Release Date(s)1989 (November 23, 2021)
Studio(s)Fries Entertainment (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A+
Released towards the tail-end of the 80s slasher run, Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge is mostly known today as a VHS rental favorite and local TV staple. Certainly not one of the top horror films of its era, it managed to eke out a minor cult following with genre fans who appreciated it for its cast, its camp, and its attempts at mixing an age old tale of love lost with sometimes gruesome gore effects set within a modern shopping mall. Like director Richard Friedman’s other horror films from a couple of years prior, Doom Asylum and Scared Stiff, it’s mostly a retread through cliches of one sort or another, but the varying elements make it slightly more interesting than most, reaching just above mediocrity.
Years before, Eric Matthews (Derek Rydall) and his family were killed in a horrific fire, and his girlfriend, Melody (Kari Whitman), still hasn’t gotten past his death. Meanwhile, the grand opening of a new mall is about to occur, where Melody and her friends Susie (Kimber Sissons) and Buzz (Pauly Shore) are recently-employed. A local photographer, Peter (Rob Estes), spots Melody and remembers her from her ordeal with Eric. Melody, meanwhile, is receiving gifts, including flowers and dresses, from a secret admirer. Unknown to them all, someone is lurking behind the walls and within the air ducts of the mall, killing people at random, especially when Melody is threatened. As she and Peter try to solve the mystery of what happened the night of the fire and who is haunting the mall, Mayor Wilton (Morgan Fairchild) attempts to keep things under wraps.
The greatest asset that Phantom of the Mall has is its cast. Besides the obvious members of the main ensemble, deep-seated horror fans will instantly recognize a few other familiar faces, including Ken Foree from Dawn of the Dead, Tom Fridley from Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, Gregory Scott Cummins from Hack-O-Lantern, and a very quick appearance by Brinke Stevens from The Slumber Party Massacre (among many other films). One of the leading roles is even inhabited by “The Most Interesting Man in the World,” Jonathan Goldsmith. Other positives include the film’s use of gore and makeup effects, which are mostly effective due to decent lighting, and amazing stunt work. Look no further than a car crashing into a man that spins him in mid-air, or someone swinging from a shredded banner high above the shopping mall. Unfortunately, the clash of tones and ideas never really meld, but its partly what makes the film enjoyable for many. It’s not a good a film, but it’s entertaining despite itself.
Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge was shot by Harry Mathias photochemically on what appears to be 35 mm film using Panaflex cameras and Panavision lenses, and framed at the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Arrow Video’s Blu-ray release of the film features a new 2K scan and restoration of a 35 mm interpositive (four versions of the film are included, more on that later). It’s a generally pleasant presentation. The yield of grain is a little high at times, perhaps even chunky in a few spots, but it’s mostly even-tiered throughout. Depth and detail are much improved over lower grade VHS and DVD releases, though a tad soft due to being a generation away from the original camera negative. Since the film takes place in an 80s shopping mall, saturation offers a variety of hues, including many shades of red, blue, and purple. Flesh tones are decent and everything appears bright with good delineation most of the time. Blacks tend to dip into crush territory from time to time, even appearing a bit blue, though not egregiously. Otherwise, the transfer is stable and clean, besting any previous home video release by a country mile.
Audio is included in English 2.0 mono LPCM with optional subtitles in English SDH. Despite the single channel source, the track offers decent push in all respects, particularly when it comes to score and music. Dialogue exchanges are discernible, even when Eric’s processed vocals kick in late in the film, while sound effects range from crisp to stock in nature. The track is clean and free of any leftover instances of hiss, crackle, distortion, or dropouts.
