I haven’t slept in nearly twenty-two hours, so you know this review is going to be super clean. My brain and eyes are infested with the fog of sleep deprivation, but there is no more proper state of mind for revisiting “Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge” than this one. This cinematic orphan bastard is probably only really familiar to the 90s breed of Jolt-addicted insomniac masturbator, and they were probably introduced to it via Rhonda Shear.
Over the last century, Gaston LeRoux’s depressive tale of revenge has been splayed out and re-imagined countless times by producers who’ve taken absurd liberty with the material, but seldom with any variation on the setting or period. You can stomp on this movie’s head all you like, and the concept of transplanting the vengeful Eric from musty old Opera house to a staple of modern American life may seem cheesy if not blasphemous to some, but it is at least an original twist.
After scoring a job during the Midwood Mall’s soft opening, average teenager Melody is recognized by sleuthing photographer, Peter, who places her as the victim of a grizzly arson the year prior. Melody’s boyfriend, Eric, perished in the insidious inferno, and despite the fact that she described the attacker responsible for setting the blaze, there was never any real investigation into the matter. Peter is not only interested in Melody’s case, but in Melody herself as well. However, she’s still kind of getting over her ex.
Shortly after starting her job, Melody starts receiving strange gifts which suggest that Eric might have survived the blaze. At the same time, the mall’s sleazy owner, Posner, averts catastrophe by covering up the grizzly murders of several security guards at the hands of some shadowy slasher. For this, Posner has a left hand man he plants on security staff, who also happens to be the arsonist Melody saw torch Eric’s place.
It doesn’t take a brain trust to realize what happened the previous year. Eric’s parents were apparently the last hold outs in the neighborhood where Midwood Mall was eventually built. When they refused to move, Posner had the place torched. Eric somehow survived the fire and is back for revenge, hence the movie’s unnecessary sub-title.
Now, I’m not gonna lie to you good people: this thing’s plot holes are so gaped they could pass another twenty Duggar kids. But I just can’t comprehend the wrath people feel toward a film of this nature’s problems. Really, how dignified can a movie called “Phantom of the Mall” be? A respectful treatment of this concept would amount to putting a jet pack on a mongoloid. Jet packs are cool, but it's a retard, so what would be the point anyway? I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that the people who made this movie knew that the very foundation of this whole thing was absurd. Would anyone have given them kudos if they’d gotten all Coppola on this thing? Movies like these don’t benefit from a more austere approach. They’re just supposed to be fun in much the same way Looney Tunes are fun. Do these same nudniks whine about the lack of realism when it comes to Elmer Fudd’s injuries, too? Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the whackiness.
There ARE a few things that really bother me about the movie, but it has more to do with the actual packaging than the film itself. Mainly it relates to the box art. Did they REALLY need to super impose Eric’s burnt-up ass right on the front of the box? A major selling point of any Phantom film is eventually seeing just how fucked up he is under that mask. You don’t give away Rocky Dennis on the poster when you can charge the yokels a nickel a gander to get inside. Another thing that bugs me is the bullshit cliff notes sub-title, which I’ve already mentioned: “Eric’s Revenge”… yeah? No shit? Thanks!
All the other stuff which seems to piss most people off really makes the movie great for me, though. Eric almost comes off as a proto-Darkman in this movie. He’s half-Batman, half-slasher. One of the more absurd elements of the movie is Eric’s lair located under the mall, where he does Tae Bo and lifts weights. Apparently, this cave was where he kept all his gym equipment prior to the fire, and the land developers just never really noticed. He has since outfitted his lair with a plethora of security monitors, which he uses to spy on Melody. You get the impression that most of his resources are gleaned from night time mall scavenging, but that doesn’t quite explain where he gets a lot of his stuff.
