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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Day 351: The Phantom Of The Opera

The Phantom Of The Opera
And next he'll be Tevye in "Fiddler On The Roof"

The it seems that every decade or so, there is a revival for The Phantom Of The Opera. It pops up in a new movie or a television show or the soundtrack to the Broadway musical is digitally remastered to 3.0 Dolby surround sound with special guest sousaphone player blah blah blah. I can't say I've ever been a fan of the 1910 story or the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical. I've only seen two musicals in my life and they were Les Miserables and Miss Saigon. Despite my lack of knowledge or feelings toward The Phantom Of The Opera, there is a large swath of people that absolutely love it. Many a Phantom poster has adorned the walls of teens and college students. I suppose the romance factor has a lot to do with it's popularity rather than the the main characters with the disfigured face. The 1925 silent film starring Lon Chaney is considered a true horror classic, but for today's review, I went with something a little different. Something a bit more 1980's. Something a bit more Robert Englund-y.

The Phantom Of The Opera is a 1989 adaptation of the 1910 story written by Gaston Leroux starring Robert Englund (A Nightmare On Elm Street, 2001 Maniacs) as The Phantom Of The Opera/Erik Destler and Jill Schoelen (The Stepfather, When A Stranger Calls Back) as Christine Day. In modern times (read: 1980s), Christine Day is an opera singer preparing for a big audition in New York City. Determined to get the role, Christine seeks out an old and unique piece to help her stand apart from the other singers. With the help from her friend Meg (Molly Shannon, Saturday Night Live, Night At The Roxbury), Christine discovers a piece entitled “Don Juan Triumphant” by an obscure composer named Erik Destler. They learn that Destler had committed a few murders and may have been responsible in the disappearance of a young opera singer. Alone in her apartment, Christine sings the song, causing blood to drip out of the paper, but it is just a hallucination. During her audition, a falling sandbag breaks a mirror and knocks her out and when she awakens, she is in London in 1881. She is now the understudy for a play, where the Phantom Erik Destler teaches her from the shadows. He encourages her to practice, saying that only she can sing the part of Margueritte in the play Faust. Through strange circumstances, Christine gets the role, which causes an uproar in the opera house. It is revealed that the Phantom, much like Faust, has sold his soul to the Devil, granting him the gift of creating beautiful music, but also a horribly disfigured face. Christine's performance is hailed and she celebrates with her fiancee Richard. The next day, her performance is given a poor review and the Phantom kills the reviewer. His obsession with Christine leads to more murders and shows that he has some supernatural abilities. With the murderous Phantom closing in on Christine, will she be able to survive and make it back to her own time?

Pimp Of The Opera

I don't often say this, but who exactly is the audience for this movie? The movie won't appeal to the fans of the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical because it is far too violent and gory. It doesn't really appeal to horror fans either since there are extended scenes of opera singing and general romance. Ultimately, we get a strange mash-up of a few different genres that never mesh well together. The story is pretty faithful to the original, but the plot goes way off through the addition of time travel weirdness. The whole time travel angle is nonsensical and unnecessary. I suppose they were going for an angle to separate the movie from other adaptations, but the modern scenes are so heavily steeped in the 1980s that it looks very dated today. There's no leg warmers or comically giant cell phones, but the clothes and items like synthesizers ooze 1980s grossness. The movie tends to get boring as it makes sure to check off all the important bits and pieces from the story. There's some action and suspense sprinkled throughout, but it's really nothing special.

So who is this movie good for? People with morbid curiosity, like me. I couldn't really believe that Mr. Freddy Krueger himself was in The Phantom Of The Opera. It should be no surprise that Robert Englund could pull off this role. Once could find similarities in the way Englund portrays the Phantom and Freddy, but there are some differences. His Phantom is far more driven and obsessed, lacking the bizarre charm of Freddy Kruger. The film takes a heavy turn towards horror towards the end, which, coincidentally, is the best part of the movie. The makeup used for the Phantom looks good, but it's hard not to compare it to Freddy. I didn't particularly care for Jill Schoelen performance as she seemed confused and out of place for about 90% of the movie. It was fun to see a young Molly Shannon, though, randomly showing up in an obscure horror movie. 

"Does anyone else smell hot dogs cooking?"

The Phantom Of The Opera is a well-known story and trying to add a modern horror twist to it just doesn't work. The whole time-traveling deal is not handled very well and makes me question why they even bothered doing it in the first place. The movie has trouble deciding who it wants to appeal to as we jump from romance, to action, to horror, to musical. Just about every fan of each genre will find things not to like in the movie. The large amount of gore and violence will turn a lot of Phantom fans off and the plodding romance theme will sure to bore horror fans. Robert Englund is very enjoyable, but I was annoyed by Jill Schoelen's lackluster performance. The only real reason to see The Phantom Of The Opera is just to satiate your curiosity. It's a strange idea and certainly very different, but not very good.


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