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Phantom Brother

USA 1988
produced by
William Szarka, Paul Grossman (executive)
directed by William Szarka
starring John Gigante, Jon Hammer, Patrick Molloy, Mary Beth Pelshaw, Ben DiGregorio, Dallas Monroe, Peter Is, Vinny Grillo, Cheryl Hendricks, Norman Siopis, Gabriel Bronsztein, Tim Moran, Jo Milroy, Nora Maher, Paul J.Kelly, Rob Koch, Hope Minozzi, Matt Crisfield, Asaph Livni, Richard Minozzi jr, Heather Koch, Kristin Koch, Chris Kalenowski, Vanessa Russo, Arnold Gragiulo, Stephan M.Rathsack, John Keogh, Joyce Gustafson
story by William Szarka, screenplay by Joseph Santi, music by John Wager, special makeup effects by Arnold Gragiulo

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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A trio of teens (Cheryl Hendricks, Norman Siopis, Gabriel Bronsztein) get killed off in an allegedly haunted house by a masked maniac (Jon Hammer) and his family (Jo Milroy, Nora Maher), but somehow the murders are all covered up by Able (John Gigante), the normal family member as it seems, who even manages to keep the teens' friend Jill (Mary Beth Pelshaw) from going to the police - instead he starts dating her.

Able is a poor kid, you know, as after the death of his parents, he spent some time in an asylum, and since his release he has bercome a foster child of the Hickmans (Ben DiGregorio, Dallas Monroe, Peter Is, Vinny Grillo), a gang of greedy hillbillies who are after Able's family fortune that's supposed to be hidden in the haunted house - the very haunted house where Able tries to keep his thought-dead family in check - which is of course a bit of a problem, since Able's relatives kill everyone who comes to the house, and for some reason, the house has an amazing number of visitors ...

Eventually, Dr Van Dam (Patrick Molloy) from the asylum Able was at decides to check up on him - and upon arriving at the haunted house, he finds the remains of the Hickmans, who have just decided to search the house on their own. But he also finds Able, whom he now convinces that he alone is responsible for all the killings, with his thought-dead but living family members being just a figment of his imagination. However, Doc Van Dam is not really interested in bringing Able back to the asylum or curing him, he just wants to get his hands on the family treasure ... which amounts to no more than a Dollar, 14 Cents, since Able has spent everything else on expenses that had to do with his killings, including plastic bags for the corpses, cleaning supplies, new clothes and shoes - the last thing a killer wants is a blood-stained outfit, right? - and the like. Able and the Doc get into a fight, in which Able is able to kill the Doc ... however, it seems Dr Van Dam has cured him after all, since his visions of his dead family members have vanished.

Now being on the sane side again, it would be a perfect time to take his relationship with Jill to the next level (meaning sex) - however, it is now that she turns out to be his murderous long-lost sister ... ouch.

 

Upon viewing Phantom Brother, one can't help but notice that the film was made on the very cheap, shot on camcorder most probably with amateur actors whose enthusiasm not always matches their acting talents (though none of the actors is really awful). Also, the film is seriously lacking any decent production values, and some of the typical 1980's fashion choices are bordering the criminal from today's point of view.

That all said, Phantom Brother is based on a wonderful script, it's probably one of the best-written horror comedies of the 1980's: All the jokes and puns in the script really work (and most of them are pretty original too), the poignant dialogues are extremely well-written, and despite being full of jokes, the whole plot is totally coherent. Add to this a directorial effort that understands comical timing and tries to squeeze some atmosphere out of the limited resources, and you've got a very promising film. Not the landmark horror comedy it could/should have been on a bigger budget, but a film that really shows promise. Too bad none of those involved in the making of Phantom Brother really followed up on it ...

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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In times of uncertainty of a possible zombie outbreak, a woman has to decide between two men - only one of them's one of the undead.

 

There's No Such Thing as Zombies
starring
Luana Ribeira, Rudy Barrow and Rami Hilmi
special appearances by
Debra Lamb and Lynn Lowry

 

directed by
Eddie Bammeke

written by
Michael Haberfelner

produced by
Michael Haberfelner, Luana Ribeira and Eddie Bammeke

 

now streaming at

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Robots and rats,
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love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
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Tales to Chill
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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Tales to Chill
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