Man does not live by Fred alone. After the smashing success of A Nightmare of Elm Street (1984) and four sequels, Robert Englud was probably looking for a different role to play. He found it in Erik Destler, the Phantom. Granted The Phantom is Freddy Krueger-esque. However, the character is much more complex than his Elm Street cousin. Englud does a superb job in bringing The Phantom to life, imbuing the character with a sense of menace, passion and just a touch of crazy.
21 Century Film Corporation obviously had a big budget to work with. This version of The Phantom of the Opera is beautiful to look at, filled with rich imagery and lots of dark touches. Kudos to director Dwight H. Little [Halloween 4, Free Willy 2] for establishing a dark and ominous mood throughout the film that is filled with tons of artistic flourishes as well. This version of The Phantom of the Opera has much more in common with Lon Chaney's monster (192) than it does with its Broadway incarnation. Englund brings the evil big time and it suits the story well.
The film cleverly starts out in modern times with a cameo by Molly Shannon [Saturday Night Live] who is the accompanist for Christine. Christine is auditioning for an opera company when a freak accident at the theater results in her being hit on the head. This transports her to an older place and time where most of the story takes place. Jill Schoelen is good as Christine. However, we is no match for Englund. I would have much rather seen another 80's actress in this role who may have brought more passion and power to the role. I was also pleased to see a young Bill Nighy [Underworld] make an appearance as well. He's usually a commanding presence on screen and his role in Phantom is no exception.
Kudos to the make up and special effects department for lots of gory and squirm-worthy touches. It's nice to see that the makers of this film realize how dark a story this actually is. Yes, there is romance but it borders more on obsession than love. I think this film has been underrated by critics and deserves to be seen by more people. It is a lost gem of the 80's. Don't miss it!
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.