Director: Ruggero Deodato
Rating: 4.5 / 10
Seen via: Vidmark VHS
Phantom of Death sports one of the most hideous covers on my shelf of tapes. There's Michael York, front and center, pulling an Animorphs-style transformation into ... Donald Pleasence? That's what the names above the portraits seem to suggest, anyway. Then below there's a woman falling through glass, which makes me think this movie wants me to associate it with Suspiria. The title offers no insight into what the hell is happening in this film, even in its native Italian: Un Delitto Poco Comune, or "An Unusual Crime" (according to Google Translate). Due to video store stickers that obscured a large portion of the back of the box, I wasn't aware that this was the work of Ruggero Deodato (Cannibal Holocaust, House on the Edge of the Park) until after buying it and looking it up online. That gave me some hope that at the very least this would be an utter sleaze-fest. For a little while anyway, it certainly seems to go that direction.
Robert Dominici (Michael York) is a renowned pianist with a failing marriage. After his wife is killed on her way back from a tryst, Inspector Datti (Donald Pleasance) vows to track the murderer down. Things become personal when the killer calls up Datti and taunts him, threatening his daughter. Meanwhile, as the killings continue they seem to point toward Robert... is this an elaborate setup? Based on the plot and the way these murders are presented, you might think you're about to watch a giallo. But Deodato was always more comfortable with gritty crime, cannibals, and other less stylish forms of trash, and the film soon becomes something else entirely.
|Also, since this is Ruggero Deodato, expect gushing rivers of blood.|
|"My BRAIN is ROTTING!" (Actual dialogue.)|
The premise is pretty interesting, and the film's willingness to handle it as an outrageous slasher was definitely the right way to go.
Sometimes there's just too much acting from Michael York. It's a shame that Edwige Fenech is underutilized.
I'm pretty sure progeria doesn't turn you into a psychopath. I mean, I hope it doesn't...
Despite the fact that the audio on the tape was seriously damaged and I had to listen to buzzing throughout the entire film, I was interested enough to finish it. This is not a great film, nor one that I'd recommend, but it never feels repetitive and stays entertaining for most of its runtime. This would fit perfectly in a double feature with Lamberto Bava's Delerium if you're looking for a night of trashy Italian post-giallo slashers filled to the brim with overacting.