Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge LE Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Release: November 23, 2021
Video: 1.85:1 (Theatrical and Phan Cuts) & 1.33:1 (TV Cut)/1080p/Color
Audio: English LPCM 1.0 Mono
Run Time: 90:35 (Theatrical Cut)/88:36 (TV Cut)/96:18 (Composite Phan Cut)
Director: Richard Friedman
High school sweethearts Eric Matthews and Melody Austin are so in love, but their youthful romance is cut tragically short when Eric apparently dies in a fire that engulfs his family home. One year later, Melody is trying to move on with her life, taking up a job at the newly built Midwood Mall along with her friends. But the mall, which stands on the very site of Eric’s former home, has an uninvited guest – a shadowy, scarred figure which haunts its air ducts and subterranean passageways, hellbent on exacting vengeance on the mall’s crooked developers. (From Arrow’s official synopsis)
Gaston Leroux's Phantom of the Opera (French: Le Fantôme de l'Opéra, originally published between 1909 & 1910) is among the most regularly adapted stories of all time. Worldwide, at least one, but usually two or three movie versions of Leroux’s story are made every decade since the 1910s. Likely propelled by the wild popularity of Andrew Lloyd Webber/Charles Hart/Richard Stilgoe stage musical, the late 1980s were positively awash with Phantom of the Opera movies, including Al Guest & Jean Mathieson’s made for TV animated film (1988), Allen Plone’s rock-themed Phantom of the Ritz (1988), Dwight H. Little’s 1989 horror film, starring hot-off Nightmare on Elm Street Robert Englund, and Richard Friedman’s Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge (1989), which moved the story from an opera house to, you guessed it, a shopping mall. While a mall-themed Phantom of the Opera story sounds patently asinine in the 2020s, it was a smart move for a non-studio horror film in a world where mall-themed horror had already proved moderately profitable for Thom Eberhardt’s Night of the Comet (1984), Jim Wynorski’s Chopping Mall (1986), and, the granddaddy of all mall horror, George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978). It’s honestly surprising that there weren’t more mall-themed horror movies, though it’s curious that Phantom of the Mall and Stephen Hopkins’ Dangerous Game (1987) are the only two from the period that explored the promise of a slasher movie set in a shopping mall.
Unsurprisingly, Phantom of the Mall feels like a movie that was haphazardly thrown together in order to appeal to a very specific demographic – a demographic that aged out during the production period, leaving the film dated before it was even released. Fortunately, enough time has passed that a haphazard hodgepodge of late ‘80s fads has real nostalgic appeal or, if you prefer and came of age during a different decade, comedic appeal. This off-kilter fun is magnified by the fact that Friedman and the writers (a small army that includes Scott Schneid, Frederick R. Ulrich, Tony Michelman, and Robert King) try to embrace the sincere drama of Leroux's story alongside the goofier aspects of slasher movies and teen comedies (there’s even a bit of American Ninja-style white guy martial arts for good measure). Friedman worked/works largely in television and went into the film with varying levels of low budget horror experience, including two indies – Scared Stiff (1987), Doom Asylum (1987) – and episodes of Tales from the Darkside, Friday the 13th: The Series, and Monsters. He makes good use of the modest production values, which were almost certainly pricier than he was used to (the car stunts and climactic pyrotechnics must have cost at least a couple hundred thousand bucks), but never quite escapes that stiff made-for-TV look. Naturally, that’s part of the charm once you’re in the bag for his brand of trashy filmmaking, though, truth be told, Phantom of the Mall could do with a little more trash. There are some cool kills, but a lot of gore appears to have been trimmed to secure an R-rating.
The Phantom of the Opera basis and shopping mall theme both already mark Phantom of the Mall as a quintessential production of the mid-’80s/early ‘90s, but the cast really sells the neon and pastel pedigree. Lead performances include future Silk Stalkings and Melrose Place regular Rob Estes, Falcon Crest beauty Morgan Fairchild, and Pauly Shore shortly before he became an unlikely box-office draw for Encino Man (1992) and Son in Law (1993). Actually, a number of cast and crew members worked on Dallas, Silk Stalkings, and/or Days of Our Lives, including Friedman, who directed two episodes of Silk Stalkings in 1994 and ‘95. Everyone’s favorite mall-defending SWAT member, Ken Foree, also makes an appearance.
