Everything I know about Phantoms came from Kevin Smith's Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. In an extremely meta moment, Holden McNeil (as played by Ben Affleck), the main character in Smith's other film, Chasing Amy, utters the words "Affleck was the bomb in Phantoms" before giving Jay a high five.
So we have Ben Affleck playing a character that he had played once before to much critical acclaim, praising the performance of himself in a film for which he did not receive much critical acclaim, while swapping high-fives with one half of a duo which could only have been born during the early-mid '90s indie film boom.
It blows the mind.
So when I saw that Phantoms was available for instant streaming on Netflix, I decided to find out if Affleck was indeed the bomb in Phantoms, yo.
Phantoms is a decidedly '90s Miramax/Dimension offering featuring a decidedly '90s cast featuring Affleck, Rose McGowan, and Liev Shreiber.
The movie opens with Dr. Jennifer Paige (Joanna Going) and her sister, Lisa (Rose McGowan) heading to small town Snowfield, Colorado for a little R & R. They arrive to find the town mostly deserted, except for a few bloated corpses and Sheriff Ben Affleck in a cowboy hat and his sociopathic deputy Liev Schreiber.
The small group hole up in a hotel where all your standard array of lazy horror movie tropes occur: the flashing lights, strange writings on the wall, disembodied heads falling the ceiling, strange noises, people screaming, and loud sudden noises designed to startle you into either jumping or having a heart attack, depending on your relative state of health.
Their feeling of safety ends when a fucking butterfly crashes through a window and eats Liev Schreiber's face. The town has been emptied by killer butterflies? Not quite....
It takes the FBI bringing in an expert (a writer of the "Weekly World News" and Bat Boy variety) and an exploding dog to narrow down the real threat: a prehistoric "flatworm" type creature that can absorb the collected knowledge and qualities of any creature it kills. In its 'native' form, it resembles the black tar from The X-Files or, in an even more dated reference, The Blob.
In fact, the climatic battle against the creature resembles the final battle against the jello creature in the 1989 version of The Blob, another "gem" I watched not-so-long ago on Netflix. (Actually, those sarcastic quotation marks are unwarranted. The Blob was actually pretty decent).
The Verdict: The story is ridiculous, but that's to be expected: it's based on a Dean Koontz novel. The special effects are dated and pretty cheesy. Rose McGowan was apparently cast in the film to stand there and look pretty for a few scenes because that's basically all she does. She really doesn't add anything to the film whatsoever. In fact, if you completely deleted her character from the movie, you would still get the same awful product.
The movie ends with a wink, nod, twist that just made me shake my head because I had seen it hundreds of times before.
But the real question, the whole reason we're here: IS Affleck da bomb in Phantoms?
I guess. Ben Affleck is the best part of Phantoms. His square jaw and cleft chin, along with his cowboy hat and his job as a small town sheriff make him look like the perfect hero for a 1950s B-movie. That's a good thing because there is really not much material here that Affleck could elevate.
His character is given a back story of being a former FBI agent, who quit and came to be the law in small town Snowfield after he mistakenly kills a young boy that was brandishing a toy gun. Predictably, this revelation comes back to haunt him during the final confrontation with the flatworm/monster/thing.
Just to be clear, Affleck is the bomb in The Town, yo. Affleck is the bomb in Hollywoodland, yo. Affleck is a'ight in Phantoms, yo.
Final Verdict: Awful