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Home | Film Review: Phantoms (1998)

Film Review: Phantoms (1998)



150 dead and 350 missing in the tiny mountain town of Snowfield, Colorado. And that’s only the beginning…


“Phantoms” is sort of a guilty pleasure. It’s a film I’ve seen several times, not merely due to the content, but to the fact that it attracted a pretty stellar cast in their earlier careers. I’m pretty certain you wouldn’t find Ben Affleck taking on a mid level horror role these days, but at the time he was only just coming into his own as a frequent Kevin Smith movie actor. He also looks quite young in this film.


Add to that name actors Peter O’Toole, Rose McGowan and Liev Schreiber who also add enough to the cover art to prompt any curious shopper.

“Phantoms” begins much like the rash of virus-based movies from that time that begin with an assumed epidemic hitting a small town. Now the real giveaway is the title of the film which instantly doesn’t line up with a viral-based outbreak. It’s pretty much a given though that this misdirection is not “that” misdirecting….. but none the less we find ourselves in the small town of Snowfield, Colorado (for the record there is no Snowfield, Colorado …rather the movie was filmed in parts of Denver and Georgetown Colorado)


When Lisa Pailey (Rose McGowan) and her sister (Joanna Going) Jennifer Pailey, M.D. arrive into the snow resort town of Snowfield, they soon discover that something has either infected or murdered much of the town’s inhabitants. The deaths range from viral-rooted infections to simple decapitations. To say the least, it instantly sets the “what happened” agenda into motion with the 2 of them finding more bodies along the way. Upon investigation, they run into Sheriff Bryce Hammond (Affleck) and his 2 deputies Stu Wargle (Liev Schreiber) and Steve Shanning (Nicky Katt) who are already in the process of doing the same.


With no real answers in sight, the group tries to make sense of the town’s sudden transformation from prospering resort to ghost town which in this case awakens a few “phantoms”. Stu gets weirder, Bryce gets testy and Lisa gets more annoyed with it all. On the whole what works for awhile here is the element of injecting moments that don’t make alot of sense. If you are like me, you probably were at a head scratching point as to what diabolical forces are at work here. My favorite is the giant moth, but with that said it all begins to shape itself into a formidable entity arriving under the name the “Ancient Enemy”.

This paves way to bring in actor Peter O’Toole as Dr. Timothy Flyte who brings some historical sense to the whole deal setting the stage for some creepy monster and minions action. Flyte is flown in for his research background which lives under the guise of trashy tabloid magazines. This whole background base feels a bit “absurd” for his academic level (of which I thought could have been done in a more appropriate way).


Be prepared to “go with the flow” when a botched military operation is set into motion (as most would assume a bit more control and communication managed into the whole scenario).

In whole, “Phantoms” feels like there something missing that never made it into the cut, however for movie viewers the fun is in the characters interactions. Lastly, I do have to say that the visual effects here are pretty impressive and necessary to make this all work and resolve. Because of that, returning to repeat viewings of “Phantoms” has become a necessary evil for me every now and then.


“Phantoms” is reported as being an adaptation from a Dean Koontz novel of the same. It’s genre is rooted in horror and science fiction. “Phantoms” received mixed reviews at the box office…..mostly negative. Though any viewing of this film would suggest that it’s not theatre worthy material. Instead it has been around for quite awhile on DVD and has done pretty well.


The movie has been available on bluray, but is recommended as part of Echo Bridge Entertainments recent triple pack. Despite the single disk holding 3 films, I thought the quality was more than adequate.

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