Roger: “Looks like a shopping center, one of those big indoor malls.”
This bit of expositional dialogue from DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978) always cracks me up. Not only was it clearly added in post-production, but it seems to have been inserted for non-American audiences because shopping malls are as American as apple pie and trying to evade income taxes. And thanks to George Romero’s trendsetting zombie flick, shopping malls turned into fertile ground for horror films. The 80s gave us greater mall madness with classics such as NIGHT OF THE COMET (1984) and CHOPPING MALL (1986). Hell, even the arcade segment in NIGHTMARES (1983) gets my shopper senses tingling.
I don’t know what it is, but give me something scary set in a mall and I’m there. Maybe it is a combination of the familiar and the unknown. You’ve been in all the sprawling shops, but you are forbidden to access the behind-the-scenes. That, combined with the unlimited access to everything, sets my consumer consciousness on fire. So it is hardly a surprise that something titled PHANTOM OF THE MALL got my attention pretty easily when I was a kid. Cashing in on the late 80s Phantom craze (thanks to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical that debuted in England in 1986 and tore up Broadway in 1988), this film is made for those teens plunking down hard cash at the mall theater for the latest FRIDAY THE 13th and is, like, totally awesome.
Although most places list this as direct-to-video, we can show that it at least played theatrically in Salina, Kansas (!) in October 1989: