Phantom of the Mall (1989)

Before this whole internet thing and social media and everyone connected to a screen all the time era that we live in now, teenagers used to gather at a place called “the mall.” It contained everything they needed — a movie theater showing the latest entertainment, a place to buy media like audio cassettes and CDs and VHS tapes, clothing stores, even a full food court with their favorite foods. Yes, it was Amazon before Amazon, and people actually physically met one another. And it wasn’t always awesome, trust me, going to the mall every weekend could actually get pretty boring. That said — there wasn’t much else to do, unless you wanted to sit in front of the TV and watch Blood Sucking Freaks for the 90th time — but that’s just me.

As always, this movie was probably dreamed up in a room that looked like a Peruvian mountain, the air hazy with powder and only sound heard short toots on the drugs that had hours before been inside a balloon that was also inside someone’s asshole. Let’s not dwell — let’s look for that magic moment where a studio exec looks up, his perfect mullet and skin tone contrasting with the pure white haze of the room, upon which he opines, “You know, that Michael Crawford has been on Broadway doing Phantom of the Opera for awhile. But what if teenagers had their own Phantom? Where would he be?” Silence ensues, save for occasional nasal drip. After what seems like epochs, one lone voice rises above the tide: “At the mall. At the fucking mall.” The check is written. The film is made.

Lights. Camera. Sniff. Action.

On the eve of the opening of a new mall, a shadowy man steals a crossbow and kills a security guard. It’s hushed up, as so many people are losing their minds that such an amazing mall is open in their town. It’s probably only the eight mall in Sharman Oaks )the movie was actually shot at the Sherman Oaks Galleria, Westfield Promenade and Valencia Studios), so this is big news.

Melody Austin (Kari Kennell Whitman, Playboy Playmate of the Month February, 1988) and Suzie (The Adventures of Ford Fairlaine and the girl at the craps table in Empire Records) are excited to get good jobs there. That’s when we learn that the killer is Eric (oh yeah, his name is in the subtitle, as if we’re supposed to know who Eric and why he wants revenge), Suzie’s supposedly dead boyfriend, who was lost in the fire that paved the way for the mall. Yep, his family wouldn’t sell and damn progress, now everyone is dead and Suzie has moved on, literally working for minimum wage on the ashes of the man she once had sex with in a room that oddly enough has a fireplace. I’ve been in plenty of houses — I’m not bragging, just stating fact — and I have never seen a teenager have a fireplace in their room before. Maybe it’s trust issues. Perhaps it’s just ridiculous.

To hide his face, Eric slices a mannequin head in half to form the traditional Phantom mask. Anyone that screws with Suzie dies, while he continues to leave her gifts — her favorite flowers, which triggers the above mentioned fireplace fornication flashback; playing her favorite song; even killing Justin (Tom Fridley, Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI), the owner of the mall’s annoying son when he tries to come on too strong to Melody.

Oh that owner of the mall? He’s played by Jonathan Goldsmith, the original Most Interesting Man in the World. Yes, even hyperbolic ad pitchmen had to pay the bills at some point. He’s aided and abetted by Morgan Fairchild, who plays Mayor Karen Wilton. Did you know that in the swinging 70s Morgan was held against her will on two separate occasions? Here she acts like she doesn’t know what’s going on until late in the picture — turns out she’s behind it all and pays the price by being lofting off the third level of the mall and impaled. It’s a wonderful death, as Frank Miller Batman would mutter under his breath.

This movie stars a lot of folks who have obviously written their own IMDB and Wikipedia pages. To wit — star of the show Derek Rydall’s wiki features in-depth accounts of the scripts he’s helped doctor (he’s worked with both Deepak Chopra and Nick Cage, truly the Alpha and Omega of direct to streaming film making), he’s written two books and he had a near-death experience that he’d love to tell you more about. You should just leave this here, open a new window and read up on it.

Seriously, he invented his own religious laws out of that experience. I can be patient. You can go read this, my silly movie blog will be around and waiting for you.

You know who didn’t write their own Wikipage? Rob Estes, that’s who. The dude is known to every kid who watched USA in the 90s and 00s, because Silk Stalkings always followed Monday Night Raw. He was also in the 1998 movie Terror at the Mall, so if you plan on making a film about bad hombres at the mall, well, call Rob. Or his agent.

Oh yeah. Pauly Shore is in this, doing Pauly Shore things, acting as Pauly Shore. There was a time — oh, let’s call it 1989  to 1994 — when these things were allowed to go unpunished. I feel the same way about Mr. Shore as I do about Limp Bizkit (ironically, Pauly was in their videos for “N 2 Gether Now” and “Break Stuff”). My wife adores them all; I wish endless psoriasis on all of their mons pubises.

And there’s Ken Foree. He’s in this, sure. But this is not the nadir of his career, one that has spanned films like Death Spa and the woeful oeuvre of Rob Zombie. His appearance in Lords of Salem will make you want to take last week’s paycheck and send it to him in the hopes that he never need appear in such a film again. But I digress.

Eric finally realizes that Suzie is falling for Rob Estes, so he plants a bomb that will wipe out the whole mall, but not before he dispatches a piano player with a snake that bits his dick off and shoots the Most Interesting Man in the World with a flaming arrow into a very conveniently arranged wall of flammable containers. It’s the most 80s explosion, in a very 80s movie, complete with folks doing picture perfect flips to their death versus realistically falling.

Does it work? It depends on how old you are. Are you nostalgic for a simpler time when piano players would tickle the ivories for old ladies while everyone got school clothes at Chess King? Did you ever rock some Bugle Boys? Remember when Tiffany toured and played your mall? Then you’re going to love this.

Young folks — you are the reason why 25% of all the malls are closing in the US in the next five years and I’ll never be able to physically go into an FYI store again. It’s enough to make me want to emulate Eric, but I’d have nowhere to go. What could I do, send Snapchats of my burned up forehead and threaten you with cyber bullying?

One last bit of IMDB interest. I just love this trivia, which makes little to no sense:

The mall in this movie was actually based on a real mall, the Kirkgate Shopping Mall in Bradford, England. Owing to a dispute with security officers, the Kirkgate Mall refused to be acknowledge in the end credits.

This mall looks no different than any other mall. And if those guards get out of hand, they should just shoot ’em with a crossbow. This movie has taught me how well this works. But watch out for that one guard. You know the one. Weird sunglasses. One earring. Likes to tell you that he set your old boyfriend’s house on fire and poured gasoline all over you, too.

So where can you find a copy of this? Well, you can’t go to the mall. We got ours from our friends at http://vhsps.com and it’s a great quality copy. Or you could just watch Morgan Fairchild die below, thanks to the link I found at the batshit insane site http://cinemorgue.wikia.com/wiki/Cinemorgue_Wiki which has told the internet since 2001 who has died in what movie and how. Thank you for your service, Cinemorgue!

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