Phantasmagoria DVD Review: Great Music and Visuals in Search of a Story

Cosmotropia de Xam’s Phantasmagoria is based on the novel The Omen Complex by Sue R. Lizm. It stars Rachel Audrey as Diane Cooper, an investigative reporter working for radio station KRAK in the United States. She has been sent to Poland to investigate a small town where people are having unexplained delusional visions and fantasies. In Poland, there appears to be only one other person to be seen anywhere – Mari K as Valentina – a young woman who is suffering from weird delusions and who likes to follow Diane around and take her photograph.

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For the first 20 minutes of the film, Phantasmagoria refuses to take itself seriously. Diane Cooper walks around Poland talking into her Dictaphone looking at silly objects and making silly comments about them while a laugh track intrudes upon the ambiance. In one scene, Diane is shopping in a grocery store when she says she is thirsty, grabs dishwashing liquid, and calls it soda. Cue the laugh track. From there on out, the film struggles to find a plot. In Poland, Diane meets Valentina who is psychically fighting with demonic delusions. Valentina switches back and forth between following Diane from a distance while taking her picture and trying to get Diane to leave before it is too late. There is a bad exorcism, and then the film slowly comes to an end. 

Everything Phantasmagoria tries would be good in small doses, but this is a big-doses film. It is guaranteed that if the filmmakers like a line of dialogue or a bit of film or a noise that suits their fancy, then they will run it into the ground. Each and every scene, and every interesting bit of dialogue is run again and again until it is hated. The exorcism scene, which is very reminiscent of The Exorcist’s exorcism scene takes an unacceptably long time to make its point, something like exorcisms are hard on people and take a long time to accomplish. At one point someone in the crew found a fish-eyed lens. It is all fish vision for the next 15 minutes. There are some well-composed images before they are ruined from overuse, and they also found lots of great, ominous locations.

The most interesting component of Phantasmagoria is the music by Mater Suspiria Vision. The music is filled with darkness and depth. It is creepy while being sonically interesting in its ability to add just the right background noise to scenes that really need background noise. The music video included in the bonus materials is basically a “good parts” version of the movie, cobbling together the best sound with the best visuals. But even the music video does not have a story.

Bonus Materials:

  • Five Episodes of Diane Cooper Investigates – short (5 min.) little scenes that mostly revolve around Diane Cooper attempting to figure out her Dictaphone
  • The Contaminated Photos of Valentina Crepax
  • Q & A with Rachel Audrey and Mari K at BUT Film Festival
  • Mater Suspiria Vision – Metamorfose der Bestien (music video)
  • Original Trailer
  • Stills Gallery
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Greg Hammond

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