‘Shopping will never be the same again’
Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge is a 1989 American slasher horror film directed by Richard Friedman (Scared Stiff; Doom Asylum; Dark Wolf) from a screenplay written by Scott J. Schneid, Tony Michelman and Robert King (The Nest).
The movie stars Derek Rydall, Jonathan Goldsmith and Rob Estes.
A young man apparently dies in a suspicious house fire after saving his girlfriend, Melody.
A year later, at the new Midwood mall built over the site of the burned-out house, thefts and murders begin to occur as a mysterious figure secretly prowls around the shopping centre and takes a keen interest in watching over and protecting Melody…
Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge came around at the burnt-out trailing end of the 1980s horror boom (which seemed to occupy the better part of the decade, to be honest); every killer, slasher or supernatural entity meant dollar signs in the eyes of producers in terms of jump-starting a profitable new franchise, to which the young moviegoers would, presumably, robotically patronize.
This particular attempt never birthed a sequel (though it did leave behind a bit of music that would be the envy of any Freddy or Jason). Despite myriad opportunities, this is not an outright comedy/spoof (even with the conspicuous casting of a young Pauly Shore in a supporting role, a comedy performer who would come to define California surfer-dude attitudes). The scenario takes the essential premise of Gaston Leroux’s 1909-1910 literary serial Phantom of the Opera, so often adapted for stage and screen thrillers, and superimposes a 1980s West-Coast stereotypical teenager milieu.
As “Midwood Mall” has its soft opening, a mystery figure lurks behind the walls in a high-school letter jacket – nowhere near as gothic as the Opera Ghost of Leroux, we can all agree but meant to be a functional equivalent. And this phantom sets out committing gore murders, mostly on mall security and unsavoury intruders. Young mall employee Melody (Kari Whitman) is, unknowingly, a centre of the killer’s attention.
It would not come as much surprise that the phantom is Melody’s old gymnast boyfriend Eric (Derek Rydall), disfigured and vengeful after his family home on the proposed Midwood site was torched in an arson fire set at the behest of corrupt developers, an act in which Melody nearly perished. Presumed-dead Eric now continues to protect his beloved from the still-at-large villains whilst keeping in shape with martial arts and secret gym workouts. No composing “Don Juan Triumphant” for this California teen phantom. That might feel too much like schoolwork.
One is given to understand that the original script underwent numerous rewrites. in varying tones. Ultimately the material is played with a largely straight face, camp elements and all, though director Friedman goes for the entertainment thrills, creative kills and gotcha moments (few of which are really scary in any sense) rather than trying to craft any kind of meaningful masterpiece. There was a minor theatrical release, but small box-office returns. Financial problems of the production company, and understandable audience apathy, prevented any further of Erik’s adventures.
Perhaps the greatest legacy: an inspired closing punk-rock theme by the band The Vandals, who were allegedly on the verge of breaking up when they were commissioned to provide some music, which found a home over the end credits. Unlike most of the rest of the feature, the song is an energetic, witty and fun bit (“Is there Phantom of the Mall? / Or just some retard in a broken hockey mask?”), without which no visit to Midwood would be complete. In fact, you might want to fast-forward to the credits just to hear The Vandals. All due apologies to Pauly Shore, a favourite whipping boy for American critics of the era but fairly tolerable here.
On another musical note, it is said at one point the director had Erik the Phantom perform some kind of solo 80s-music dance number alone in the mall, akin to the fancy footwork of Kevin Bacon’s stand-in for Footloose. Actor Rydall has asked in video disk “extras” that this imagery, if it exists, never be revealed.
Charles Cassady Jr, MOVIES and MANIA
“With a bunch of creative kills, some excellent practical effects and great stuntwork, this is a different type of slasher with almost an anti-hero alongside a regular motif of corporate greed […] The pacing is excellent with no real filler and plenty of action and gore plus even some kung fu fighting!” Bloody Flicks
“Phantom of the Mall is part stalk-and-slash and part teenage melodrama. But it doesn’t really excel on either front and often gets stuck between the two genres. The romance isn’t particularly compelling and the stalk-and-slash scenes aren’t all that noteworthy, nor are they particularly original.” Dread Central
“Makers of bad movies should hold their breath in awe after watching this one. Scarcely a scene isn’t gross or ridiculous, scarcely a performance isn’t forced or shallow, scarcely a line of dialogue isn’t a burbling, awkward cliche. There’s a perfection of awfulness here that almost commands respect; it can’t have been easy to keep going on this picture after a look or two at the rushes.” Los Angeles Times
” …this is standard slasher fare with lots of amateur detective work, sinister side villains, stupid sidekicks (including 90’s comedic superstar Pauly Shore) and jump scares. Throw in some cheesy silk sheet romance scenes, sewer based martial arts training and some truly shocking 80s style choices…” Love Horror
“For a cheap direct-to-video slasher, Eric’s Revenge is audacious as hell and riotously entertaining as a result—with so much lunacy swirling about, it’s damn near impossible for dull moments to occur, especially since this overt stuff is merely accentuating the typical slasher silliness.” Oh, the Horror!
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“A pretty silly idea executed with only mediocre results, this movie still manages to maintain an enjoyable vibe thanks to the fine cast, many of whom went on to work in far more fabulous projects.” Retro Slashers
” … the entire story is in the title. Someone named Eric is taking revenge against people as a phantom of a mall. This also means there is no suspense. We know Eric is behind this, but we still have to see Estes and Cute Girl go through the motions of a silly investigation.” eFilmCritic.com
“You should know the 80s slasher drill by now. No scares, suspense, story, acting or characters – just novelty death scenes and a psychotic villain. When a film fails to deliver on the latter two AND the rest, then it’s really bottom of the barrel stuff.” Popcorn Pictures
“It’s kind of a fun mess to watch, but it’s like walking into a store where all of the clothes are tossed around haphazardly – there are things you might like, but it’s too much of a bother to pick through the litter.” HNN
Buy DVD: Amazon.co.uk
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