Poor Robert Englund was so determined to be more than Freddy Kreuger by the end of the 80s (although, he’ll always by Willie from V to me). So what did he do? He directed a horror movie (976-EVIL) in 1988, 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 Kreuger!
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 Christine, an aspiring opera singer looking for a good piece of music to use for an audition. Jill Schoelen is so miscast. Jill Schoelen is quite the scream queen, appearing in numerous horror films at the end of the 80s/early 90s. But she’s a cute and mousey chick, and the Phantom is really supposed to fall for a proper beauty.
Christine’s librarian friend, played by fricking Molly Shannon, finds an old piece of music—written by a psychotic killer a century before. Christine loves it, goes to the theater and auditions with it…and then gets charged by a falling sandbag! This is a catalyst for sending us back to 1800s London! WTF? This is a period piece after all!!! Christine is still Christine, and 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 Kreuger 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 Kreuger. There’s no Phantom mask in this film. Phantom Kreuger 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 the body count is pretty high in this film. At one point, he takes on some bullies, even using a fricking whip as one of his weapons! HUH? And clearly he got more for his face than just an audience for his music, because he seems superhuman and even 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.
Yet still, the Phantom does not come face to face with Christina. 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 (she screams herself voiceless when he leaves a skinned man in her closet). When Christine goes on in her place, he sits in a box up top and watches her vocal performance, literally having like, I don’t know, operagasms as she’s lip syncing…um…singing.
Eventually, Phantom Kreuger serenades and seduces Christina on the street with a violin, and she gets in his carriage. He takes her to his underground dwelling to coach her, and all I could think was, who the frick could sing in this dank environment? Hello! Allergies. So Phantom Kreuger plays her his song, and she immediately sings it and knows the words, but she can’t tell him why that is. Hm…
The last half hour of the film is mostly a chase through the underground tunnels and some fighting with the Phantom. His dwelling goes on fire, Christine is knocked 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…and it’s Robert Englund! He says she got the part, he takes her to his apartment, he excuses himself to freshen up. Behind closed doors, he starts to sew on a fresh face! It’s the Phantom! He’s still alive 100 years later! When he exits the bathroom all fresh-faced, Christine has turned on his computer and is playing his song. He tells her they shall be together forever. She tears off his face, she stabs him, she grabs his sheet music and a fricking floppy disc with a MIDI rendition of the song from his computer, she runs away, she tosses them in a sewer, she strolls down the street, she hears a very familiar melody on a violin…she turns around to see a street musician standing in the shadows. Roll credits. Roll Gaston LeRoux over in his grave….