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  • pumaye7 March 2004
    This movie comes as a refreshing surprise in a world - the horror movies scenario - that is normally very dull and predictable. This is a perfect mixture - perhaps too slow sometimes, but still effective - of a supernatural tale (a couple of eternal avatars who fight one against the other across the space and time) with a classic western tale, built around the usual ghost town of the late Civil War era. Good acting, good atmosphere, very good photography, make this movie a one of kind experience, full of ethereal surprises, often recalling other not forgotten movies (like several Clint Eastwood ones) and especially in the character of the disfigured stranger the old, good comic book Jonah Hex.
  • I saw this film on video and was surprised at the quality. The story was good and intriguing. It is one of those rare films that you really aren't sure what you think while you're watching it, but you can't get out of your head afterwards.

    This film reminds me of other mind twisters like Nomads and Eyes of Fire.
  • This must have sounded pretty good on paper. The basic idea was "Let's make a western featuring two opposing supernatural characters. To give them some depth, we'll make at least one morally ambiguous, and we'll make them manifestations of some ancient forces that periodically appear on the earth to battle each other." The high-concept pitch could have been "High Plains Drifter (1973) meets the 'ancient slayer' segments of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' (1997)". To sweeten the deal, the producers, including director and co-writer Alex Erkiletian, would have noted that they could acquire genre icons such as Angus Scrimm (best known for the film series beginning with Phantasm, 1979), Denise Crosby (best known for "Star Trek: The Next Generation", 1987, and Pet Sematary, 1989), and Robert McRay (best known for "Conan", 1998), who was also co-writing the film. For the cherry on top, they even managed to get Stefan Gierasch, who was actually in High Plains Drifter.

    Sounds good, doesn't it? Unfortunately, the finished product barely resembles the recipe. Yes, the genre icons are present, but the crux of the plot was almost completely removed, as the script ended up being a complete mess, with horrible dialogue and holes so big that it seems more like a slab of Swiss cheese that's been used for skeet shooting. And Erkiletian directs the cast to be so pretentiously melodramatic that it would make Crosby's stint on "Days of Our Lives" (1965) seem like David Cronenberg's Spider (2002) in comparison.

    The bulk of Legend of the Phantom Rider is just a standard issue western. Sure, it's a violent western, but there's nothing supernatural about it. It could be enjoyable as a western if it didn't have the gaping plot holes and melodrama. Crosby is Sarah Jenkins. She's traveling with her husband, her son and her daughter to "stake their claim" in the western United States. The year is 1865--the end of the Civil War. During an opening dialogue-free scene that is painfully slow, a few cowboys come out of nowhere and begin harassing the Jenkins family. Dad gets beat up. Mom is raped. Eventually, after a strange bald guy shows up (we later learn that this is Blade, played by McRay), dad and the boy are killed. We have no idea why any of this is happening. Sarah manages to shoot one of the marauders, but then, just as inexplicably, she and her daughter are left alive, on their own. Their wagon and all of their belongings are gone.

    She eventually makes it on foot to a small outpost named Saugus. The townsfolk are reluctant to help her and we quickly learn why--Blade and his men had just taken over the town a couple days previously. The new sheriff doesn't last long. Blade inducts himself as the law. Erkiletian and McRay, as writer, hem and haw to kill some time, leaving a small source of victims in town for Blade and his men to play with, until finally a mysterious man named "Pelgidium" (also played by McRay), presumably the "phantom rider", shows up and starts taking control for his own ends.

    Let's talk about some of the specific problems with the script. As presented on our television screens, there are a great many inexplicable aspects and developments. Why doesn't anyone take action against Blade? He leaves himself open to it more times than we can count on both hands. Where do all of Blade's men come from? Eventually he has a small army. We never learn how they got there or who they are. Why do the townspeople stick around? You'd think that at least while Blade is running roughshod, they'd leave and try to get some help or something. Why does Blade keep referring to Sarah as something special? Further, there are countless scenes that are non-sequiturs. New sets of characters show up to new locations for various "posing" confrontations with no justification, no motivation, etc. We often don't see how they get out of their previous predicaments, either.

