My big plan for this past Black Friday was to quietly (if you don’t include multiple listens to DEBBIE GIBSON’S “Electric Youth”) stay indoors and spend exactly zero pennies virtually visiting the eighties shopping center that exists perfectly preserved within 1989’s PHANTOM OF THE MALL: ERIC’s REVENGE. Being so lazy as to avoid so much as getting up from my chair, I opted to look the flick up on YouTube rather than dig through my rat pile of VHS tapes. Some Earth angel had posted a high quality DVD rip and I heartily dug into it only to be abruptly taken aback by a scene I had no recollection of. Wait a minute, since when was titular Eric an accomplished gymnast before his fateful fiery accident? Something wasn’t ringing right as I had no memory of the awkward (not to mention ultimately pointless) pre-credits sequence I suddenly found myself confronted with.
Shortly thereafter I was doing something only a true film nerd would do, I was watching the VHS tape of PHANTOM OF THE MALL in unison with the DVD version available on YouTube. What I discovered is that the two versions are strikingly different! I’m sure that this information holds little value to anyone but I’m pasting it up here for posterity in case a visitor from another planet needs such knowledge for a book report on people with cinema-centric mental disorders…
Turns out the VHS version has all of the gore, including a delicious decapitated head sequence and that the DVD version is nearly bloodless and replaces much of the violence with a side story involving the love life of a character portrayed by PAULY SHORE. I guess it goes without saying which version I’m partial to. Even if I were to pretend to prefer character development to people’s skulls being crushed in trash compactors, the VHS also includes a segment not found in the DVD edit involving a piano player in a bathroom stall being bitten in the genital region by a king cobra snake. I’m still unclear whether the cobra was a trained minion set upon the piano man as a part of his master Eric’s revenge plan or if the sinister serpent was randomly operating on its own behalf but the fact remains that the version I shall henceforth refer to as the “cobra edit” of PHANTOM OF THE MALL provides the superior experience. Actually there is no reason that a talented and industrial editor could not compile the two versions into an ultimate edit unless the reason that nobody cares counts.
In closing, PHANTOM is tons of fun not due to quality so much as its unadulterated bizarreness. I mean, Eric the phantom utilizes PATRICK SWAYZE-esque roundhouse kicks when confronted! How is that not going to be awesome? Plus, the baddie adult who is responsible for disfiguring Eric, dampening his romantic life and building a mall on top of the wreckage of his home, is played by none other than JONATHAN GOLDSMITH who has since grown a beard and has become famous as the “most interesting man in the world” in those commercials for….. (Googling)…beer (Huh, they’re selling beer in those commercials?).
And here comes lovely MORGAN FAIRCHILD of THE INITIATION OF SARAH fame who portrays an opportunistic and super shady mayor! If visiting a universe in which MORGAN FAIRCHILD is mayor is not enough for you, there’s also some truly impressive stunt work involving people falling from great heights within the mall. Oh, and the great KEN FOREE as a security guard! I probably should have opened with that selling point.
The only real problem with PHANTOM, which was directed by the same guy who did DOOM ASYLUM (RICHARD FRIEDMAN) is that there are little scares and there is zero sense of suspense. I don’t know if it’s the unconvincing make-up or the fact that you can’t help but feel sympathy for poor Eric but there’s never even the mildest tang of menace (except for when that cobra is around of course). I shall leave you with the DVD rip from YouTube but really folks, if you truly want to enjoy PHANTOM OF THE MALL: ERIC’s REVENGE track down that VHS tape! It’s (decapitated) heads above the talky alternate jam.