Friday, November 20, 2009

Mask-Off!: Phantom of the Mall

I thought I was done with odd Phantom of the Opera films after Argento's Phantom, De Palma's disco Phantom and Robert Englund's turn as the man. Fortunately or unfortunately for you, I was wrong. A film emerged from the deep dark crevice onto the world of the DVD release market. It comes to us from the 1980s and was made as part of the last gasp of these low-budget horror films. Given the quality of this film, it is not a big surprise that these films disappeared until 1995's Scream. On the plus side, this film does its own take on the Phantom tale and does not involve time-travel/dreams. While it was made in the same year as the Englund film, it has its own motif. However, that motif is built around filming in a mall (the same one used in Chopping Mall and Terminator II). Is it good? Well, you'll just have to wait and see in my review of...
The film begins with the grand opening of a new mall. Sadly, this movie does not feature a cameo by the stars of Eating Raoul too. We also are introduced to a cute young woman who has gotten a job there, as has her friend. They meet up with a young male reporter, the Mayor (Loni Anderson) and their weird friend (Pauly Shore). Why did it have to be Pauly Shore?!? I'd take Frank Caliendo any day over Pauly Shore. Unfortunately, there is some chicanery going on in the bowels of the mall. A mysterious man has created his own little den and broken off part of a mask to wear. Why? We'll find out that later. In the meantime, there is some dark back-story involving our young heroine. We get a hint of it earlier, which is followed by some PG-13 sex that is *sigh* a dream. Or is it a remembrance of things past? Let's move on, before I start channeling Criswell's narration from Plan 9. At the mall, there are some guards that are Peeping Toms towards the woman in the changing rooms. Faster than you can say 'they stole this from Welcome to Spring Break,' one of them is killed and has his eyes gouged out. A creepy piano player meets a similar fate, although his has a more comical twist. The killer puts a cobra in the toilet, which proceeds to come up and bite him on the F-Sharp.
All while this is going on, the owner of the mall is keeping a lid on things. We get another sex dream,- change those sheets honey!- but this one ends in fire. Either you have mental problems or you were dating The Undertaker's dad. I wonder how many people are going to get that joke. Anyhow, the reporter proceeds to both woo her and find out the truth behind her story. You see, her boyfriend died in a fire after his parents refused to sell the land to the mall developers. Our heroine escaped, but remembers a man with an earring. In spite of this flimsy evidence, finding the culprit is easy, since he works at the mall now! You guys don't understand the concept of hiding evidence, do you? One silly chase scene later and our reporter hero has some evidence, but is also a target. The mysterious killer gets another victim, although this one did not actually commit a crime. Well, unless you consider working in a comically-large vent to be a crime. We get a ridiculous car chase thrown in as well, proving that this movie is going to try anything that might work. It's like a five-year old who is throwing a hissy fit, really. Incidentally, Ken Foree has a small, but wasted role here as a guard.
Finally, the truth about the events is case you couldn't figure it out. The Phantom is really Eric, the young woman's boyfriend. We get the classic 'unmasking scene' rehashed here with some silly 80s make-up. His burns are really bad, but yet, he has survived without seeing a doctor for the last year. Good-bye, logic. His advances towards her are strong, but spurned. Why? She has fallen for the reporter, of course. This makes him mad and forces him to turn his attention to the reporter. Meanwhile, our comic relief character and our ancillary best friend are looking into the mall owner in some lovely filler. Despite being dumped in a pit with the same snake,- he must have worked for scale- our hero escapes and runs into our supporting losers, I mean, characters. The Mayor and the owner conspire to keep everything secret, but that falls through when The Phantom appears in their office. He makes short work of the former Mrs. Reynolds by throwing her through a window and impaling her on a giant glass ornament. We get a silly chase scene in the form of our heroine deciding to climb across a giant pole that is parallel to the ceiling, as opposed to THE DOOR. The whole thing ends with the mall blowing up and the 'he's not dead' shot that littered every 80s film, from Werewolf to Space Mutiny.
This movie is alright, but definitely has some flaws. I like the direction they went with the story, but the execution is off. The Phantom is violent, but vindicated in most of his actions. However, he also kills some random people for no reason and turns all Single White Female in the end. Where did that come from, exactly? He has some reasoning that I can understand: he finally gets the girl back, but she loves someone else. Across the board, the acting is not too bad, but it has moments of ridiculousness. Pauly Shore is actually the most subdued here that I have ever seen, but he is still a bit annoying. You can do worse than this movie, but you can also do far better. Don't you just love it when I'm so non-committal? This movie is a fair rental, but ownership is not really required.
Up next, I tackle a movie that claims to be a horror film, but is really just a bad demo reel. Once can only work once! Stay tuned...

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