    For some of these problems, if you do a bit of background research into the film, including the box description and the actor bios on the DVD (which by the way, feature far more character development in a short paragraph than the entire script does), you can figure out some answers. That stuff needs to be shown on screen. A good film doesn't necessitate prerequisite research. True, we could say that some of it is hinted at in the overblown, convoluted text opening (at this point in time, disturbingly reminiscent of Alone in the Dark, 2005) and the brief, retroactively pointless scene that follows it, but there needs to be more than an extremely vague allusion to grander ideas. If there's something supernatural about Blade we need to be shown or told that, at least implicitly. Stupid character actions surrounding Blade aren't sufficient. That just makes it seem like we need to go back to Scriptwriting 101. The same goes for Pelgidium, even though that character at least seems cool, if only because he's kind of a cross between Eastwood's "Stranger" and a 1980s hair band guitarist.

    The melodramatic performances are a bit bizarre, to say the least. Both Crosby and McRay speak in weird, affected accents/dialects and utter phrases that seem out of place for the period setting. McRay as Blade is supposed to seem a bit omnipotent and evil, but he tends to come across as annoying and maybe flakey instead. The music also sounds a bit generic and tends to get monotonous.

    Still the film isn't a complete failure. Crosby is enjoyable even if she's out of place, and it's always a pleasure seeing Scrimm. There is some decent cinematography. The sets/locations are good. Bits of competence as a western keep emerging, and the violence/mayhem level is satisfactory. But proceed to this film only with extreme caution.
  • Nobody makes westerns anymore, and it's a damn shame, if you ask me. Also, until "The Sixth Sense," nobody made ghost stories, either. Needless to say, most attempts at ghost westerns have been dismal flops. "Into the Badlands" and "Grim Prairie Tales" failed, despite having James Earl Jones and Helen Hunt between them. It's too bad, because westerns and horror movies have a lot in common, dealing as they do in human desperation and fear. "Trigon: the Legend of Pelgidium" is one of a very few movies that actually get the difficult mix right. It hasn't been released commercially yet, but I managed to get into a screening anyway (I'm sneaky like that, plus I went to high school with the director), and I was impressed.

    The story concerns a settler woman who, after her husband and son are killed, finds her way into a rundown town, ten days' ride from nowhere, which is beholden to a predatory gang of bandits led by a crazed ex-Confederate, who, it is whispered by the terrified townsfolk, cannot be killed. There is a supernatural, cosmic good-and-evil theme that runs through this movie like a shark just under the waves. Too often, movies make the mistake of spelling out their ghostly elements too literally. Fortunately, the writer, Robert Ray, and the director, Alex Erkiletian, have the good sense to keep it subtle. The supernatural is more effective when it is not fully known. There is clearly something going on beyond the town-under-siege we've seen in a million old movies, but its specific nature is left properly ambiguous.

    The movie takes place in 1865, when the psychic wounds of the Civil War were still fresh, and hundreds of men wandered West whose only lives were killing and allegiance to a lost cause. The hallmarks of this tragic chapter in history are all over this movie in subtle ways; the bad guys wear fragments of rebel uniforms and fly a tattered Dixie flag, the town preacher is left hollow and beaten by what he saw in the war, and everyone looks tired and uncertain.

