I like to think of myself as a smart woman. We’re not talking Stephen Hawking levels or Ken Jennings knowledge, but I can finish the occasional crossword puzzle and feel as though once I study my world geography, I may one day stand a chance at getting to the second round of a Jeopardy! tryout.
That being said, when you tell me there’s a movie out there about a possessed race car that brutally slaughters anybody near it using car parts, I’m opening my DVD player before you can say Nascar.
Quick Plot: JJ Sawyer and [First Name Not Written Down Or On IMDB] Cutter were good pals driven apart by the competitive nature of drag racing and the wandering eye of Tammy. Nervous about losing endorsements, Cutter has his mechanic brother Cliff mess with JJ’s car, not realizing the whole “we’re racing in really tight quarters and your car flipping over might make MY car flip over and blow me up.”
Seventeen years later, JJ has long left the race car business and his small town for the lonely life of a truck driver. When he has some mechanical trouble on the road, JJ ends up right back home and in Cliff’s garage. Cliff has since married Tammy (his long-late brother’s girlfriend) and become a stepfather to her SEVENTEEN YEAR OLD daughter. I SAY THAT IN CAPS because, well, let’s just say it takes a certain truck driver a whole lot of exclamation points before he does some math.
Before we can get to paternity confusion, Cliff has to show off how he’s restored the very car his brother died in. Because, you know, some people like to that kind of stuff.
Cliff and JJ get into a little scuffle, leading to some of JJ’s blood dripping onto the death car’s windshield. When something like that happens, the only possible outcome is that the car awakens with the vengeful spirit of the guy that died in it and is now going to gorily slaughter anybody that comes near it.
This is the kind of movie that seems to be custom-made for me.
Why, you ask? Oh come now, if I said, “first death involves an unruly teen being seatbelted to death,” you’d get it. When I add, “and then the deputy gets his ear windshield wiped off, and then most of his face gets windshield wiped off, and then JJ makes a joke about not shooting the sheriff or the deputy,” you’d say, “Wait...Emily...did you dream this movie?”
Though it’s a Long Wait on Netflix, I assure you that Phantom Racer does indeed exist in all its ridiculous glory. Directed by TV movie maven Terry Ingram, this is a film that never really tries to be anything but itself. Yes, it’s a killer car movie starring actors best known for ‘80s sitcoms. Yes, it’s about a sentient race car. Yes, it’s really, really really, very really stupid. But in its pre-Sharknado style, it falls in the same campy but not full-out self-parody SyFy style of something like Snake Island. You will not be scared by this one, and you may roll your eyes after one decapitation too many, but if you want something stupidly gruesome, this is your ride.
I mean, guys, come on: windshield wiper death. What more do you want?
For as much as the goofy tone is justified, the fact that no one in the film seems the slightest upset by the fact that husbands and fathers are being brutally murdered is a tad hard to swallow
Makeup artists can make really good money
When you singlehandedly stop a bank robbery, they will call you sheriff
Drag racing announcers are especially good at establishing character relationships and background exposition for the audience
When your film stars Greg Evigan, it doesn’t matter how insensitive it is: you simply cannot NOT let your teenage character make a My Two Dads joke
A haunted car is still just a car
Look, as I often say, Phantom Racer really isn’t a good movie, but that didn’t stop me from having a blast with it. The film is in no way worth a buy, but if it ever pops on your streaming system or cable box, it pretty much demands you stop everything, make some gourmet popcorn, pop open your finest bottle of Andre and get the night rolling.