The monster movie is back! Creature features are hip again, and I couldn’t be happier. I love monster movies, especially ones that stick to your face. Currently on tap at local theaters are two monster films that have a lot in common even though they’re set worlds apart.
“Phantoms” is based on a novel by Dean Koontz, and benefits from a screenplay by the author. It’s a creepy tale set in the small Colorado town of Snowfield. Quaint, picturesque, a picture postcard of place.
Into this snow-covered town arrives sisters Lisa (Rose McGowan) and Jenny (Joanna Going), ski gear in tow. They’ve come to hit the slopes, but when they find their landlady dead, they hit upon something even slippery.
A quick tour of the town reveals that they are alone. Then they come across the Sheriff (Ben Affleck) and two of his deputies. It doesn’t take long before everyone in the group realizes that something horrible has happened. Maybe it was the bodies with their limbs and heads missing. Go figure.
When the group is lured to an old hotel by the sound of Patsy Cline’s “I Fall to Pieces,” they discover more carnage and a cryptic message. When one deputy disappears and the other falls prey to a brain-sucking moth-like creature, the Sheriff decides it’s time to call in the Calvary.
The Calvary arrives in the form of the Army, who have brought along British Professor Timothy Flyte (Peter O’Toole), whose specialty is an ancient evil living under the surface of the Earth.
The folks in Snowfield have it lucky in comparison to the high-sea hijackers in “Deep Rising.” They’re stuck on an seemingly abandoned luxury liner in the middle of the South China Sea with a hungry squid-like creature lurking near-by.
For adventurer John Finnegan (Treat Williams), it’s business as usual when a group of strangers hire his boat for a secret operation. Their plan to rob the new luxury liner Argonautica goes horribly astray when they board the ship, only to find all of the passengers gone and blood every where. The only survivor is jewel thief Trillian (Famke Janssen), who was locked away during the massacre.
Now the good guys and the bad guys have must team up to defend themselves from the slimy creature that begins stalking them.
Both films deliver “B” movie thrills with “A” movie special effects, tentacled creatures who literally suck the life out of their victims.
I enjoyed both films on a “B” movie level. It helps to have sturdy performers investing in such clap trap, and Peter O’Toole seems to have a ball as the defrocked scientist having his moment in the sun. Likewise, Treat Williams seems completely invested in his action-hero role.
Neither film strives to be art, and for that I admire them. There’s nothing wrong with a good monster movie, and in that context, I applaud them both. Atmospheric and moody, both “Phantoms” and “Deep Rising” are welcome entries into the genre.
MONSTER MISH MASH
Peter O’Toole, Rose McGowan, Joanna Going, Liev Schreiber, Ben Affleck in a film directed by Joe Chappelle. Rated R. 95 Min.
LARSEN RATING: $4.50
Treat Williams, Famke Janssen, Anthony Heald, Kevin J. O’Connor, Wes Studi, Derrick O’Connor, Jason Flemying, Djimon Hounsou in a film directed by Stephen Sommers. Rated R. 106 Min.
LARSEN RATING: $4