    The cast, mainly of unknowns and under-knowns, turn in some great performances. Denise Crosby (ah, Lt. Yar, we hardly knew ye) shows understated strength as the woman who wanders into this nightmare. Robert McRay is mesmerizing as the villain, who has a cold smile that would make a rattlesnake cringe. The supporting cast is good, too. As bandit sub-chief Suicide, Zen Gesner (of TV's execrable "Sinbad") gives his character affecting, surprising humanity, even while slicing someone's hand off. Jamie McShane's icy, slow-talking Victor makes an impression, as does Scott Eberlein as the hapless thug Danny, whose final moments make up one of the movie's most creepy and memorable scenes. Stefan Gierasch does a quirky turn as a shopkeeper, and George Murdock makes a vivid judge in his single scene (but it's a good one). But the best, good-to-see-him-again performance comes from Angus Scrimm (famed for "Phantasm," playing second banana to a homicidal steel softball) as the Preacher, whose spirit and faith are almost, but not quite, broken by the horror of the world. When he says that God despises a violent nature, you ignore him at your peril.

    Too often, directors shoot a movie from a "Dramatic Elements Playbook" from which they never deviate ("Ah, emotional moment? Sez here use a soft-focus close-up.") Erkiletian avoids the cookie-cutter approach, shaking up our conventional expectations of westerns, and movies in general. One of my favorite scenes was one where Crosby comforts her young daughter after they have buried the father and son. Most movies would do this in close-up, so we could see the gleaming tears, etc., but Erkiletian places the camera at a detached distance. We hear the quaver in Crosby's voice and see the grave in the foreground, as the Arizona sky rolls impassive and uncaring behind them. It's very effective.

    To be fair, this is not a massive-budget movie, and it shows in a few places. A couple of the minor performances are a bit perfunctory, and a number of people expire from gunfire by clutching their bloodless stomach wounds and staggering around a bit. But overall, this movie reminds me of the occasional gem that turns up in the sludge of late-night cable and direct-to-video shelves. It's well-made, smart, and entertaining well beyond its weight class. One can only hope it gets picked up.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    At first, I hesitated to give this movie a chance - I've seen too many bad westerns lately, and with a "Phantom Rider" in the title, what could I expect? But finally I decided to give it a go, and I don't regret that decision. It's a low budget western alright, but it's as tough as they come. The acting is good, even though Denise Crosby isn't exactly the kind of heroine I'd like to see in a western. The action sequences are excellent, and there's lots of gun play and brutality which gave the German authorities sleepless nights and made them issue an "R"-rating (FSK 18) for the German version of this film. I gave it a seven out of ten because the story is a bit confusing. The film starts with two ancient Indians warring over a woman in 1065 A.D. Eight hundred years later, there are two magnificent fighters warring against each other again, but this time they fight for good and evil. One of them, the mysterious Phantom Rider, has been resurrected by an Indian medicine man, (I wonder why his face had to be a grisly mask of horror...) and if I got the plot right, he is the alleged "good" part of the bad guys personality. So the bad guy with his bad personality has to prepare for a showdown with his living "good" personality? That was a bit gross for my taste, especially when I saw the "good" personality bleeding and apparently mortally wounded and not being able to kill the bad guy in the end. No, the killing has to be done by Denise Crosby. The bad guy is dead, and his good personality rides into the sunset. Well, can't have everything. But it's fun to watch the film and western fans might really enjoy it because it's a very unusual western with a touch of mystery. With lots of graphic violence (sometimes a bit too much) and without any nudity (you wouldn't expect that with a film like this), the film guarantees 100 minutes of great entertainment. Jasper P. Morgan
  • I looked at this movie twice (in the same visit) at the video store before I picked it up and rented it. I LOVED IT! I watched it, let a friend watch it (he liked it) and then we watched it together. I wished it had delved into the central characters a bit more and in some scenes you could hardly hear what they were saying for the volume of the music. Even though Pelgidium was not so handsome or talked much I was very drawn to his strong personality. I guess he reminded me of Vincent on the TV series "Beauty and the Beast." On the other hand Blade was a conceited little rooster. For the most part the "bad guy" actors were better than the "good guy" actors.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    ~Spoiler~

