutes and director Joe Chappelle maintains the film’s level of tension throughout. Horror fans will find the film’s shocks to be effective and the special effects work to be quite good. PHANTOMS is based upon the novel by fright master Dean Koontz, and features an effective screenplay by the author himself. I remember reading the novel years ago, and the film retains much of the same creepiness. PHANTOMS starts off with two sisters driving into a small, isolated town, where one is the local physician. Things in the town appear quite, but the sisters pay it no mind, until they return home to find the body of their housekeeper. They try to call the authorities for help, but unfortunately their phone is dead. A quick trip to sheriff’s station turns up another corpse- this one a deputy. The sisters then start checking the town for signs of life, but find nothing. That is, until the sheriff and two of his deputies return from a patrol of the town’s surrounding area. As things get progressively stronger, the survivors come to the realization that nothing human could be responsible for the death of an entire town.

The cast of PHANTOMS stars features Rose McGowan and Joanna Going as sisters Lisa and Jennifer Pailey. Both actresses are quite beautiful, and they fit into their damsel-in-distress roles with ease. Ben Affleck stretches believability as Sheriff Bryce Hammond. It’s not that Affleck’s acting isn’t up to it- his age makes it difficult for one to accept that he is a former FBI agent turned small town sheriff. Obviously, his box office appeal to the youthful female demographic garnered him the role. My vote for best performance in the film goes to Liev Schreiber as Deputy Stu Wargle. Schreiber portrays the not-quite-right deputy with just the right combination of menace and boyish charm. Screen legend Peter O'Toole gets top billing for the role of disgraced academic Timothy Flyte, who is forced to work as a tabloid journalist to make ends meet. O'Toole is rather good as the scientist who got kicked out of academia, when he published his theories about an ancient evil that wiped out all the lost civilizations of the world.

PHANTOMS comes to DVD from Dimension Home Video and sports a terrific looking Letterboxed transfer, which is fairly accurate in recreating the film’s 1.85:1 theatrical framing. Unfortunately, the DVD hasn’t been enhanced for playback on 16:9 monitors. Like most late nineties productions, PHANTOMS is a slick looking movie. Cinematographer Richard Clabaugh’s solid work reproduces quite well on DVD. While much of the film is dark, the detail level is high and the daylight sequences look even better. Colors are accurate and offer excellent saturation, without any trace of distortion. Digital compression artifacts weren’t particularly noticeable, which is great considering how much of PHANTOMS is played in the dark. As one might expect,

PHANTOMS has an effective Dolby Digital 5.1 channel sound mix. The track has excellent channel separation, including the fully active surrounds. Sound effects sweep around the sound stage, while the dialogue remains clear and localized in the center channel. The rudimentary interactive menu offers just the standard scene and subtitle selection feature.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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