Darke Reviews | Phantoms (1998)

Apparently this is also the month I review movies based on books by Dean Koontz. The other day with Odd Thomas, now with Phantoms. I might have to check to see how many other stories of his have made it to film and by extension to my collection. I do remember seeing this one when it came out and admit to being intrigued by it and it’s cast. This one falls under the near hundreds of movies Dimension films who provided us much in the way of low budget horror, some was effective, some was not.

Was this effective?

As mentioned before the film is based on a Koontz novel of the same name and is given the screenplay treatment by Koontz himself. Now per usual Jess rules, I have not read the book prior to watching the movie and have not read the book in the years since for no particular reason. So judging purely from a cinematic perspective the story does a good job of creating tension and even better job of atmosphere. I can’t say the third act does the movie any justice but that is the difficulty with page to screen adaptations.

The movie is directed by Joe Chappelle, since then mostly a TV director but with shows I rather enjoyed such as Wolf Lake, Witchblade, and the Wire. He does an interesting thing in the movie to create tension. The usage of an empty town and a lot of well chosen but jarring sounds to disorient the audience and the characters. For the most part these work and most of the jump scares are not eye rollingly bad – that is a compliment by the way. He and Koontz also did a great job with the geography to assist in the feeling isolation.

Due to the nature of the story the cast remains relatively small, but effectual. The late Peter O’Toole (My Favorite Year, Lawrence of Arabia) positively owns his scenes in the film and brings weight where a lesser actor wouldn’t have been nearly as impactful or successful. We also have young, we barely knew you, Ben Affleck. He hadn’t quite learned to reserve himself yet and almost disturbingly blinks too much. Odd quirk to notice, but it’s actually kind of distracting. In another we barely knew who you were we have Liev Schrieber (Wolverine, Scream, Salt) in an oddly quirky performance that is a bit off putting, but having seen his other works tells you how good he did here. Our films heroines come in the shape of an on the rise Joanna Going (Dark Shadows 1991, Wyatt Earp) and another dimension films ingenue Rose McGowan (Scream, Charmed). Both play opposite ends of the sister spectrum pretty well with McGowan as the young city girl and Going as the small town doctor. Everyone performs OK, they do well with the panic, they do well when its time to be quiet. Nothing great, nothing really bad either. Just ok.

From an FX perspective, again minus act three, the film relies pretty strongly on practical effects, sound, and lighting to build suspense. Now given Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero, and Howard Berger of KNB EFX Group were on the project it explains so much. Now people like me know these names because of the fantastic effects work they have done over the decades and how amazing they are with gore, creatures, and prosthetics. Currently you can find their work on a no name show called The Walking Dead. These guys were incredible now and then and the movie benefits from it. The intelligence of the director to use practical effects here when possible was brilliant as the world was already moving towards not only using but abusing CG. Sadly, what digital effects were used didn’t look good then or now.


Honestly this is a pretty good, if someone dated, suspense film from early Dimensions film works that did better than it’s extraordinarily dated trailer would lead you to believe. The movie does take an odd turn late in the picture which doesn’t quite resonate but also doesn’t destroy the film either.  There are some clear edits and scenes missing, but otherwise it works.

If you aren’t a fan of horror or suspense in general – give this one a good pass. They did a good enough job here to wave you off.

If you like 90’s era suspense and horror I think you could enjoy this film.




Darke Reviews | Odd Thomas (2014)

This is another requested review for the daily reviews in October. It also happens to be a personal favorite of mine that I really do not know how I came across. I don’t remember any trailers for it. I don’t remember well anything about it. I just saw it on Netflix one night and saw Anton Yelchin on the cover and really that was enough. It still remains on Netflix and can often be found in the $7.88 blu ray bin at Wal-Mart. Because of my love for the film it’s hard not to spoil some parts of it, but I am going to do my best.

The trailer isn’t all that great.

Should you see it though?

This one gets another “Based on a Book” hashtag, as it is based on Dean R. Koontz novel. It may come as a surprise but I have never actually read a single Koontz book. No idea why I haven’t just haven’t. The screenplay and director is one of the ones who has done a better job of entertaining me than most, Stephen Sommers. Best known for The Mummy and Van Helsing yet equally lamented for GI Joe and Scorpion King. No one will ever accuse Sommers of making high cinema, but he does a good job overall of mixing moods and tones in a very fun, cotton candy way. It’s light, it’s fluffy, it’s rarely to be taken seriously; but if he needs to shift between story types he can rather well, as shown in Odd Thomas and Deep Rising. Here Sommers successfully crafts romance, horror, and comedy into a single film. Granted when I say comedy it mostly means light quips and general situations which bring a smile to your face as he did in the Mummy.

Part of that goes to the chemistry of the cast. Anton Yelchin (Star Trek, Fright Night) and Addison Timlin (The Town That Dreaded Sundown); the two of them have what to me is an almost fairy tale level relationship. It is so damn earnest and sweet and makes me love them both all the more. What makes things more interesting is unlike other movies such as the 6th Sense, the most important people to Odd believe in his gifts. Most notably his girlfriend Stormy (Timlin) and the chief of police (Willem frikkin Dafoe); not only using his gifts but helping him to use them. It creates an interesting breath of fresh air for a movie like this and allows it to continue at its rather brisk pace from beat to beat and scene to scene.  There is some honest chemistry between the protagonists in the cast. Yelchin has one of the most adorable every man acting abilities and helps make Odd a believable and likeable character. Timlin, well her interactions with Yelchin, character, and attitude make her a strong add to the cast rather than just an accessory to Odd. I want to see more of her than we get.

From a technical standpoint the movie does hit a few good points. The ghosts, as seen in the trailer, while not creepy are at least an original design. Make up effects are also pretty solid and at times pleasantly unsettling. What really helps is the pacing. The movie takes as long as it needs and never longer. The blocking, lighting, and editing work amazingly well. Though this kind of pace is common to Sommers films, I appreciate it as there is no extra fat. I don’t feel like I am missing anything and I don’t feel like I needed more of something. There’s even some amazing continuity through the film that brings revelations to light and doesn’t trip my annoyance levels. It sets up rules and doesn’t violate them. More movies need to do this.


I really like this movie. I watch it every month or so. It has a lot of charm to it. I bought it on BluRay when I found it.

It does so much right and even after multiple viewings the connections I have with the characters, their deliveries, makes me feel for them. There are so many many movies out these days where I don’t care in the slightest what happens. Here I do.

Best part? Odd Thomas is an all ages show, teens and up. Also *not* scary so even if you aren’t a fan of horror movies you will be able to watch this one and I think really like it (I’ve tested this theory with people…it’s true).

Odd Thomas better than it has any right to be.