Editor’s Notes:Phantom Halo is currently out in limited theatrical release.
So, Phantom Halo. In terms of titles, that one’s about as unabashed as they get. It really makes you wonder what the film’s about, though. Is it a paranormal thriller? Is it a found-footage mystery with hints of psychological horror? Is it just a mediocre, self-important, but minimally passable piece of entertainment? Well, it’s one of those, and there are no traces of ghosts or psychological horror to be found.
The script is an unparalleled level of uneven, one that doesn’t come around often.
Phantom Halo is the story of two brothers, Samuel and Beckett, played respectively by Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Luke Kleintank (who coincidentally share backgrounds in TV, Kleintank for the likes of Gossip Girl and CSI, Brodie-Sangster for Game of Thrones). They both struggle in their day-to-day lives, scraping by as their father forces them to coordinate petty thefts as frequently as breakfast. The most common of these coordinated efforts consists of Samuel (Brodie-Sangster) reciting Shakespeare for a crowd as Beckett (Kleintank) promptly picks the pockets of the masses, who are all strangely entranced by a short blonde kid reciting literature as if he’s at a high school audition. The film opens when this scam is presumably well beyond its inception, as income begins to show signs of slowing. This upsets the higher-ups of the operation, and when the boys’ father starts to worry, his tendency to gamble and drink increases.
In the meantime, Beckett and a friend share a money-printing machine, accumulating exorbitant wealth. While this goes on, Beckett seduces that friend’s mother because, according to the way the camera lingers on her half-naked body, she’s hot, and that’s apparently all that matters. In a second meantime, Samuel buys and reads the fictional “Phantom Halo” comic series (there’s the title we were all so captivated by), aspiring to be like the series’ titular hero. Also, Tobin Bell, Jigsaw from the Saw films, plays a mob boss-type, literally named “Smashmouth,” who manages to provide some hammy fun.
Like many others in the crime genre, there’s potential here for something that’s not mediocre at best, yet that potential chooses to be lost among idiocy.
Sound confusing? You’d be correct. The script is an unparalleled level of uneven, one that doesn’t come around often. And, like many others in the crime genre, there’s potential here for something that’s not mediocre at best, yet that potential chooses to be lost among idiocy. The film hopes for each disparate plot thread to near an eventual head come the finale, but when that finally happens, it’s the equivalent of what would result from a nine-year-old having written The Avengers. Everyone’s here, now what?
Remember the Shakespeare I mentioned earlier? Well, it’s not simply a facet of the jumbled narrative, it’s an excuse for director Antonia Bogdanovich to delve into the realm of “art film” for lone scenes of contrived self-importance. For example, the opening scene is a black and white dream sequence set to the Macbeth quote, read in soft narration, “It is a tale. Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Whether or not she’s trying to say something with her scattered dream imagery, the focus of the film is not on those statements. Her 18 minute-long short My Left Hand Man, which is the source material, may have dealt with themes of some sort in a more focused manner, but this certainly doesn’t. I’m not convinced that the film signifies nothing, and I doubt Bogdanovich is an idiot, but Phantom Halo sure is full of sound and fury.
Whether told by an idiot or not, it’s a muddled tale of shady dealings that sorely lacks the properly adept qualities late-night crime stories require. But, as a showcase for botched writing, look no further.
Phantom Halo is a muddled tale of shady dealings that sorely lacks the properly adept qualities late-night crime stories require. But, as a showcase for botched writing, look no further.