The Phantom of death is one of them movies which is a pretty strong all rounder without excelling in any one area, and despite me classifying it as a slasher, it could easily appeal to those wanting a murder mystery or a thriller.
The film is directed by Rugero Deodato, the very same which brought us the far more controversial ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ and ‘Hit and Run’. Despite a change in style his quality filmmaking still shines through.
The plot begins showing the murders of several individuals, and despite not being shown who the killer is, all are tenuously linked to a world renowned composed. Police are baffled however when descriptions and DNA don’t match their suspect. The film then follows the police investigation as they try to entrap the killer as the body count rises.
The plot sounded intriguing to me. For the first half hour things are progressing pretty much as you would expect, more murders, some leads for the police to follow, I didn’t really know who it was or the motive for what they were doing but I figured it was all a build up for the big who-dunnit twist. Then... an impromptu flashback which lasts for around 10 minutes left me thinking ‘what the fuck is going on?!’ My opinion of the movie dropped but I was determined to see it through. Thankfully my perseverance paid off and at around 40 minutes the killer’s identity is revealed and it all made sense again! It’s at this point the movie changes stance and becomes much more like a slasher than the mystery it set itself up as.
As you would expect with Deodato’s reputation, the gore effects in ‘Phantom of Death’ are nicely satisfying. It’s not particularly gory, but some of the murders are quite brutal where both blood and effects are well done. The makeup effects on the main character are also worthy of mention. The styles of murder scenes give the movie a dark, rather than camp, feel which I believe gives the movie a slightly more mature feel than others of the era. This is bolstered by a strong script, good use of locations and an unusually good array on un-heard of actors, which further enhances the film integrity.
Overall ‘Phantom of Death’ is another of those 1980’s movies which was a pleasant surprise. In all honesty I only discovered it by chance when looking at the director’s filmography but I more than enjoyed it, despite the little confusion in the middle. I don’t think its worth paying over the odds for, but if it comes up give it a bash, it’s definitely understated.