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Review - Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge

[The following review contains SPOILERS; YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!]

Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera has been adapted to other media so frequently that many of the story’s finer details have been lost in translation; only the broadest strokes of the plot have survived long enough to penetrate the collective unconscious.

Universal’s 1943 version of the tale, for example, reimagines the eponymous specter’s physical disfigurement as a hideous burn scar, rather than a birth defect as in the original novel—a change that has lingered in subsequent reinterpretations, much like Sherlock Holmes’ “iconic” deerstalker cap. The character’s morality is likewise malleable: Hammer Horror’s 1962 film emphasizes his sympathetic qualities to such an extent that he never even commits a single murder, with his misdeeds instead attributed to a mute, hunchbacked accomplice; at the opposite end of the spectrum, Robert Englund portrayed him as a sadistic servant of Satan—an irredeemable, unrepentant serial killer clad in a grotesque mask sculpted from the rotting flesh of his victims.

Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge stretches the premise to its breaking point, retaining only the most superficial elements of the book that inspired it. The conflict, at least, is familiar: a deformed homicidal maniac stalks the shadowy maintenance hallways and comically oversized ventilation ducts of a recently constructed shopping mall—and he is singularly obsessed with our beautiful heroine (mild mannered waitress Melody Austin, an adequate substitute for singer Christine Daaé—though the lead vocalist in a local garage band would probably have been a more appropriate analogue). That, however, is the source material’s sole contribution to the narrative; what remains is a rather generic, by the numbers, dime a dozen slasher flick—gory, sleazy, and utterly disposable.

Which isn’t to say that the movie is totally devoid of entertainment value; like Troll 2, The Room, and Miami Connection, its unintentionally absurd tone is sure to appeal to devoted connoisseurs of trash cinema. If nothing else, it's delightfully nostalgic: Sam Goody features prominently in the background of several shots, a pre-fame Pauly Shore performs an excruciatingly awkward striptease, and the excessively abundant action scenes contain enough roundhouse kicks to rival Chuck Norris' entire body of work.

And that is Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge in a nutshell: a misguided “modernization” that was hilariously dated from the very moment of its release.

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