The Phantom of the Megaplex (2000)


USA. 2000.


Director – Blair Treu, Teleplay – Stu Krieger, Producer – Christopher Morgan, Photography – Derek Rogers, Music – Bill Elliott, Visual Effects Supervisor – Dan Schmit, Special Effects Supervisor – Brock Joliffe, Production Design – Susan Longmire. Production Company – The Disney Channel


Taylor Handley (Pete Riley), Jacob Smith (Brian Riley), Caitlin Wachs (Karen Riley), Corinne Bohrer (Julie Riley), Mickey Rooney (Movie Mason), Ritch Hutchman (Shawn MacGibbon), John Novak (George), Colin Fox (Wolfgang Nedermeyer), Joe Pingue (Merle), Julia Chantrey (Terry ‘Scary Terri’ Tortora), Joanne Boland (Hillary ‘Hillary Honey’ Horan), Lisa Ng (Lacy ‘Racy Lacy’ Ling), Heather Bertram (Caitlin), Jeff Berg (Donny), Ellen Ray-Hennessy (Tory Hicks), J.L. Stocker (Mark ‘Question Mark’ Jeffries), Ricky Mabe (Rick ‘Ricky Rules’ Leary), Carlo Rota (Tyler Jesserman)


17 year-old Pete Riley is assistant manager at The Grande multiplex. The theatre is reputedly haunted by the phantom of a late projectionist. The Grande has been chosen as the site of the premiere of the Hollywood movie ‘Midnight Mayhem’ and the owner is demanding absolute perfection of the staff for the occasion. Pete’s younger brother Brian and sister Karen come to the movies while their mother goes on a date, causing embarrassing problems for him. Brian has also given a pass to Caitlin, a girl he is keen on, however the bullying Donny has decided that he wants to take Caitlin away instead. As the time of the premiere nears, the mysterious Phantom appears to be trying to sabotage screenings in every theatre.

The Phantom of the Megaplex is a Disney Channel children’s movie. In conception, it offers an amusing idea – that of the oft-filmed tale of The Phantom of the Opera (1925) having been relocated to a modern multiplex theatre. Unfortunately, in watching The Phantom of the Megaplex, we never quite get the kid’s version of The Phantom of the Opera that the film promises to be.

Rather than the story of a beautiful understudy being abducted by a romantically obsessed madman who hides his deformed face behind a mask, the film is more about kids running around a multiplex and a series of mysterious accidents. There is nothing even remotely scary in any of this – any suggestion of such has been bled out for the Disney Channel’s children’s audience. What we now have is more of a children’s mystery caper than it is ever a horror film. The revelation of the villain behind it all is a typical kid’s movie piece of improbability.

Certainly, on its own terms, The Phantom of the Megaplex is driven by a bubbly energy. The film at least offers a moderately accurate portrait of life at a multiplex theatre and the various characters working there – about the only thing the employees never seem to do is bitch about earning minimum wage. There is a silly scene with Taylor Handley hitting popcorn into a bucket with a hockey stick. On the other hand, the film fails to work as a postmodern horror film either. When it opens with a series of references to classic horror movies, it has clearly made these up – if the film had used real references it would have located itself much more effectively within the context of horror movie history, not to mention have been a fanboy dream.

The cast are largely unknowns then and since. As the lead kid, Taylor Handley plays with a pouty, pretty boy surliness that is all wrong for the role at hand. The Phantom of the Megaplex does bring out of retirement the lovely Corinne Bohrer, a neglected actress who should be doing the sort of roles that Sarah Jessica Parker and Jennifer Aniston get these days.

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