Phantoms (Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray)

In the peaceful town of Snowfield, Colorado something evil has wiped out the community. And now, its up to a group of people to stop it, or at least get out of Snowfield alive.

July 9, 2024 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Good books don’t always translate to good movies. And vice versa. Case in point we’ve got  Dean Koontz, an author with over 120 novels to his name. Yet, despite that, I still consider him a “poor man’s” version of Stephen King. Sorry Mr. Koontz, it’s just the way I feel. I’ve never read any of his books, though it would appear (after a brief search) that Phantoms is one of his better works. Koontz, who also wrote the screenplay for this film, seems to have a knack for horror and with a well-known author also writing the screenplay – it was hard to miss. Yet somehow he did. Taking a walk down memory lane to 1998, we find a cast of (then) up-and-coming actors led by Ben Affleck, Liev Schreiber and Rose McGowan. This was a product of the late 90’s Miramax films that seemingly had no end in sight. Affleck and co-star Nicky Katt re-teamed from Dazed and Confused, McGowan and Schreiber from Scream and then we had Joanna Going. Oh and Lawrence of Arabia himself – Peter O’ Toole. What an eccentric cast.

We meet Dr. Jennifer Pailey (Joanna Going), a doctor in a small town and her sister, Lisa (Rose McGowan) who’s come to stay with her. Snowfield, Colorado isn’t the busiest place on earth, but there’s a lot more to this “quaint little town” than meets the eye. The reason being…everyone in the town seems to be dead. After the duo put two and two together, they’re greeted by the town’s sheriff, Bryce Hammond (Ben Affleck) and his two deputies (Nicky Katt and Liev Schreiber). We don’t know how these three are the only ones alive and it’s never really explained either. Thus, we simply don’t care. The gang investigates a strange moth like creature that sucks brains out of heads, odd bolts of lightning that come out of nowhere and the dead who seem to come back to life. There’s also a secret message found on a mirror asking for Timothy Flyte (Peter O’ Toole), who once authored a book on mass disappearances. Confused? So was I.

The problem I had with the movie was that it seemed to lack direction. We’re presented with a lot of things that we’re simply supposed to “believe” and the filmmakers don’t really give us any context as to why and how things happened. I’d normally point the finger at the writer, but given that the screenwriter was the same person who wrote the book, well…Mr. Koontz, I’m looking at you. The cast was good and though I did find it a bit odd that a Hollywood legend like Peter O’Toole starred in a late 90’s horror movie, well I can only assume he needed the money. Though he’s credited as an “and” this is Ben Affleck’s film. He’s the main star. Obviously he impressed someone as he went onto films like Shakespeare in Love and Armageddon (both Miramax films) in the next couple of years. As I mentioned above, this one slipped though the cracks for me for quite some time. Part of me wishes that it still did.

Video: How’s it look?

This is a film that I’d never seen until the arrival of this 4K disc. Having said that, I’ve no basis of comparison and, as always, I call ’em like I see ’em (literally, in this case). Given the title of the movie, we can expect that this won’t be a bright, color-filled picture. And, by and large, it’s not. The opening sequence has some daylight, but by and large this takes place over the course of one night and most of it lies in the shadows. The new 1.85:1 HEVC 4K image is most certainly an improvement over the previous editions. Detail is solid with contrast and black levels looking consistent and strong throughout. I noticed no issues with noise or anything else. It’s…good, but not great. As we look back on a Ben Affleck that was a quarter of a century younger, it’s clear to see how much he’s (as well as the rest of us) have aged. It’s a good-looking picture.

Audio: How’s it sound?

The DTS HD Master Audio mix is nothing to write home about, though it’s not “bad” in any sense of the word. Vocals are sharp and crisp with the front stage taking the lion’s share of the action. Surrounds are used sparingly, but effectively (most notably for some jump scares). Then again I’ve always been of the mindset that if you need jump scares to frighten the audience – audio might not be at the forefront of your concerns. All in all it’s a very passable track, though it certainly won’t wake the neighbors.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Disc One (4K)

There are no extras on the 4K disc.

Disc Two (Blu-ray)

  • Terror From Below: Making Phantoms – An Interview With Producer Joel Soisson. The first of two new featurettes finds the producer talking about the film, working with Dean Koontz and the cast. It’s nothing mind-blowing, but any new feature on a film more than a couple of decades old is always welcome.
  • Chaos In The Flesh: Filming Phantoms – An Interview With Director Of Photography Richard Clabaugh who gives us a bit more technical information about the shoot, the “town” in Colorado and some various other quips. I found this one a bit more interesting than the former and, again, this too is new to this disc.
  • Theatrical Trailer

The Bottom Line

I remember looking at this when it was “new” on DVD way back in the Spring of 1998. I’d never seen it until now and, well…it wasn’t really worth the wait. It was a good “leading man” performance by Affleck who has gone onto many bigger and better things, but I just wasn’t invested. That said, I’m sure the movie has its audience and they should love the new transfer as well as the new supplements included with the disc.

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