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Phantoms

Starring: Ben Affleck, Peter O'Toole
Director: Joe Chappelle
Genre: Thriller
Year: 1998
Rating: 2 / 5

How author Dean Koontz continues to have his novels produced as films is beyond me. Do not misunderstand - I am a fan of Dean Koontz as a writer. Unfortunately, his stories have yet to make any significant impact on the big screen, in terms of audience appreciation or quality cinema. Phantoms, a 1998 "thriller" from Joe Chappelle, is merely another in a long-line of Koontz adaptations. As is usually the case, this film attempts to succeed on the sheer basis of supernatural sensations, abandoning any concept of a compelling plot or character development. And aside from a certain paycheck, I am not sure why this collection of talented young stars - Ben Affleck, Liev Schreiber, and Rose McGowan - would even agree to appear in a film with such little depth.

Phantoms is the tale of a small, secluded town that is "attacked" by a mysterious unknown entity, causing all occupants to immediately disappear. We are introduced to this setting by sisters Lisa (McGowan) and Jennifer (Joanna Going) Pailey, first seen driving through the mountains to Jennifer's home. When the two arrive in town, they are startled to find not only a decomposing body in Jennifer's officer, but not a living soul anywhere in the town. Jennifer had left only that morning, hoping to bring her younger sister to town for a little relaxation (and an escape from their alcoholic mother). What happened to the town? And why are there only a few scattered bodies throughout its confines?

Searching the barren landscape, the Pailey sisters encounter Sheriff Bryce Hammond (Affleck) and two of his deputies (Nicky Katt, Liev Schreiber). They had apparently been out on a call, and, when they returned to town, they too found it deserted and without power. Searching for clues amidst the occasional dead body and mysterious noises in the night, these survivors find a clue which points to a reclusive writer: Timothy Flyte (O'Toole). When Bryce finally gets through to the outside world, the authorities arrive with Flyte, as all concerned attempt to discern the true nature of their foe. Only Flyte, a journalist whose best days are behind him, has an inkling as to the awesome power that awaits them.

Phantoms suffers from its complete and utter ignorance of the human characters involved, not to mention an evil that is not overly scary or intimidating. Ben Affleck is entertaining to watch, though much of that is attributable to his own personality and not his character's. Rose McGowan and Joanna Going are basically left to emotionally rot after a short opening sequence in the film, and Liev Schreiber, while off-kilter and slightly maniacal at times, is not enough of a presence to override the overall blandness of the characters. Peter O'Toole brings some small degree of dignity to his role as Timoty Flyte, yet even he is merely a shadow of his former acting self. Some say children should be seen and not heard. Dean Koontz should be neither seen nor heard; he should be read and appreciated on a literary level. Spare us the agony of any more Phantoms.

Cast:
Ben Affleck..........Bryce Hammond
Peter O'Toole..........Timothy Flyte
Rose McGowan..........Lisa Pailey
Joanna Going..........Jennifer Pailey
Liev Schreiber..........Stu Wargle

Certification: Rated R for violence and language.
Running Time: 94 minutes.

Additional Info: Internet Movie Database
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