Despite the subtitle, Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge is not a sequel. Instead, it is set one year after a tragedy that saw Melody’s (Kari Whitman) boyfriend Eric (Derek Rydall) appear to perish in a house fire. In that year, a super shiny new shopping mall has been built upon the ground, but in the lead up to its big 4th July opening festivities, bodies begin piling up around Melody and her friends. With help from photographer Peter (Rob Estes), Melody uncovers a sinister plot surrounding the mall’s construction and evidence that suggests that Eric might not be dead after all.
If the title didn’t give it away enough, Phantom of the Mall is an eighties skew on Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera. Eric, horribly disfigured in the fire, now lives underneath the Mall, his burns hidden by a mask. By day he monitors the mall’s cameras, keeping an ever-watching eye upon his beloved Melody and working out whilst listening to some excellent eighties synth power ballads. At night he preys upon unsuspecting mall workers, killing them in various ways. The kills themselves are a weird collection of ideas strung together. Some make sense within the context of the setting, such as a security guard ending up splattered by an air vent, others though, are a little bemusing. For example, the mall’s piano player finds himself the victim of a cobra strike whilst on the toilet; quite how this feeds into the overall narrative is hard to pin down. Another issue with the kill sections is Eric’s choice of victims. Many slashers have a theme or connection to the characters that are dispatched, but here, other than being in the mall, there really isn’t much to unite Eric’s prey. Considering the whole film is built around his ‘revenge’, it would make better sense if his targets were connected with his supposed demise. Being coherent was never a prerequisite of an eighties slasher and Phantom of the Mall pushes that as far as it can.
The plot is a little bare and basic, giving limited scope for the cast to work within. Each plays to their stock character trope reasonably well, but don’t give anything extra. Whitman is fine as the film’s version of Christine, the character is a little wet and clearly went on to inspire several Point Horror heroines, but Whitman gives Melody enough to make her bearable. There are still plenty of instances for the audience to shout at her, a mainstay of the slasher generation, as Melody acts in the expected stupid ways. A personal favourite is the moment where she declares her love for Peter, a guy she met only a couple of days prior. This makes little sense on several levels, but the biggest issue is that she has spent a year mourning the deceased love of her life, then just when she realises he might not be dead, runs into the arms of another guy. The move feels forced, and inadvertently shifts the viewer onto Eric’s side.
As with many films made in the eighties Phantom of the Mall makes comments on consumerism and greed. The approach isn’t as nuanced as others, but director Richard Friedman gets his point across. Friedman also offers an unexpectedly female progressive narrative. A key narrative device enters into Melody’s dreams, here we learn about her relationship with Eric and her developing feelings for Peter. They are played as recurring dreams, with characters morphing as the story progresses. The setting for these dreams is the bedroom, the context of the interactions sexual as Melody fantasises about the men in her life ravishing her. Whilst these scenes help Phantom of the Mall fill the eighties expected quota of boobs, it also adds a feminine perspective into sex and sexual desires, something that was still a relatively unheard of concept back in its day.
Filled with a slew of familiar faces of television, Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge starts strong, but quickly gets tangled in its transparent and flimsy plot. The inclusion of some progressive sex dreams and a couple of wacky deaths can’t help the overall execution being silly and sloppy, but the film does make for oddly compelling viewing. Even if that viewing is purely so you can enjoy the synthy power ballad heavy soundtrack.
Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge
Silly and sloppy when compared to some of the eighties’ other slasher offerings, Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge feels rather middle of the road. It’s entertaining in a kitsch throwback way, but doesn’t have enough originality about it to really capture the imagination.
Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge was reviewed at Arrow Video FrightFest 2021. Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge will be released on Blu-ray on 22nd November 2021 via Arrow Video.