The following extras are included on each disc:
DISC ONE: THEATRICAL CUT
- Audio Commentary with Richard Friedman and Michael Felsher
- Audio Commentary with with Ewan Cant and Amanda Reyes
- Audio Interviews with Stacy Widelitz and Robert J. Koster, with Michael Felsher
- Shop ‘Til You Drop!: The Making of Phantom of the Mall (HD – 42:22)
- The Vandals Go to the Mall (HD – 12:56)
- Alternate and Deleted Scenes – Alternate Intro (Upscaled SD – 3:21)
- Alternate and Deleted Scenes – Party Time (Upscaled SD – 1:18)
- Alternate and Deleted Scenes – Lock Picking (Upscaled SD – :39)
- Alternate and Deleted Scenes – Air Duct (Upscaled SD – :48)
- Alternate and Deleted Scenes – Alternate Ending (Upscaled SD – 1:11)
- Domestic Trailer (HD – 1:41)
- International Trailer (Upscaled SD – 1:59)
- Image Gallery (HD – 57 in all)
- Easter Egg (Upscaled SD – 91:17)
The first commentary featuring director Richard Friedman and Michael Felsher is a pleasant discussion between the two about Friedman’s background, the making of the film, and his thoughts on it. The second commentary features Arrow Video’s Ewan Cant and author Amanda Reyes. Though they speak lightly and don’t take it too seriously, they certainly delve further into the ins and outs of the production, including the cast and crew, the content of the film, and the original script before it was re-written prior to filming. The third commentary is composed of two audio interviews, both conducted by Michael Felsher, with composer Stacy Widelitz and associate producer Robert J. Koster. The interviews are presented separately and feature the two men talking about their careers and their experiences making the film, as well as other films that they’ve been a part of. Both offer lively and loose conversations with plenty of details.
Shop ‘Til You Drop is a great new documentary by Red Shirt Pictures about the making of the film, featuring new interviews with writers Tony Michelman and Scott J. Schneid, screenwriter Tony Kayden, director Richard Friedman, actors Derek Rydall and Gregory Scott Cummins, and special make-up effects artist Matthew Mungle. The Vandals Go to the Mall features then-musician and producer Joe Escalante, who discusses how his band The Vandals broke into the music scene, hearing their records play on the radio, working with Penelope Spheeris on Suburbia and Dudes, and creating Phantom of the Mall’s theme song. The Alternate and Deleted Scenes are taken from the TV version of the film. The Image Gallery consists of 57 production stills, behind-the-scenes photos, promotional photos, posters, newspaper clippings, and home video artwork stills. The Easter egg can be found by pressing right when Alternate and Deleted Scenes is selected, which will play an SD video master of what Arrow Video calls Eric’s Secret “Subterranean” Cut of the film. According to the opening text, it’s a slightly different edit of the film that differs from the theatrical and TV cuts—the main differences being the security guard stabbing that takes place after the main titles, and a different card for the film’s title. The rest appears to be the same as the theatrical cut (as far as I can tell). Also included via BD-ROM is the 96-page original script by Scott J. Schneid and Tony Michelman, as well as a 24-page set of visual effects storyboards. Both are presented as .PDF documents.
DISC TWO: TV & “PHAN” CUTS
- TV Cut (HD and Upscaled SD – 88:36)
- “Phan” Cut (HD and Upscaled SD – 96:18)
The TV Cut of the film is presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio and adds footage exclusive to the TV version back into the main presentation. It features an alternate opening and ending, excises the gore and slight bit of nudity, and adds a few extra scenes and alternate takes. The “Phan” Cut is presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio and attempts to use footage from both versions, even adding artificial grain to the TV footage to make it appear a little more seamless, though it couldn’t incorporate a couple of the alternate takes or ending. These, as well as the “Subterranean” Cut from the first disc, bring the number of versions of the film in this set up to four.
The two discs sit inside a clear amaray case with six lobby card reproductions and reversible artwork: new artwork by Justin Osbourn on the front and the original theatrical artwork on the reverse. Also included is a double-sided poster featuring the same artwork options on each side and a 60-page insert booklet featuring cast and crew information, the essays Ears Are Extra: An Appreciation of Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge by Daniel R. Budnik and The Midwood Mall and the End of an Era by Amanda Reyes, the original productions notes, and restoration information. All of this material is housed within a rigid slipcase with the new artwork on the front and a recreation of the back cover of the Fries Home Entertainment VHS artwork on the reverse.
For a film with such a small cult following, Arrow Video’s multiple presentations of Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge, as well as the excellent extras package that accompanies them, definitely enhances the appreciation of the film more than anything else. And for long-time fans, this is the ultimate “Phan” package that they’ve been waiting for.
- Tim Salmons