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John’s Horror Corner: The Phantom of the Opera (1989), Robert Englund’s gory reimagining of Gaston Leroux’s fictitious classic composer.

June 10, 2019

MY CALL: If someone used a more serious Freddy Krueger to ambitiously reimagine Gaston Leroux’s classic… and it’s actually pretty decent. MORE MOVIES LIKE The Phantom of the Opera: Easily A Cure for Wellness (1994) is the closest match, and packing the budget to support its grandiose vision.

Far before her Saturday Night Live days and in her first role ever we find Molly Shannon (Lawnmower Man II, Scary Movie 4), who discovers a time-forgotten page of music composed by the serial killer Erik Destler in a book that looks like a cross between the Necronomicon and Hellraiser’s (1987) puzzle box. And just in case the book’s appearance wasn’t warning enough, visions of musical notes on the pages seeping blood foretell misfortune.

A lovely young Julliard singer Christine (Jill Schoelen; Curse II: The Bite, The Stepfather) sings the piece and is transported through time to London (in a similar past life), where she finds herself the fixation of The Phantom (Robert Englund; A Nightmare on Elm Street, Galaxy of Terror, Hatchet II). The Phantom is a horribly disfigured composer introduced to us as he sutures flaps of flesh over his own gaping facial wounds. It’s pretty awesomely gross.

At this point with five NOES films under his belt as Freddy, Englund breathes strong personality into The Phantom, and the make-up department followed suit accordingly. So it comes as no surprise that his reverence for his murders and impassioned charismatic flair smack of familiarity.

The latex and gore work are effective. Skinned victims, rat-eaten flesh-gnawed faces and severed heads are just the basics. But what’ll make you wince is the flesh-suturing and slimy gooey suture removal scenes with sticky skin flaps being peeled off.

Fresh on the set of his second horror film, director Dwight H. Little (Halloween 4) swings for the fences in this semi-contemporary approach to The Phantom of the Opera. Englund is hammed up to fans’ satisfaction and expectations, the special effects are splendid (budget permitting), and with all the operatic music, do I call some scenes in this a pseudo-musical? The music takes no part in the narrative, but it is (in concept) linked to the story. I’d simply call this a film much more stylistic for its era regarding its inclusion/utility of music. This film also seems especially ambitious with respect to the set design (lots of sewers and caverns, theaters and London streets) and the wardrobe. Also, watch out for Bill Nighy (Underworld, Shaun of the Dead).

This film may have been a tad over-the-top at times, but less so than Freddy’s sequels and impressive for my honestly low gorehound expectations. No, this is more seriously approached and produced than I had imagined. I’m maybe a bit impressed. I thought I was wandering into hokey B-movie territory, when really this is more in the B+ zone.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 11, 2019 6:17 am

    Never seen this, will check it out! Hope I’m impressed too…always just assumed it was a C movie!

    • John Leavengood permalink
      June 11, 2019 6:53 am

      I always feared similarly. I just got it because it was $10 on bluray and thought what the Hell. Glad I did.

  2. September 13, 2019 2:33 pm

    Hello there!

    This is a very good article. I am a devoted Phan of Phantom of the Opera, and, while this particular film isn’t the kind of movie that I would watch, I was glad to see that you had seen an adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera.

    My name is Rebekah Brannan, and I’m one of the founders of the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Seeing that you are a fan of horror film, and have watched and reviewed an adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera, I would love for you to participate in my upcoming blogathon. This year, on September 23-25, I am hosting The Phantom of the Opera Blogathon. The blogathon will be dedicated to all adaptations, spin-offs, prequels, and sequels of the immortal tale The Phantom of the Opera! As devoted Phans, my sister, Tiffany and I could not let the 110th anniversary of the beginning of the original novel’s serialization in the newspaper Le Gaulois pass without some form of commemoration. I invite you to celebrate this event by joining The Phantom of the Opera Blogathon.

    You can read the announcement here:

    I hope you will join us for this three-day celebration of all things phantasmic, and that you will advertise it on your blog using one of my dramatic banners!

    Thank you very much for your time!


    Rebekah Brannan

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