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Review: Irrational Fear (2017)

We all have fears, some of them are logical ones given our circumstances. Others are irrational but harmless. But when they become strong enough to affect a person’s day-to-day life, they become phobias and need to be treated. In Irrational Fear, director Hunter Johnson (2 Jennifer) and co-writer Kevin Sommerfield (Don’t Go To the Reunion) offer a reason they fear the treatment more than the phobia itself.

Dr. Sanders (Charles Chudabala, 4OuR, For Jennifer) is an expert on phobias, and he’s been working on a new treatment for them. To test it out he, along with his assistant Zach (Baker Chase Powell, Xenophobia, We Die Alone) is taking a few of his students and patients on a weekend retreat to try and cure their fears.

But after the first session goes horribly wrong, people start disappearing. This weekend, facing your fears will be a literal thing.

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The cast of characters includes Helen (Cati Glidewell, Gags The Clown) an acerbic drunk with a fear of water. Kelly (Jennifer Nangle, Tales for the Campfire 3, Zombi VIII: Urban Decay) who fears not living up to society’s standards of beauty. And Nate (Tom McCarthy) whose irrational fear involves teeth and dentists. That right there opens up a wealth of possibilities for creative mayhem.

And there are a few cringe-inducing moments in Irrational Fear. Given the budget, they’re a mix of things shown, implied and amplified with sound effects. But at least there are some effects and onscreen deaths. I’m getting fed up with films that think cutting out all the effects is the best way to keep the budget down.

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And that’s what Irrational Fear needs. Because this isn’t an original plot. It’s been done in dozens of low budget genre films and a couple of major studio efforts as well. One of them, Phobia, was directed by John Huston (The African Queen, Prizzi’s Honor) in 1980. At various points noted genre writers Gary Sherman, Ronald Shusett, Jimmy Sangster and Dan O’Bannon all worked on the script.

Surprisingly, Johnson and Sommerfield find a few twists that lineup didn’t think of. While it’s not the most original of films, the fact that Irrational Fears does manage to pull out some surprises is impressive. The second death in particular caught me way off guard.

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A slightly less pleasant surprise is that despite excellent performances, Glidwell has only done one film since this. And Leah Wiseman (Family Possessions) who plays Taylor doesn’t have any credits after Irrational Fear. Indie horror films could use talent like theirs.

An enjoyable film with solid performances and some nice surprises, Irrational Fear will be released to streaming platforms on July 24th from Terror Films. You can check Terror Film’s Facebook page for more details. The page for the film itself is here but hasn’t been updated in a while. There’s no post-credit scene, but sharp-eyed viewers can try to spot the crew member’s leg and a jug of fake blood that find their way into the film.

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