By Richard Mogg for Retro Slashers
Oreo cookie delights! Three times I’ve come across this forgotten SOV (Shot On Video) sleeper and three times the tape’s video-box has been covered in mold. The dusty, fuzzy kind. The kind of funk that leaves your hands smelling like garden soil after you slide the cassette into that much-abused, rectangular opening in the front of your VCR. You’d think that after finding the same film from multiple different locations, all covered in the taint of mildew and decades of shelf life, I’d perhaps take this omen as a sign to beware… but I journey on the dangerous side of life. For I am on a mission; a hunt to track down every last SOV horror title I can get my cracked, filthy hands on and enjoy the ba-jeepers out of ‘em. So fill up that 4 gallon soda mug from AM-PM and pour yourself a bowl of that store-bought ‘white cheddar’ popcorn that went stale a week ago… tonight’s retro SOV slasher night!
Four teens go out to the woods to make out (and no, this isn’t the start of that joke about the chicken, the rooster and your sister). These are your older-variety teens however, as all of them are certainly of the age to buy beer… a drink they all seem well familiar with. During their stumblings of both night walking in the forest and their lines from the script, they come across an old abandoned house. The two guys try to convince the two girls to venture inside for a little heavy petting, but one of the girls is sober enough to refuse so we’re left with a couple going in and a couple staying out. Does it matter? Well frankly yes, since the couple inside end up stripped nude and sexed to the max while the couple outside talk and banter like an old married pair – but let’s go back where the business is. After a few minutes of eye-opening mullets and swaying mammary glands, a voyeuristic killer – dressed in all-back except for a half-white half-black mask (hence his Oreo namesake), rushes in and stabs the pair with a butcher knife. Turns out that the abandoned house is actually home to three killer-ghosts, one of which looks like a twisted Girlguides reject who ate too many cookies. There’s also a subplot about the teenaged man-child named Abel who is the only remaining (truthfully alive) survivor of a family car crash who, you guessed it, used to live in the abandoned house. But when you’re watching a slice of 1980’s SOV horror cheese, plot is irrelevant next to the gratuitous violence and camcorder craziness, both of which get their close-ups to really shine here.
It is doubtful that someone would argue for the SOV horror genre’s masterful use of subtle delicacy, but Phantom Brother REALLY forces its audience. Most supernatural slashers are taxing enough… but Phantom Brother is a slap-dingity SOV supernatural slasher-spoof shitfest (try saying that three times!) that shoves everything about it straight into its viewers’ sensory sockets. Dialogue is screamed with the same monotone, brain-seizure inducing force that a character’s death scene usually comes across as a video miracle. Fashions and hair designs are frizzed and hairsprayed directly into the decade the film emerged from, and some scenes stick out like a low limbo-bar for hitting WAY below the belt of acceptability, as when the mullet-sporting man-child utters “this… really… fucking… sucks” after being stabbed into a marinated meatpie. The fact that this guy identically resembles Peter DeLuise from 21 Jump Street is not lost on this reviewer, as this guy rambles and jambles his lines like some greaser punk from the south Bronx. As far as the subplot goes, it does supply the film with a handful of more physical fodder for our three ghosts to slash off, as the members of the inbred ‘family’ that adopted Abel after the car crash are really only interested in Abel’s long lost inheritance (which of course, must be hidden somewhere in the haunted house).
So is there enough here to attract interested viewers? Fate certainly was determined in my case, but I can’t say I’m not proud to see that same moldy box-cover sitting nicely on my VHS shelf (next to Shock Chamber and Streets of Death, naturally). Make no mistake – this is a BAD movie… but one that you’ll curse at through smiles of disbelief and absurdity. This is a slice of SOV horror-cheese history after all, so its freshness is already guaranteed at the moldy box-cover. Long live the Oreo slasher!