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Phantom Racer

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    Ian Jane
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  • Phantom Racer

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    Released by: Vivendi
    Released on: 02/16/2010
    Director: Terry Ingram
    Cast: Nicole Eggert, Greg Evigan, Brenna O'Brien, Winston Rekert, Chad Willett, Adam Battrick
    Year: 2009
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    Phantom Racer may be made out to look like The Fast And The Furious meets Ghost Rider based on the cover art but in reality, it's more like a movie Kenny Rogers might have made before he had his horrible plastic surgery, back when he was making hokey feel good dramas with frequent flourishes of wholesome comedy.

    Set in the mountains of rural Oregon (or, British Columbia doubling for it), well known as a hotbed of stock car racing activity, two young men at the top of their game, JJ Sawyer (Greg Evigan) and Cutter (Adam Battrick), compete for the cup and the heart of a moderately attractive blonde woman named Tammy (Nicole Eggert). Racing, being the dangerous sport that it is, can be a cruel bitch when it wants to be, however, and the race ends not with a victory lap but with an explosion that kills Cutter and ends JJ's career. Racked with guilt over pushing his car too fast and taking Cutter's life, he calls it quits and takes a job driving a truck. When that truck breaks down outside the town his life crumbled apart in fifteen years later, the local sheriff, Tom Hodges (Winston Rekert), he's referred to the garage run by Cutter's brother, Cliff (Chad Willett), who has just finished rebuilding his late brother's car.

    When, just after JJ's arrival back in town, Cliff gets his head cut off Hodges figures JJ must be the man behind it, but soon figures out he's got a rock solid alibi. A few more bodies pile up - a kid gets sucked into the trunk of a car and ground into meat and another has his chest caved in by the seat belt - and Hodges is unsure what's going on, while JJ bonds with Tammy's daughter, Jesse (Brenna O'Brien) and instantly becomes her new life coach while he tries to save everyone from the car that seems to be possessed by Cutter's pissed off rampaging ghost.

    In between crazy gore scenes (highlighted by a bit where a red shirt gets his face carved off by windshield wipers) that never could have played during the movie's original broadcast on the SyFy Channel we're treated to the touching drama that plays out between JJ, Tammy, and Jesse, the troubled teenager who just wants to know her real father, even if she's not entirely sure who that man could be (can you figure it out? It's really not hard). JJ, in Kenny Rogers nice southern (or Pacific Northwestern) guy mode, fits the bill perfectly and arrives just in time to save the only woman who ever mattered to him, who coincidently doesn't seem too put off by the fact that her husband just had his head cut off by a ghost car.

    But yeah, there are those gore scenes, quite a few of them in fact, each one nasty enough to put this puppy firmly in R-rated territory where it not for its straight to video roots. These scenes are distinctly at odds with the film's odd family values and morality and as such we've got a film that varies in tone so drastically that you can't help but wonder just where all of this came from. On top of that, the opening car wreck (and a few other scenes) is done with such bad video game style CGI effects that it almost feels like you're watching a cartoon. What a weird, screwy movie this turned out to be, one that's completely terrible in almost every way but so entirely watchable for those same reason. It's too competent to be 'so bad it's good' material, too hokey to work as a horror film, too gory to be a family stock car drama and too erratic to take seriously but once you shut your brain off and go with it, it's kind of fun.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Phantom Racer arrives on DVD in a 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. There's a little bit of shimmering evident on the picture but aside from that it looks quite good. There aren't any issues with mpeg compression artifacts nor are there any problems with print damage, dirt, or debris. Color reproduction looks nice and accurate and skin tones appear quite lifelike. There are some scenes that show some edge enhancement but thankfully it's not a constant problem, rather a sporadic one. Aside from that, Phantom Racer looks very good.

    Audio options are supplied in English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound with no optional provided. The audio quality is pretty good on this release with the dialogue staying clean and clear throughout the film. It's never a problem understanding the performers and the levels are all properly balanced. Surrounds are used well during the attack scenes to heighten the tension and bass response is strong, particularly during the scenes where the bear growls.

    Aside from some trailers for other Vivendi DVD releases and a static menu with chapter stops, this release is completely barebones.

    The Final Word:

    As goofy as it all is (and it's really, really goofy), Phantom Racer is passable enough b-grade entertainment. Vivendi's DVD release hasn't got much to offer but it looks and sounds decent enough. If goofy kills, bad CGI and a predictable plot sound like your idea of a good time, by all means, check it out.
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