Could have been a Cannon!
Yes, this slasher take on the Gaston Leroux classic was going to be directed by Twins of Evil director John Hough and man, what a movie that would have been. That version was set in 1881, but the new movie — which was transferred to the 21st Century Film Corporation, which let’s be honest was just Menahem Golan’s severance package — was moved to the present day and seen as an opportunity to have a slasher franchise with a follow-up already planned The Phantom of the Opera 2: Terror in Manhattan.
That never made sequel is why this movie has an opening and close in modern day New York City. Supposedly, most of the ideas of that sequel show up in Dance Macabre.
The smart part of this film — which ended up being directed by Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers maker Dwight H. Little — is casting Jill Schoelen as our heroine, Christine.
In the beginning, she’s an opera singer seeking a unique audition song and her agent (Molly Shannon!) introduces her to Erik Destler’s “Don Juan Triumphant.” Never mind that Destler was a killer who may have also been responsible for the disappearance of another young opera singer. When she does use the song, a sandbank knocks her out, shatters a mirror and sends her back to 1885 and into the world of Destler.
Making things even stranger is the knowledge that Destler sold hissoul to the Devil in exchange for people losing his music. Of course, Satan gives him what he wants, but disfigures his face so that his music will be the only thing that people love him for; they will never see or hear him performing it.
Seeing as how this ended up in our slasher month, it earns its way there by having a Phantom that skins people alive and uses their skin to cover his own. He can also only be killed when his music is destroyed. And even when Christine comes back to our time, he will find a way to follow her.
I’ve always avoided this movie and after watching it, I can see the error of my ways. It’s not great — it’s a late 80s horror movie looking for a place to belong. But the makeup is great, Englund is having fun and Schoelen is always an engaging and perfect horror actress.