Poor Robert Englund was so determined to be more than Freddy Krueger by the end of the 80s (although, he’ll always be Willie from V to me). So what did he do? He directed a horror movie in 1988 (976-EVIL – my blog here), and then starred in a bland adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera, in which he looks, sounds, walks, and even throws out one-liners before his murders like Freddy Krueger!
When this movie begins, you think you’re going to get a sort of modern adaptation of the Gaston LeRoux classic. We’re in New York City—you even see the wonderful red glow of the Tower Records sign on the street (screw you itunes)! Jill Schoelen is an aspiring opera singer. Jill Schoelen is quite the scream queen, appearing in numerous horror films at the end of the 80s/early 90s. Jill Schoelen is a cute, mousy, modern chick, but the Phantom is supposed to fall for a classic beauty. Jill Schoelen is so miscast.
Schoelen’s librarian friend, played by fricking Molly Shannon, finds an old piece of music—written by a psychotic killer a century before. Schoelen goes to the theater and auditions with it…and then gets bonked by a falling sandbag! This is a catalyst for sending us back to 1800s London! WTF? This is a period piece after all! Schoelen is still the same character, only now she’s an understudy for a major diva at the London Opera House.
Freddy—I mean, the Phantom, is seen sewing fresh skin onto his gory face. See, Phantom Krueger made a deal with the devil—his music will be famous, his face, not so much. So now he’s all crispy looking…just like Freddy Krueger. There’s no Phantom mask in this film. Phantom Krueger just sews on a new face and goes out on the streets. In fact, this movie sort of becomes The Ripper of the Opera, feeling at times more like a movie about Jack the Ripper than the Phantom. He skulks around in a black cape in the dark shadows and delivers a pretty high body count. At one point he even uses a fricking whip as one of his weapons! HUH? And clearly he traded his face for more than just groupies, because he seems superhuman and appears to teleport. And somehow, he even makes a man bleed from the eyes in a sauna just by wrapping a towel around his face.
Phantom Krueger does not come face to face with Schoelen. He just talks to her from the shadows in the opera house, and she considers him her guardian angel. He makes sure the bitchy diva can’t go on. When Schoelen goes on in her place, he sits in a box up top and has these, I don’t know, operagasms as she’s lip syncing…um…singing.
When Phantom Krueger eventually gets Schoelen to his underground dwelling to coach her, all I could think was, who the frick could sing in this dank environment? My allergies were triggered just thinking about it.
The last half hour of Phantom of the Opera is mostly a chase through the underground tunnels. Phantom Krueger’s dwelling goes on fire, Schoelen is knocked to the ground…and wakes up on the stage floor in New York City where she was auditioning in 1989. She’s okay, but the director of the show is leaning over her. Guess who it is….
Schoelen must take on Phantom Krueger in the modern world and destroy his haunting music, which he now stores on floppy disc! Phantom Krueger is so uber 80s cool.
Roll credits. Roll Gaston LeRoux over in his grave….