One of my favorite things about this movie is the Latin piano player in the mall. We see him in the background of several scenes, serenading latte slurping trophy wives. Late one night, when leaving work, Melody is attacked by a ski-masked rapist, whom Eric wounds with a crossbow. A little later on in the movie, the piano player takes a bathroom break and reveals the cross bow wound. It ties together nicely. But then Eric kills the dude with a king cobra. Where the fuck does he get a king cobra? No idea, but I’m not going to complain.
Another great moment comes when Peter decides that the only way to prove Eric is alive is by digging up his grave. So of course, he and Melody head on down the local cemetery, dig about four feet down and discover that Eric’s casket is indeed empty. Why a family that could afford a plot and headstone would bury an empty casket without a body in it is beyond me, but fuck it, let’s just go with it.
The film’s finale revolves around a demolition bomb planted in the bowels of the mall. At this point, I’m starting to wonder if Eric works for the CIA. How else are you going to fake your death and wind up with a bunch of plastique? Still, my favorite “what the fuck” moment in this movie is when Eric, faced with Posner, the man responsible for burning his house down, pulls a fully operational flame thrower off of a sporting good’s store wall and torches the dude.
But these aren’t problems for me. These are accents. This is some gourmet shit. A real problem for me is why they cast Kari Whitman as Melody instead of the much hotter Kimber Sissons, who is relegated to the supporting role of friend. Whitman’s not that pretty and they use a body double for all her nude scenes. One look at Kimber, though, and you know she’d do nasty things for money, least of all show us her cans. You see, the beauty of a woman is naturally in proportion to just how batshit crazy she is. This is a scientific fact. The more beautiful a woman is, the more terrible she is, and the more likely she is to do really freaky shit.
Melody’s character also turns out to be a pretty shallow bitch. She spends a majority of the movie incessantly emphasizing how she isn’t quite over her ex yet, but she abruptly develops feelings for Peter the minute she sees just how fucked up Eric's face really is. Sure, Peter may have less scar tissue, but Eric knows kung fu, has a Batcave, and a killer hook up at the mall. He was obviously into her, as he spends most of his time pillaging gifts and saving her ingrate ass from inept rapists. Meanwhile, Peter the photographer is kind of a dick. For example: Eric and Peter have a physical altercation during which Melody reveals that she loves Peter. Upon hearing this Eric stops kicking Peter’s ass, and he conveys a glimmer of understanding and sympathy toward his ex-girlfriend. Of course, Peter takes advantage of this vulnerable moment by knocking Eric’s skull into a coffee table. What an asshole.
Here’s another example of Peter's douchebaggery: at the end, the mall blows up, and Melody and Peter watch it burn while in each other’s arms. Check out Peter’s dickhead remark.
Melody: Looks like Eric got what he wanted.
Peter: Yeah? I did better than that. I got you.
What is this, a competition all of the sudden? Seriously, what a smug prick this guy is. I was almost waiting for him to suggest that the best medicine for getting over a murdered boyfriend is by taking nude photos.
There's also a surprisingly strong car chase scene which takes place in the mall's parking garage. I'm pretty sure they killed a bystander while filming the sequence, which is probably where most of the budget went.
Of course, this film is probably most noteworthy for featuring a young
Morgan Fairchild also appears as the mayor of Midwood, while genre enthusiasts will appreciate "Dawn of the Dead" alumni Ken Foree’s return to a mall setting. Since I’m insane, I was more excited about the fact that Tim Fridley, who plays Cort in "Friday the 13th part 6: Jason Lives!” appears as Posner’s fuckface son.
This film is also notable in that it features the relatively obscure piece of shit song, “Is There A Phantom In The Mall” by The Vandals, who sound like they're doing their best to imitate The Damned. The song, which is bad to begin with, is really ill-placed, too, which makes for a seemingly abrupt and unintentionally hilarious lead into the credits.
This movie is pretty much the cinematic equivalent of mini-golf. It’s just too innocent to hate. If you’re one of those assholes looking for a real nine-hole game, stay away from the wind mill on top of astroturf. It’s just that fucking simple.