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Worst Fears (2016) Review

Worst Fears is a collection of short films written and introduced by David McGillivray. If you’re a fan of vintage British horror, that name should be familiar to you. He wrote the screenplays for, among others, Peter Walker’s Frightmare and Schizo. He also wrote Satan’s Slave and Terror for Norman J. Warren.

Now he’s collected seven short films he did with director Keith Claxton between 2004 and 2011 and bound them together with introductions shot by Jake West (Evil Aliens, Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape). The result however is not what you might expect.

“Tincture of Vervain” opens the film with a tale of senior citizens backstabbing each other for the chance to take over their coven. However, Her Ladyship (Fenella Fielding, Carry On Screaming, Wishbaby) doesn’t plan on giving up her power just yet.

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Next up, “Wednesday” pits a young Polish cleaning lady Lilli (Rebecca Santos, Seed of Chucky) against an elderly couple who aren’t what they seem. This segment channels Frightmare to a degree. Anna Wing (Xtro, The Blood on Satan’s Claw) is fine as Mrs. Furnival, but it’s too bad Sheila Keith wasn’t still alive to fill the role.

Filmed in Marrakech and featuring an appearance by McGillivray, “In the Place of the Dead” is about an unhappy English couple, Peter (Anthony Wise, Justice League) and Claire (Holly De Jong, Aliens, Electric Dreams) on vacation. Peter’s dalliance with a rentboy (Nabil Elouahabi, Hyena Road) on the wrong day of the year turns out to have dire repercussions.

“Mrs. Davenport’s Throat” also takes leave of the British Isles, this time to Lisbon. Essentially a two-person tale in which neither Mrs. Davenport (Celia Williams, Inner Ghosts) or her chauffeur Jose (Luis Castro) are who they seem.

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A scarecrow (David Brett)  turns up in “Child Number 4”, a short but nasty tale of an unhappy couple and their son (Eddie Walter).

The sixth tale, “After Image” is a ghostly tale about a photographer (Ben Pullen, Prince Valiant) who meets, and falls under the spell of, a strange young woman (Rosie Alvarez, Anatomy 2). Written by former Dr. Who script editor Andrew Cartmel it’s the only segment not written by McGillivray. He does however make a very fitting appearance.

Worst Fears wraps up with “We’re Ready For You Now” which features return appearances by Holly De Jong as well as Rebecca Santos.  It’s a tale of premonitions and Satanists making a vacation to Nice anything but nice.

Given McGillivray’s credits, one would expect Worst Fears to be a fairly bloody affair. But it’s actually fairly restrained, with only the occasional bit of blood. The stories tend more towards the sardonic than the sadistic. The result is a film that feels more like one of Amicus’ anthologies than the films he’s known for.

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Another thing that may surprise viewers is that most of the segments in Worst Fears revolve around adults, not the more usual high schoolers or maybe college aged characters. Many of them, in fact, are middle age and older. It certainly brings a different perspective to many of the stories.

The unconnected nature of the segments and lack of an actual connecting story does give Worst Fears a somewhat choppy feel. McGillivray introduces them, dressed in a top hat and tails, while standing in front of a theatre screen. It’s enjoyably campy but doesn’t replace a good wraparound. That’s a minor quibble, though, and for the most part Worst Fears is an entertaining collection of stories in the style of M.R. James and Roald Dahl.

As far as I know, Worst Fears hasn’t been released anywhere besides the UK. It’s available on DVD from Nucleus Films for those that are interested and have an all region player.

Our Score
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