    In the tradition of Ghost Town and Sundown, this unknown horror/western came out of nowhere and managed to surprise me. Legend of the Phantom Rider sits right in the middle of the aforementioned films. It takes itself more seriously than Sundown and is missing the stronger horror elements of Ghost Town. Phantom Rider is more like a supernatural western. If it were not for Fangoria, this flick would have remained undiscovered. I'm grateful they had a write-up in a recent issue because I did enjoy the movie. Above-average production values, good make-up, and decent performances really help out (an appearance by the Tall Man doesn't hurt either). As for the idea itself, I loved it. Good and Evil are reincarnated to do battle over and over again. It's cool and it's simple. And the fact that Robert McRay played both Blade, the villain, and Pelgidium, the hero, brought the film to a whole new level. McRay (who also wrote the movie) is fairly convincing as the bad guy, but it's his silent performance as Pelgidium Granger that I really liked. He had this creepy way of moving that sold me on the idea that this is not a person to mess with. Just showing McRay posing in his gunfighter position was a scary thing. There's something incredibly cheesy about that title though. They should have stuck with the title "Pelgidium Granger." Sure you might lose some of the audience with a more complex title, but who's really going to rent a movie called Legend of the Phantom Rider anyway? Legend of the Phantom Rider achieves more as a western, but genre fans should be able to appreciate it too. A few great moments and a solid, fairly original story make Legend of the Phantom Rider a good little B-movie.
  • I 1st watched this movie in early 2000 & somethin, somethin off 1 of the movie channels after reading the description for it.I expected it to be a Supernatural Horror set in Western times.It really wasn't a Supernatural Horror but did have a Supernatural feel to it.Watching it now, I watched it because the cover art looked pretty cool.Up until now I had completely forgotten about it.I don't think my opinion of the Legend Of The Phantom Rider has changed since the 1st time I saw it.I was disappointed when I 1st watched it & I'm disappointed now.I'm disappointed it wasn't more of a Horror flick & I'm disappointed it wasn't as good as I hoped it would be.I'm guessing if you're looking for it to be more of a Horror flick like I was, You'll be disappointed as well.The movie wasn't all that great either.It felt like something to watch, just to be watching it.I've completely forgotten about the Legend Of The Phantom Rider for 15 years now & that should about sum up what I think about it.I can imagine somebody looking at it once but (definitely) not more than once
  • In 1865, while traveling with her family close to the city of Sogus, Sarah Jenkins (Denise Crosby) is raped and her husband and son are cowardly killed by a group of outlaws. Sarah and her daughter survive and walk to Sogus, where they are advised by a local to leave the place, which is dominated by the bandits leaded by the maleficent Blade (Robert McRay). However, tired and starving, they decide to stay in the town and the owner of a store and his wife lodge them. The gang of evil criminals rules the city with fear and violence, killing people without motive. Pelgidium, a mysterious rider with a deformed face, appears in the town as if he were listening to the prayers of the locals, and faces the bad guys. "Legend of the Phantom Rider" is a mixed bag of western, violence and mystery. This deceptive low budget movie was released on VHS in Brazil, the art of the cover is prepared to attract the viewers as if it were a horror film, but indeed it is a violent western. The soundtrack, with the constant sound of drums usually used in the climax of the story, is very boring. I did not like this film. My vote is four.

    Title (Brazil): "A Lenda do Cavaleiro Fantasma" ("The Legend of the Phantom Rider")
  • I love Westerns. I love Horror.

    Naturally, when I saw a trailer for this many years ago, I was stoked. However, after seeing the final product, I wish it had stayed buried.

    While displaying some decent cinematography (which was all they showed in the trailer; surprise-surprise), everything else in this film was a lousy mesh of Z-grade talent. Among the lifeless direction, we get a dude ranch set, horrible editing, a soundtrack consisting of three drum beats and sound design worse than a student film. These aspects were the highlight of the movie.

    Where 'Legend of the Phantom Rider' ('Pelgidium' at least sounded interesting) really screws the pooch is in it's casting. I've seen people on daytime soap operas that would make more convincing Old West characters. The lead bald guy (Blade/Pelgidium) should be barred from the acting profession - he's as bad as they come. Even reliable actors like Angus Scrimm and Denise Crosby felt gone.

