Faces lined up? White text on the bottom? What is this, the late 90’s?! Oh, right, it is! The day and age where all you needed for a scary movie was a black background and the title of the movie in white. Throw some pretty faces on there, and who the fuck knows what you’re going to be seeing? Along with Mimic, this is another one of those movies that I saw on VHS, one time, and remember nothing about it. Although while watching, I did remember shit about a dog, and yes, there is still shit about a dog all these years later. Even though I fell asleep once while watching this, I still think I remember most of the story! Whether or not that story made sense is up for debate, but it sure was a story…kind of.
Did I mention you get to see Affleck in a cowboy hat?
Rose McGowan‘s character is on her way to a ski resort with her older sister, played by Joanna Going. When they get there, they realize everyone’s dead, including their maid and a local police officer. Upon being discovered by some of the other police dudes in town, played by Ben Affleck, Liev Schreiber, and Nicky Katt, we learn that something spooky is going on in this town. They find the name “Timothy Flyte” scrawled on a mirror, and through contacting the FBI, are able to get Timothy, played by Peter O’ Toole, along with a military team into town. Timothy writes for a tabloid magazine and was writing about some being or creature or something capable of living underground and wiping out entire species and civilizations. I guess these are the “phantoms” that the title refers to. For the most part, the phantoms ingest living creatures, gain all the knowledge which those creatures contain, and are then able to replicate practically any living thing. That’s why a dog keeps popping up! The phantoms kill most of the people I already listed, but the survivors discover they have avoided death because this underground being wants more people to know about it and fear it. However, the phantom monster thing hasn’t taken into account the fact that it has the cellular composition of petroleum, or something, and Dr. Timothy Flyte exposes that weakness to infect the creature with a bacteria that eats petroleum. When the creature ingests this bacteria, it instinctually replicates it, resulting in the creature’s demise. Dr. Flyte goes on to tell the public the truth about this creature, and when we see two people in a bar debating whether he was telling the truth, we see one of the victims of the phantoms alive and well, indicating that the creature managed to survive.
This scene involves Timothy Flyte confronting the creature, who replicates all of the citizens of the town. Coincidentally, the amount of people the creature replicates is more than the amount of people who saw this in theaters.
It’s a rare occasion when typing out the description of the movie that it sounds better than the actual film was to watch. Obviously based on that description, this movie can be passed off as another indistinct creature-feature that could have gone straight to video. Probably would have been better than way, because in 1998, this movie didn’t even make $6 million at the box office. I think that knowing it was a monster movie, in retrospect, is something that made it a little bit more enjoyable. It was reminiscent of The Thing in the whole isolation/shape-shifting kind of way, but had that late 90’s kind of charm with the “technology” aspect, as well as the whole idea of killing something with a bacteria it will unknowingly replicate. I don’t generally point things like this out, but I can’t give it the WORST rating because I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the special effects. One of the characters was killed by getting his brain sucked out through his face, and the body looked pretty cool afterwards. The dog segment was kind of silly, but we get to see Ben Affleck trying to go back and forth between two vans with a dog looking at him, and Affleck is fucking terrified. Pretty silly. There’s also a lot of corpses found that looked like they melted that I enjoyed. This movie wasn’t great, and it wasn’t good, and it was barely watchable. Sadly, I’ve sat through far worse.
Wolfman Moon Scale