Pedigree means squat in the seedy precinct of genre films. Phantoms (Dimension) has eldritch superstar Peter O’Toole in the cast, as well as one of Hollywood’s new It Boys, Ben Affleck. It’s from the exploitation arm of Miramax that produced the two Screams. And not only is it based on a Dean Koontz novel (about an underground beastie that kills everyone in a Colorado town), but the fright-meister wrote the script and served as an executive producer. Oh, and it’s nearly unwatchable, a farrago of confusing direction, stupid plot coincidences, and banal dialogue (when in doubt, Koontz has his characters ask each other “Are you okay?”).

Deep Rising (Hollywood), meanwhile, stars Treat Williams (still striving for that comeback role), ex-Bond girl Famke Janssen, and a sea monster. It’s written and directed by Stephen Sommers, best known for 1994’s decent live-action The Jungle Book. And, lo, it’s pretty darn wonderful — a tightly written, often howlingly funny Aliens knockoff that, in its portray al of tough men and tougher women under pressure, favorably recalls the work of Howard Hawks. Until a disappointingly formulaic last third, when the impulse to blow everything up takes over, Deep Rising stands with Tremors and The Relic as superior junk, and if you must have class, there’s Amistad‘s Djimon Hounsou in the small role of a mercenary — getting a hatchet in the head. Phantoms: D- Deep Rising: B-


Phantoms STARRING Peter O’Toole Ben Affleck RATED R 91 MINUTES


Deep Rising STARRING Treat Williams Famke Janssen RATED R 106 MINUTES