Even with wide-ranging radar like I have, there are tons of indie horror flicks that slip by each year without my ears ever catching wind of them…and I hate that. Granted, here at the ‘Corpse we keep our ears to the ground, and get introduced to a lot more than some, but I still always pine for those little flicks that I miss, always with the hopeful thinking that any one of them could be that next gem in the rough.
Christopher Smith reached out to me with his feature film Phantom Vibrations — and right away I was like “Hmmm…haven’t heard anything about this one”, so I was intrigued.
Sarah and her husband are trapped in the all-too-familiar throes of that dead space in so many marriages — they’re not unhappy, per se, but their intimate lives have fizzled significantly. Sarah tries everything short of actually calling out her husband on his seeming lack of interest, and finally, at the behest of a friend, decides to try out the “Phantom Vibrations” app — an app that gives lonely people a “companion”…for phone sex, conversation, whatever. Sarah is a little put off by the idea at first (seems really weird), but eventually she checks out the free trial offer, and has some decent conversation with her “companion”. He’s attentive, wants to make her happy…and lets her call the shots. After a very…er…satisfying exchange, however, things get really strange. A considerably….odd package is delivered, along with strange suggestions as to how she and her husband could get the spark back…suggestions that turn darker and darker as Sarah looks deeper and deeper into herself. Are the horrible thoughts she’s thinking her own, or suggestions of the app? Is something sinister at work? Or was it within her, all along?
This film is hard to pin down in terms of genre — although I can certainly see the horrific elements in it, it’s not your traditional horror. However, what it is is female empowerment, shaded by the ever-present desire to fit in and have a “normal” relationship, coupled with the strength of sexuality and what that strength can make a person become. We watch Sarah (played very well by Tara Edminsten) go from frustrated housewife to thinker of dark, horrific thoughts — all bubbled out from the power of her sexuality, awoken by the suggestive power of a calm, friendly voice on a phone. The real monster here is repressed sexuality and frustration, but the “Phantom” is the catalyst that brings her darker nature to the surface. That much of a psychosexual theme is a hell of a lot to put into an indie film, and my hat’s off to Smith for his writing, and courage to go where he went with this flick. It’s got its shortcomings, of course — but these, I felt, were made up for by the sheer strength of the underlying plot of the film.
Now for that “Behind The Scenes” twist I mention in the tag — after I checked this one out, Smith revealed to me that the film, in it’s entirety, was shot and edited on an iPhone, with a budget of less than a thousand bucks, and other than Edminsten and a couple other actors (of which he played a couple roles himself), he did it all by himself. That shows a level of dedication and determination that warms me li’l ol’ heart folks…I’d love to see what this guy could do with a big budget.
Like I said, this film is steeped in some heavy sexual content — I of course don’t mean exploitatively explicit (it’s not a porno, folks…not even close), but the overall tone and themes are very sexual; also, it’s not a blood ‘n’ guts extravaganza, so for the average horror fan, it may not hit many buttons…but I found a pretty intriguing and brave story here, and if you’re the type that doesn’t mind trading off bells and whistles for a compelling narrative, you might find the same value in this flick that I did. Is it that elusive “diamond in the rough” I mention? Well, mebbe not in the purest horror-flick sense…but it did catch me off guard with a bold, intriguing script and a lot of creativity…so you’ll have to decide that for yourselves.
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