If you visited the horror section of a video store in America during the early ‘90s, you almost certainly saw the Fries Home Video VHS release of Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge on the shelf. You’d know it, because it had a cover so bland that you wouldn’t for a second actually want to watch the film. Following that, US fans could either try to find the long out-of-print, non-anamorphic 1.33:1 Echo Bridge disc or import a different non-anamorphic, 1.33:1 (PAL) disc from Moonstone in the UK. Given the lack of availability/horrible SD transfers, Arrow could have made everyone happy with minimal effort, but they’ve still gone the extra mile for this limited edition set, by including three versions of the film: the R-rated theatrical cut, the television cut, which is censored, but features nearly seven minutes of scenes not available with the theatrical cut, and a new integral cut, dubbed the “Phan cut,” that combines the deleted scenes with the uncensored violence. The original film elements (not clear if it was negatives or positives or whatever) from the theatrical version were scanned in 2K and are presented in 1.85:1, 1080p. It’s difficult to compare an HD transfer, remastered or not, to a non-anamorphic/SD/VHS quality transfer, but I’m still impressed with it. Harry Mathias’ thoroughly mid-’80s photography looks so much nicer when you can make out dynamic ranges and fine details, and the soft focus pastels and neons aren’t compressed into gooey fluff.
Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge is presented in its original mono and 2.0 LPCM. The mix is thin and airy, which sort of fits the persistent din of the setting. It appears that they had problems recording dialogue in the mall, because there’s an awful lot of ADR. The tone and volume of the dialogue is at least consistent throughout. Music is the track’s best asset, despite stereo compositions being squeezed into a single channel. Stacy Widelitz’ score, including a song she co-wrote for “You Got the Touch” singer Stan Bush (“Heart of Darkness”), and the prerequisite pop and punk songs all sound strong and clear.
Disc One (Theatrical Cut)
Commentary with director Richard Friedman, moderated by Red Shirt Pictures’ Michael J. Felsher – Friedman discusses his early life, his greater career as a filmmaker, and the making of Phantom of the Mall. Felsher helps keep the director on task by asking pertinent questions and filling in forgotten factoids.
Commentary with disc producer Ewan Cant and film historian/author Amanda Reyes – Cant (who doesn’t do many commentaries on his own discs) and Reyes, the editor/author of Are You in the House Alone?: A TV Movie Compendium 1964-1999 (Headpress, 2017), approach their commentary with nostalgia as fans of the film, but also make plenty of time for well-researched behind-the-scenes stories, information about the cast & crew, and some details about the various cuts of the film.
Audio interview track with composer Stacy Widelitz and associate producer Robert J. Koster, conducted by Michael J. Felsher – This third audio content option collects two full-bodied, free-form interviews that last until about the 83-minute mark.
Shop Til’ You Drop!: The Making of Phantom of the Mall (42:22, HD) – This extensive making-of doc includes interviews with Friedman, screenwriters Scott Schneid & Tony Michelman, make-up effects creator Matthew Mungle, and actors Derek Rydall & Gregory Scott Cummins. Everyone talks a bit about their careers (which often intersect) before moving on to the production of the film, from inception through casting, filming, and release.
The Vandals Go to the Mall (12:56, HD) – Vandals songwriter and bassist (and business affairs executive at CBS?!) Joe Escalante chats about second wave Orange County punk, Vandals line-ups and radio singles, appearing in Penelope Spheeris’ Suburbia (1984) and Dudes (1987), which led into writing/performing the end credit theme, “Is There a Phantom in the Mall?,” and the ways his life changed after.
Five alternate/deleted scenes from the TV Cut (7:20, SD)
Domestic and international trailer
TV Cut – This was created by combining an SD video master and reframed HD footage from the new transfer. The TV-exclusive scenes are noticeably lower resolution and are little edge-enhancy, but the overall effect is relatively seamless.
Composite "Phan Cut" – This also combines SD and HD footage, but, in an effort to make the experience feel more ‘cinematic,’ the TV-exclusive scenes have been cropped to 1.85:1.
Limited Edition box contents
60-page fully-illustrated perfect-bound book featuring new writing on the film by Brad Henderson and original press kit extracts
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Justin Osbourn
Foldout double-sided poster featuring original and Justin Osbourn’s art
Six postcard-sized lobby card reproductions
The images on this page are taken from the BD (Theatrical Cut) and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.