Year: 1998
Directed By: Joe Chappelle
Written By: Dean Koontz, novel and screenplay


This is also a movie I had the privilege of seeing on the big screen in the years I spent wandering from movie to movie in the theaters I grew up in. Just so happens I had read the book this movie was adapted from and that made it more special. This was a movie that I saw at a young age and it provided one of my first opportunities to compare a story in terms of film vs. book. It taught me a valuable lesson that would always remind me why reading books was always more fulfilling than watching films if you have the patience to do it.

First things first with this movie. I do and always have loved Rose McGowan as an actress and enjoy any opportunity to see her. Since Scream I have had a thing for the chick that would go on to be Cherry Darling. I love that she is in this movie and for me at least that makes it better. Her notoriety unfortunately came more from her personal life than it did her acting career but I was a fan long before she became the heroine in one of my favorite movies. In this movie she is nothing more than the moody teenage hot girl but it’s a part she was well suited for in 1998. There are more important parts to the cast, but almost twenty years later she is still the only one I really think about when it comes to this movie.

That is unjust however as it goes to the other actors. I am sure plenty have heard all about how “[Ben] Affleck was the bomb in Phantoms yo!” This was early in the game for Affleck, who would go on to have a career of many ups and downs. Currently on an up in his career it would be proper to simply concur with the notion that he “was the bomb” in this movie. Liev Schreiber played a really eerie and pervy side character/sort of villain. I think Schreiber is a good actor but it has always been hard for me to separate him from the character I saw him play in this movie. I was like 14 when I saw this movie and even younger when I read the book. Necrophilia was something I was innocently unaware of and the image of him touching the dead body left an uncomfortable impression on me. It’s a shame because he has achieved so much but no matter what I see him in my mind brings back that sick feeling he gave me in this movie.

Of course, the most important actor in this movie is Peter O’Toole. He played a significant and interesting part in the movie. A great actor notable for being nominated for the Best Actor award multiple times yet never winning. He was terrific in this movie, bringing all, if any, credibility this movie had as a film.

It’s been twenty years, or near enough to not matter, since I read the book this movie was based on. I remember that it was rather interesting and actually scared me despite myself. I didn’t like the movie as much, obviously, and there were casting issues I had problems with but don’t remember. That happens with all adaptations for readers though, sometimes we can’t separate from the characters we create in our minds. What I remember the most is simply how much more to the story there was in the book. I realized when I watched this for the first time that had I not read the book I may not have understood much of this as the story got started. There was a defining substance missing from this movie as it got started and as the scenes progressed. Like watching cliff notes to a larger story. It was interesting to see certain scenes on screen but far too much of the story was rushed through with no substance behind it. I remember how I felt after watching this movie and it’s a lesson that left an impression on me.

No movie, regardless how well done, can ever serve as a true adaptation to a book. Even when the greatest of efforts are made there is no way to simply convey the same kind of emotional impact you receive from letting the story build within your own mind. It takes patience to read, but patience can be the most rewarding thing there is when you apply it appropriately. I can’t remember much about the book this movie was based on after so long but I remember that it told a much more fulfilling story than the one I saw when I watched the adaptation on screen.

I meant to just write about a horror film when I sat down to do this post, it is Halloween season after all, but here I find myself doing something different all together. Now, what I mainly want to get across is the importance of reading and how film adaptations never measure up. The only exception I will accept is The Godfather (present your argument if you please), otherwise a book offers more than any movie can ever hope to. The Godfather was an incredible adaptation and one of my favorite books and movies of all time. Nevertheless even in that circumstance the book was much better than the film.

Reading is an art that has evolved and changed over the years. I for one still enjoy it the old fashion way, with either newspaper or physical book in hand. When you read the news you have to loudly flip those pages into place, the feeling of that is part of it. Same thing with a book, for me at least, the feeling of holding a book and turning those pages makes all the difference. Not to mention that by reading it you dive so much deeper into the story, and achieve such a higher level of understanding from different points of view.

I’m going to call this a so-so horror film, one that you really don’t appreciate unless you read the book. Otherwise it requires patience to get in to and then to follow through with. Affleck may be “the bomb yo” but this movie is still a rushed through version of a larger story. I want to note that there was a time I liked this movie despite the current mentality wherein which it has become a catalyst for my opportunity to push reading on people. That being said:

Read more books people. Do it the old fashioned way. Buy a book at a bookstore and use your imagination to let an author take you on a ride you will never forget. There are great movies based on books, but not a one of them can ever match up to what was put in print. I love movies most off all but I always try to make time for reading no matter the content. Be it A Brief History of Time or Game of Thrones, there are lessons to be learned and I prefer to learn them with book in hand and my mind building the story as I go. It’s a physical thing that drives the lesson or entertainment home. If you have made it this far you obviously aren’t opposed to reading. You should be spending this time with a real author. A writer who can make you question yourself and teach you something all in the same sentence. They are out there, and they are waiting to inspire you.

This movie offers some good scenes here and there but more or less doesn’t measure up to what it was based on. I think if you are looking for something scary during this Halloween weekend you can definitely do better than this one.

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