Phantom – This Means War! week

Phantom is currently available on instant Netflix.

Phantom

 

Phantom (2013) – Rated R

A Cold War Soviet submarine captain struggles with a rogue KGB group trying to seize control of the ship’s nuclear missile. Meanwhile, he secretly suffers from seizures that affect his grip on reality.

One Line Review: Exciting though dated premise makes for a surprisingly lifeless movie.

Todd Robinson is writer, director, and producer on this film so this is clearly a labor of love for him. I like submarine movies and I love submarine movies that are filmed on an actual submarine. Phantom is filmed aboard an actual decommissioned sub and the setting is great, showing off the cramped quarters.

Ed Harris is always a welcome presence and he does a good job here as Demi, in spite of the ludicrous pro-U.S. speech he has to give in the movie. Wonderful character actor William Fichtner is his second-in-command Alex. Lance Henriksen has a vital, if minor, role as Markov. All three of them do the best they can with the material. David Duchovny is less successful as a Spetsnaz commando with an agenda. None of the rest of the cast are particularly memorable.

We have three good actors in a submarine film based on a real life or death incident that could bring about the end of the world and it’s all filmed in a real submarine. So what went wrong? Apparently everything else.

The real life incident took place in 1968 but the film gives us no feel at all for the time that it is set in (except obviously prior to the fall of the Soviet Union). The Hunt for Red October handled a different situation aboard a Soviet submarine with quite a bit of flair. More recently (2002), K-19 Widowmaker was released dealing with a potential calamity aboard a Soviet submarine.

The real problem is that Phantom commits a cardinal sin: it is actually boring. There is no sense of tension in the movie, in spite of several incidents that were ripe for suspense. Nothing is handled artfully and everything is as predictable as possible. All the life is sucked out of the film. The only exception is the end sequence which will have you scratching your head in befuddlement.

TV Anthologies – Horror Month

 

Twilight Zone (1959-1963)

Hosted by unflappable creator Rod Serling, each episode of this groundbreaking series stands alone as a complete story, relating humor-tinged tales that touch on supernatural subjects such as alien invasions, xenophobia, time travel and dream logic. This classic show, with its superb writing and haunting music, brought science fiction to the masses and was a forerunner of genre-bending favorites such as “The X Files” and “Lost.”

I’m not sure why but currently seasons 1, 2, 3, and 5 are available on instant Netflix but not season 4. There is a wealth of classic horror and science fiction here – “Monsters are Due on Maple Street” being a particular favorite of mine. The theme music is classic and Rod Serling’s narration is wonderful.

Thriller (1960-1961)

The legendary Boris Karloff serves as host for this vintage television series, which began as an anthology of crime dramas and mysteries but later morphed into chilling tales of the supernatural and gothic horror. With episodes based on novels and short stories, the show features a roster of guests ranging from big-screen veterans such as John Carradine and Mary Astor to soon-to-be-stars such as Cloris Leachman and William Shatner.

If you have run through all of Twilight Zone or the episodes are too familiar then give Thriller a try. Boris Karloff makes almost as good a host as Rod Serling. Thriller is not the classic that Twilight Zone is but has some very good episodes. The early episodes lean more towards Alfred Hitchcock Presents but later ones often have a supernatural element.

Since none of the episodes connect to each other, please start your Thriller viewing with Pigeons from Hell, episode 36.

The X-Files (1993-2001)

Tracing both their personal and professional lives, this award-winning Fox series centers on FBI agents Scully (Gillian Anderson), a skeptic, and Mulder (David Duchovny), a believer, and their efforts to uncover a government conspiracy to hide evidence of extraterrestrial activity. From voodoo curses to bodies found in California that are missing various internal organs, the chilling show also stars Mitch Pileggi and Robert Patrick.

All nine seasons of The X-Files are available on instant Netflix. While the main focus of The X-Files was science fiction, there are a large number of ‘spooky’ episodes. The influence of Kolchak on The X-Files is obvious and is even acknowledged when Darren McGavin guest-stars as an early X-Files investigator.

The quality of the writing began to be uneven after the first four seasons. The last two seasons are monumentally disappointing as Duchovny left to pursue a movie career (how’s that working out for you David?) and Anderson takes on a much reduced role due in part to her pregnancy.