Phantoms is forty five minutes of made-for-TV-level haunted house horror, and then forty-five minutes of scientificky sci-fi hoo-ha with soldiers and the dog from The Thing, but an adorable golden lab instead of an inscrutable husky. During the scientificky hoo-ha part, Peter O’Toole — not the sad old man from the movie Venus, but an elder version of the fiery young Peter O’Toole — is yelling at Ben Affleck — not the stridently soulful Hollywood celebrity who made Argo, but the dumbass kid who stumbled into too many leading roles in the 90s.
“This thing is what wiped out the dinosaurs and they were pretty tough fucking customers!” says O’Toole, describing the monster, which is basically sentient primordial tar. Later a bunch of zombies show up to make a zombie tornado that Ben Affleck shoots. Liev Schreiber is one of the minibosses. To beat him, you have to use the shotgun to shoot the syringe into his head.
Rose McGowan sits behind O’Toole, trying various expressions. That’s one of them up there. She doesn’t have any lines during most of the exchanges, which is a shame. I’ve seen Planet Terror about a zillion times. She obviously channeled her Phantoms experience to know how to make bad horror oh-so-good. She spends a lot of Phantoms hanging out in shots where she doesn’t have any dialogue. It’s as if the director — a guy named Joe Chapelle who would go on to work on TV shows including The Wire, which I’ve been told is good — has the presence of mind to know a watchable actor when he casts one. Not that you’d know this from the amount of screen time given to Ben Affleck and someone named Jennifer Going. Miss Going, who I thought was either Joanna Whaley-Kilmer or Ally Sheedy for most of the movie’s running time, has an apt name given her credits since Phantoms.
At the opening of the movie, the title card for Phantoms comes onscreen as follows:
In that order. Like it just wants to quickly remind you that these aren’t any normal Phantoms. They’re Dean Koontz’s. Based on his book. Dean Koontz’s. Made from his screenplay. Dean Koontz’s. And now you’re about to watch a hilariously incompetent movie. Dean Koontz’s.