Directed by: Richard Friedman
Written by: Scott Schneid, Frederick R. Ulrich, Tony Michelman, Robert King
Starring: Derek Rydall, Jonathan Goldsmith, Rob Estes, Pauly Shore, Kimber Sissons, Gregory Scott Cummins, Morgan Fairchild, Ken Foree
Running time: 91mins
BBFC Classification: 15
Phantom of the Opera in a mall!
That could be the whole review right there! It’s all one needs to know really about this great, goofy, and underrated 80s slasher. The concept sells itself and if you’re not onboard, well, then you’re missing out on a gory good time. However, there’s more going in Phantom of the Mall but as the not so subtle title suggests, it’s essentially Phantom of the Opera in a Mall. And in the 80s. And with kung-fu! And with Pauly Shore!
Good old Eric (Rydall) is super in love with Melody (Austin) and they just want to be happy together. But when some evil property developers burn Eric’s house down, with him in it, in order to secure the land to build a new luxury mall, Melody is devastated. Maybe not that devastated, as a year later she, and her friend Suzie (Sissions), take jobs at the newly opened mall (bit cold!) hoping to move on. But no sooner has the mall opened than mysterious noises are heard in the ducts and passageways and dead bodies start to pile up. The greedy developers and local mayor (Fairchild) don’t want anything ruining their new super mall or stopping locals spending their hard-earned cash, so try to cover up the slayings. But Melody, her friends, and a curious local reporter (Estes) know better and set out to discover who is living in the cavern below the mall.
Obviously, it’s Eric (no big twist here!), who scarred from the fire, lives below the mall in a well-equipped cavern (complete with home gym and an impressive monitor set up so he can follow the action in the mall and spy on Melody!). Here he works out, practices his martial arts (no, really!) and plots his revenge against the evil developers and mayor. Masked up liked the Phantom, he stalks the ducts and passageways of the mall extracting his revenge on the scumbags who left him for dead and anyone who threatens Melody. In many ways, he’s a do-gooder for justice, taking out perverts, rapists and corrupt property developers. This leads to all kinds of great and gory set-pieces thanks to special effects ace Matthew Mungle (The Power, The Kindred). Phanton of the Mall utilises its low budget well, the single location allowing for a series of great kills and dangerous stunts sequences: death by escalator, eyes popping from their head, some impressive fire-burns and high-falls, and death by snake-via-a-toilet – which is just as mad and laugh-out-loud as it sounds.
For all it’s mad 80s giddiness, Phantom of the Mall is certainly creative and while scares and mood are sacrificed in favour of action and gore the film is still a lot of imaginative fun. Rydall is great as the Phantom (and yes, even gets to kung-fu fight at one point: pretty sure that wasn’t in Gaston Leroux’s classic novel!) and Gregory Scott Cummins (Cliffhanger, Stone Cold) makes a great adversary as the evil hitman brought in to clean things up. The location is used well and while the subterranean sets and ducts are impossibly huge, they add a cool vibe for the Phantom to stalk around. As mentioned, the stalk and slash sequences are well done with Mungle delivering some impressive effects and director Richard Freidman (Scared Stiff) keeps a tight reign on proceedings to deliver a fun, albeit bonkers, 80s slasher.
It’s so 80s it hurts on occasion (and the escape by motorcycle with side-car pushes the absurdness into the stratosphere!) but the cast are likeable, there’s great support from the likes of Morgan Fairchild and Ken Foree (in some auspicious stunt casting, he being the lead in another mall based horror, Dawn of the Dead) and the action and gore comes thick and fast making this a cool killer-on-the-loose slasher.
Unfairly bashed for years, Phantom of the Mall is ripe for rediscovery (with an array of impressive Blu Ray extras) and a rollicking good horror time.
Arrow Video will release Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge on extras-packed edition Blu Ray November 22nd, 2021.
LIMITED EDITION 2-DISC BLU-RAY CONTENTS
- 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 – not available at time of review.
- Large fold-out double-sided poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Justin Osbourn – not available at time of review.
- Six postcard-sized lobby card reproductions – not available at time of review.
- Limited edition packaging with reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Justin Osbourn – not available at time of review.
DISC ONE – THE THEATRICAL CUT (BLU-RAY)
- Brand new 2K restoration of the Original Theatrical Cut from original film elements (90 mins) – film looks great cleaned up (as would be expected from Arrow) but keeps that welcome warm-shot-on-film-glow that marks it as an 80s horror. I miss how films used to be shot!
- Brand 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– 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 – excellent 40 minute documentary talking with some of the key cast and crew that gives an interesting insight into the genesis and then making of the film. Most fascinating is original screenwriters Scott Schneid and Tony Michelman discussing how different the film turned out to their original script (just titled The Mall) and while they’re somewhat (understandably) bitter, and not exactly fans of the film, they still come across likeable and insightful. Likewise, director Richard Friedman (who at one point contradicts the writers by saying nothing was changed in the script!) offers great anecdotes and that the film also features a Playboy Paymate, nephews of both John Travolta and Don Seigel, and discusses what it was like to work with infamous 80s B-movie producer Charles Fries. Great stuff.
- 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 – another great interview with Joe Escalante about how punk band The Vandals came to compose the catchy theme song Is there a Phantom in the Mall? He shares some fun stories about how the song came to be, as well some history on The Vandals, the punk scene, and how his band also appeared in the likes of Penelope Spheeris’ Suburbia and Dudes. He’s also very complimentary about this film, which is cool.
- Alernate and Deleted Scenes from the TV Cut – collection of scenes from the TV Cut version omitted from the Theatrical version which flesh out some character beats and back story.
- Domestic and International Trailers – groovy old school 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] – not available at time of review.
DISC TWO – THE TV & INTEGRAL FAN CUTS (BLU-RAY)
- 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)
– cool alternate cuts of the film that while don’t necessarily better the theatrical version (which is great as it is) provide cool curio takes on the material and do offer a bit more backstory. It’s great that Arrow can get hold of such rare cuts and include them as extras.