You never know what combination of elements will coalesce into a truly unforgettable movie experience.
In the case of writer/director Roberto Doveris’ feature film debut “Phantom Project” (Dark Star Pictures), it includes a mysterious vintage cardigan, abandoned plants, a mutt named Susan, a shapeshifting animated ghost, and a gay, millennial, out-of-work actor in Ñuñoa, Chile named Pablo (Juan Cano).
Struggling to make ends meet, Pablo takes odd acting jobs, such as being a patient for medical students, where he meets gay Cris, with whom he flirts a little, as well as participating in holistic therapy sessions. He is desperately in need of finding a new roommate with the departure of Hector, who not only owes Pablo two months of unpaid rent but also leaves behind his adorable dog Susan and several plants.
The previously mentioned multicolored cardigan, it turns out, has been in the apartment since long before Pablo and his other roomies moved in. Said sweater appears to have a mind of its own, refusing to stay put on hooks or hangers. It does, however, become a source of comfort for Pablo during a stressful time.
Suddenly, Pablo becomes aware of mysterious noises, coffee mugs crashing to the floor, fruit baskets tipping over, and such. He blames Susan and gives her to his parents to take care of until he gets a new roommate. But during one of his medical student acting sessions, it is discovered that his back is covered in bruises.
The source is a line-drawn, shimmering apparition that wanders the halls of the apartment, opens closed sliding glass doors, turns on showers, and generally makes a nuisance of itself. Additionally, Pablo is dealing with the feelings he still has for his ex-boyfriend Francisco (Fernando Castillo) who is making a name for himself as a popular YouTuber.
Pablo has a supportive social circle that helps him navigate the challenges. A chance encounter with rising indie-techno artist Sofia (Violeta Castillo), which initially gets off to an awkward start, turns out to be favorable for them both. One outcome is that Pablo gets the opportunity to audition for well-known actress Antonia (Ingrid Isensee) and gets cast in her new movie. Meanwhile, Sofia abandons her previous musical genre for a more organic sound.
The whole time, the ghost continues to make its presence felt, including in Sofia’s rehearsal space, and in the apartment of Pablo’s downstairs neighbor Ana (Natalia Grez). A visit from YouTube horticulturist Tere (Rocío Monasterio) results in the delivery of an herb-of-grace plant to absorb all the bad energy, but it’s no match for the ghost.
“Phantom Project” walks a fine line between being lighthearted and a little too woo-woo/touchy-feely. Nevertheless, Cano as Pablo is adorable enough to keep us watching what will happen to him next. In Spanish with English subtitles.
Gregg Shapiro is the author of eight books including the poetry chapbook Fear of Muses (Souvenir Spoon Books, 2022). An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional LGBTQ+ and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.