Writer/director Bryce Clark’s (Beauty and the Least: The Misadventures of Ben Banks, Full Circle: A Mission Stories Anthology Film) film Phobic follows along after other films like Phobia, Dread and Irrational Fear. Films about people being killed by way of their deepest fears. Rather than a horror film Clark approaches it as more of a police procedural than a horror movie. How well does the change of genre work?
Riley Sanders (Jacque Gray, Evil Angel, One Shot) is a second-generation Salt Lake City Homicide detective struggling to live up to her father’s reputation. However, after being abducted and tortured by a mysterious attacker she takes a leave of absence. Returning to duty and assigned a new partner, Paul Carr (Devin Liljenquist) she begins investigating a string of homicides. Killings in which all the victims suffered from severe phobias and were fatally exposed to those fears.
She finds the killings have a connection to Dr. Elizabeth Holden (Tiffani DiGregorio, Under the Bed) and her ongoing experimental work on the treatment of phobias. They also have a disturbing connection to Sanders herself. Can she put the pieces together before she becomes the next victim?
Phobic is an extremely slow and talky film. There are endless scenes of people sitting around discussing what we already know about the case. Or even worse, Riley alone in her apartment reading or researching the case. I understand this was done on a low budget but there’s no excuse for endless shots of your lead silently reading a book or staring at a monitor.
These scenes are frequently interrupted with disjointed, speeded up footage. The same footage over and over. Some of it is recognizable as scenes from her abduction. Which makes it pretty obvious the other footage concerns Riley’s childhood. So her father (Ernie Lively, Overkill: The Aileen Wuornos Story, Passenger 57) telling her is anticlimactic rather than a revelation.
The last half hour suddenly goes from a police thriller to an X-Men film. We get an info dump about experiments performed in Stalin’s Russia intended to create superhumans and you can just guess the rest. It all leads to an ending that leaves a lot of big questions unanswered by way of setting up a sequel that isn’t going to happen. And that you wouldn’t want to watch if it did.