    Did I mention that every scene moved like a slug at a salt mine?

    Please...do yourself a favor and stay as far away from this film as possible.
  • Alex Erkiletian's "Legend Of The Phantom Rider" of 2002 is, as far as I am considered a rather boring and crappy attempt of a Horror Western, and I am actually a big fan of Horror Westerns.

    According to the film, an ancient legend says that good and pure evil face each other in man-shape once in a few centuries. In 1865, a little town somewhere in the West is terrorized by a gang of outlaws lead by a former confederate called 'Blade' and his right hand man 'Suicide'. Sarah Jenkins (Denise Crosby), whose husband and son were murdered by villainous Blade and who has to take care of her little daughter on her own, is especially victimized by the gang, and desperately tries to convince the townspeople to fight back. But then a creepy, mysterious stranger turns up, and he turns out to be extremely fast with his guns. Thenceforward, the brutal gangsters have to learn what fear is every time the eerie man with the fast guns shows up. Blade, however, doesn't seem the least bit afraid...

    "Legend Of The Phantom Rider" is basically just the same old western tale of good vs. evil, which the makers of this movie tried to spice up with a little bit of creepiness. This turned out to be a failed attempt, however, since the movie is not really creepy, the mysterious 'Phantom Rider' may look a little creepy, but that's basically it. The movie is also said to be very violent by some, but it is by far not as brutal as it is hyped to be. Most of the acting is terrible, the only actor I liked in this was Irvin Keyes (in the role of an Outlaw named Bigfoot), simply for the reason that he has got to be one of the ugliest looking people I have seen in a movie. The constant drum score, which would normally be intended to build up suspense in some parts of a movie, but certainly not throughout the whole movie is more than annoying.

    To be fair, "Legend Of The phantom Rider" is not a completely terrible failure. It has some stylish moments, in some parts of the movie the photography is quite good, there is some good gunplay and the mysterious stranger looks quite creepy. This is a bearable movie, but certainly not a good one. If you are looking for a good Horror-Western, I would recommend movies like Giulio Questi's great surreal Spaghetti Western "Se Sei Vivo Spara" aka. "Django Kill... If You Live Shoot!" of 1967 instead.

    All things considered, "Legend Of The Phantom Rider" is not a movie that has to be avoided at all costs, but it is definitely rather crappy. Bearable 3/10
  • dxtr200116 September 2003
    This "movie" is so bad that it should be banned - really. The acting is even worse than the script itself. And the music - You've probably heard better music in porn.

    My advice - stay as far as You can.
  • Interesting but failed attempt to mix western and horror. There's just not enough horror in it, that's pretty much the problem with it. The titular character (aka Pelgidium) has no background story whatsoever (Why the hell does he do what he does?). The prologue-scene is incomprehensible (compared to the rest of the story) and all-in-all, there's not really much going on in this movie. But it does have Angus Scrimm in a supporting roll and Pelgidium's face actually looks like he could have been the brother of Jenifer (from Dario Argento's MOH-episode). I'll just be a softie again and not flunk this dusty baby, because, well, it doesn't really deserve to be flunked. The leading scorned woman is portrayed by Denise Crosby from "Pet Semetary" and (fans of spectacular cheesy 80's action sci-fi rejoice!) Charles Band's "Eliminators"!
  • Bought this movie on DVD at a popular rental place that was going out of business. I figured, at five bucks, it was worth a watch.

    I thought it a pretty fair western with a heavy Spaghetti influence. Good camera work, good sets and decent storyline. Acting was fair from most of the supporting cast. But the "Phantom" and "Blade" characters were both ridiculously overplayed, and neither looked as if they belonged on the same set with the rest of the cast. Maybe this was intentional, as they were both supposed to be supernatural entities. But if that's the case, it didn't really work.

    Overall, I can see the vision the filmmakers were going for, but they fell short in many aspects. This story needs to be retold by someone who can do it justice.