Dr Jennifer Pailey (Joanna Going) is driving her errant sister Lisa (Rose McGowan) back to the town where she works as the local M.D., out in the middle of the Colorado mountains. She is determined Lisa should have no outside contact, but when they reach the place it seems strangely quiet, even for a remote area like this. Entering Jennifer's house, she expects her housekeeper to have dinner ready for them, but the woman doesn't seem to be around - oh, yes she is, but she's lying on the floor of the kitchen, dead. Once they adapt to their shock, the sisters quickly realise all is not right here...
If you hear about Phantoms these days, it'll likely be for one of two reasons. The first is that internet meme generated by Kevin Smith's comedy Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, where Ben Affleck playing a different character enthusiastically observed that he was the bomb in Phantoms, yo - drop this into polite conversation and you're guaranteed gales of adoring laughter. The second, and probably more artistically significant reason (but only probably) was the author, Dean R. Koontz, the remarkably prolific writer of a variety of thrillers, horrors and science fiction who was notable for his quantity more than his quality.
Koontz was your man adapting his own novel, a throwback to the nineteen-fifties sci-fi shockers which had set a generation on the edge of its seat: The Thing from Another World, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, that sort of affair, and indeed John Carpenter's remake The Thing looked to be peeking through the influences at various points. That was mostly relegated to the latter half, as the build up was a not bad mystery scenario where the Pailey sisters scout around the town wondering where everyone's got to and occasionally stumbling across a dead body, or a couple of heads dropping down from an oven for shock value. But they cannot stick around here on their own, we need more actors for our ensemble.
After all, didn't we notice none other than respected thespian Peter O'Toole in pride of place at the start of the credits? That said, you'd have a long wait for him to show up, about forty minutes in actually, playing the academic who runs his own cross between The National Enquirer and Fortean Times to espouse his crackpot theories about weird thingies unacknowledged by science. Or are they crackpot theories? Hmm? Well, yeah, they are, but par for the course in a sci-fi movie such as this that any science invented to explain the monsters will be extremely difficult to believe. Anyway, while Peter has been sent for we can rely on Ben Affleck as the Sheriff to provide back up to the damsels in distress, can't we? We could if he hadn't only gone and brought Liev Schreiber.
Oh, and Nicky Katt, who gets about three lines before being devoured by the unknown menace, but then Liev doesn't last too long either, but he does make the most of his scenes as an inexplicably insane deputy who acts like a complete perv towards Jennifer and then looks as if he's about to have sex with one of the corpses. Koontz's motivations for including that are obscure, other than to make him creepy enough to justify what he is transformed into later on, but wouldn't that have been more effective if he'd been y'know, professional when we initially met him? By the time the creatures have revealed themselves, even talking after a fashion, credibility has been roundly defenestrated as our heroes, now joined by O'Toole, hide out in a handy mobile laboratory which just happens to contain a vial of monster-killing antidote, so you can guess how that turns out. Oh, and the monster was a fame hungry, celebrity-seeking flibbertigibbet. One of those films where the opening promises more than the rest delivers. Music by David C. Williams.