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Over-the-top horror, Koontz style
on 7 July 2005
"Writing PHANTOMS was one of the 10 biggest mistakes of my life, ranking directly above the incident with the angry porcupine and the clown, about which I intend to say nothing more."
- author's afterword, US paperback edition
Although Koontz wrote several books under pen names in the interim, PHANTOMS was the first book under his own name since WHISPERS. Since the publishing powers-that-be squawked whenever he produced a book differing from the previous book's perceived genre, he deliberately attempted a very different book from WHISPERS here. Ironically, PHANTOMS shackled him to the horror genre label for years to come.
PHANTOMS was meant to be an over-the-top horror story, with a full-blown monster but with a scientific explanation for everything that takes place. (Good luck working *that* out before the Big Exposition Scene, though.) Whether or not there are supernatural aspects to the monster, there are definitely scuzzy human villains littering the landscape. To crank up the tension, the story takes place in a very compressed timeframe once the action begins.
Drive-in totals (as Joe Bob Briggs, movie reviewer extraordinaire, would say)
- Small town? Check.
- Everybody missing except a handful of main characters? Check.
- Dismembered, mostly missing bodies, with occasionally body parts artistically planted where the characters have just passed through to add that special "we're being watched by a psycho" touch.
- Romance subplot, being Koontz.
Mind you, a lot of that would also apply to JURASSIC PARK, which didn't seem to be hurting any the last I knew. Still, if you read this one alone on a dark night, don't come crying to me if you can't sleep. You've been warned.
Not my cup of tea, but tastes differ.
Frankly, if Koontz didn't have extraordinarily bad luck with Hollywood (his plots generally seem to be dismembered in translation), I'd have expected this to make a successful film; Koontz tends to use lots of concrete visual imagery, which *ought* to simplify matters.