If nothing else, The Phantom Hour looks as though it was a lot of fun to make. And while the short film doesn’t move the needle forward for spoof cinema in any significant way, it is nonetheless a chuckle-worthy diversion that reminds one of just how much fun grabbing some friends and a video camera can be.
Anna (Raye Richards), Jeff (Connor Sullivan), Denise (Morgan Reynolds), and Bernardo (Dakota Ringer) are four strangers who find themselves, all for different reasons, seated at the dinner table in the horror-movie-macabre home of a creepy dude named Nikolai (Luke Pensabene). “Why are we eating dinner? I’m just here to buy my weed?” asks Bernardo, not so unreasonably.
Nikolai’s bumbling sidekick, Bryce (Brian Butler), soon appears and informs the foursome that there was an apparent mishap in the kitchen and, as a result, the best Bryce can offer to his guests for dinner is some McDonald’s. But as anyone who has ever seen a vampire movie knows the guests, lodgers, and/ or transients are always there to serve as food for the fanged bloodsuckers.
“…four strangers who find themselves…seated at the dinner table in the horror-movie-macabre home of a creepy dude…”
But as anyone who has ever seen a vampire movie spoof, also knows, the creature of the night and his minions always receive their comeuppance somehow. Will the same hold true for Nikolai and Bryce?
The film’s YouTube page indicates that The Phantom Hour is “a dark comedy, Mel Brooks-esque parody of classic horror films.” While not entirely nailing the wry wit that is the Brooks trademark, the movie admirably earns an A for effort. For one thing, Bryce isn’t specific enough to be an outright spoof of any particular vampire sidekick (a parody of Renfield, for example). The character is drawn way too broadly, with Butler shouting his lines and behaving with too much of a modern sensibility.
Nikolai is hardly in the movie, but the four strangers seem to understand what tone the movie is aiming for. That his actors seem to have a better understanding of the material than he does is especially confounding since Butler wrote and directed the film. Richards, Sullivan, Reynolds, and Ringer all work with subtlety and underact, which works in a spoof of this sort. I love the manner in which Richards rolls her eyes or the confused expressions that run across Sullivan’s face.
The Phantom Hour is a painless and fun experiment for the filmmakers and a notch on the developing reels of the actors. Nothing more, nothing less.
"…a painless and fun experiment..."