Phantom Of The Mall: Erics Revenge is a late period entry into the 1980s slasher boom. And rather than the traditional focus on keeping its action in an isolated, rural location as most of it’s peers did, this film took a different approach. You see, it took the slasher action into the brightly lit, familiar surroundings of the suburban mall. But does this make for a scary situation, or is it hamstrung by the familiarity of the surroundings? Well, read on to find out…
High school sweethearts Eric Matthews and Melody Austin are so in love, but their youthful romance is cut tragically short when Eric apparently dies in a fire that engulfs his family home. One year later and Melody is trying to move on with her life, taking up a job at the newly built Midwood Mall along with her friends. But the mall, which stands on the very site of Eric’s former home, has an uninvited guest – a shadowy, scarred figure which haunts its air ducts and subterranean passageways, hell-bent on exacting vengeance on the mall’s crooked developers.
The above synopsis is taken directly from the Arrow Video website. And it pretty much sums up the film. Phantom Of The Mall is a standard slasher, but transposed into suburban mall, with elements of Gaston Lerouxs’ Phantom Of The Opera added in for good measure. As a concept, it has an instant hook. Malls are familiar, safe places in general. Well lit, busy, secure, they are designed to be welcoming, safe spaces. But people often do wonder what goes on “behind the scenes”.
Phantom Of The Mall is, as already stated, an interesting concept. A shadowy figure haunting a mall, using the air ducts and service ways to get around unseen. Killing those it see’s as a threat to itself and it’s obsession. And it should have been a sure fire hit. Yet it isn’t. Like many low budget slashers of the period, the film was pared back from it’s original script and concept into something much simpler and cheaper to produce. And this seemingly hurt the films chances.
Now, for the most part the film looks pretty good. Shooting inside a real mall certainly gives the films production values a boost. Yet this is undermined by the studio based sets looking very much like, well, sets. The air ducts look like silver painted hardboard. The Phantoms lair looks like a set built for a mid 80s music video in it’s simplicity. Despite this, the film is well shot and lit, with the cinematographer and director clearly working hard to mask the films low budget as much as possible. Indeed, this film looks pretty damn good on this disc. Yes, there is a fair amount of grain, but this just helps the film have a real “cinematic” feel, especially when compared to many of it’s straight to VHS peers.
In terms of the cast, they all acquit themselves pretty well. Morgan Fairchild is the “headline” name, with genre legend Ken Foree popping up in a solid support role. Comedian Pauly Shore makes his film debut here, and is remarkably less annoying than his persona would go on to become during his 1990s “heyday”. The remainder of the cast, are all solid, offering performances better than the films script deserves. Despite this, they can’t quite save the film for feeling clunky and poorly written. This I attribute the number of re-writes undertaken by the producers to trim the budget. Indeed the films original pair of screenwriters pretty much admit that beyond the basic concept almost nothing of their script remains in the filmed version.
Ands it’s a shame, as there really is an interesting and scary film deeply buried in here. A bit less focus on costs, and more on the concept could have made this a decent hit. And don ‘t get me started on the title. As noted in the extensive “making of” documentary, the title makes the film sound like a sequel. By simply adding “Erics Revenge” to the end of it, the film appears to be at least the 2nd entry in a series. It’s not needed, as the basic name “Phantom Of The Mall” tells you everything you need to know. And not only that, but it gives away any mystery about who the title character actually is. Could you imagine if the original Friday The 13th was subtitled Mrs Voorhees Revenge? The second she appeared, you would know that was it.
Despite these these flaws, the film is watchable in a campy, silly way. The make up effects are pretty good, and the kills have some inventiveness to them. And the ridiculously silly and irreverent end theme by The Vandals is a minor classic of horror soundtrack tie-ins.
Arrow have once again outdone themselves with this collectors edition set. The extras are as follows:
- Three versions of the feature: Original Theatrical Cut, TV Cut and bonus Integral Fan Cut!
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation.
- Original uncompressed mono audio on all cuts.
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing on all cuts.
- 60-page fully-illustrated perfect-bound book featuring new writing by Daniel Budnik and Amanda Reyes.
- Large fold-out double-sided poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Justin Osbourn.
- Six postcard-sized lobby card reproductions.
- Limited edition packaging with reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Justin Osbourn.
Phantom Of The Mall Disc One:
- Brand new 2K restoration of the Original Theatrical Cut from original film elements (90 mins).
- New audio commentary with director Richard Friedman, moderated by filmmaker Michael Felsher .
- Brand new audio commentary with disc producer Ewan Cant and film historian/author Amanda Reyes.
- Shop Til’ You Drop!: The Making of Phantom of the Mall. A brand new making-of documentary featuring interviews with director Richard Friedman, screenwriters Scott Schneid and Tony Michelman, actors Derek Rydall and Gregory Scott Cummins, filmmaker Tony Kayden and special make-up effects creator Matthew Mungle.
- The Vandals Go to the Mall – an interview with Joe Escalante of The Vandals on the creation of the Phantom of the Mall theme song.
- Alternate and Deleted Scenes from the TV Cut .
- Domestic and International Trailers.
- Image Gallery.
- Scott J. Schneid and Tony Michelman’s original script and associated special effects storyboards by Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr. [BD-ROM Content].
Phantom Of The Mall Disc Two:
- Brand new 2K restoration of the TV Cut with Standard Definition inserts for the footage unique to this version (89 mins).
- Integral Fan Cut combining footage from both the Original Theatrical and TV Cuts for the ultimate Phantom of the Mall experience! (96 mins).
So, as you can see, you get an awful lot for your money here. The highlight is the making of piece. This goes into some detail about how drastically the film changed from conception to release. Yet despite this, most of those involved have some fondness for the project, especially the actors.
Phantom Of The Mall: The Verdict:
Despite the films flaws, it is an enjoyable slice of schlock horror from the late 80s. Arrows superb package will keep you entertained for hours, and it truly is worthy of a place in any collectors collection.
4/5 Fiends. Worth a trip to the Mall for.
Buy Phantom Of The Mall:
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