Last year’s Fear Pharm introduced us to the Walker family, their Halloween maze and the terrible secret behind it. It was a pretty decent low-budget slasher with some solid scares and gore. Now the team that made the original, director Dante Yore and co-writers Mark S. Allen and Howard Burd, are back for a second chapter in the saga.
Fear Pharm 2 actually starts with a bit of a prequel as we flashback fifteen years to the discovery of the secret ingredient in Florence’s Miracle Face Cream. We see a rather stunned Hershel (John Littlefield, 616 Wilford Lane) being told by his wife Florence (Nadine Stenovitch, Silent Night, Zombie Night, Roadkiller) that God wants them to skin people alive for the sake of her research. Of course, he agrees, who is he to argue with God? Or with profits for that matter.
Moving forward to the present, and a year after the events of the first film, Melanie (Tiana Tuttle, The Final Level: Escaping Rancala) is still alive, kept in an induced coma, her skin harvested by the Walkers. Hershel wants to slow things down and minimize the risks of being found out. Daughter Gemma (Aimee Stolte, Verotika, Battle Star Wars) wants to increase production and the number of skin donors, risk be damned.
In the midst of this, Melanie is accidentally awoken from her coma. Realizing what is happening and how many others the Walkers are harvesting, she wakes the others, which includes Morgan (Jessica Chancellor, Robotapocalypse), Dawson (Mason Greer, Death of a Telemarketer) and Brooklyn (Taelyn Lewis) and plans an escape.
Fear Pharm 2 is pretty much an expanded version of the original. Once again we have a group of people trying to escape the maze alive while assorted psychopaths hunt them down. They’ve upped the ante this time with traps, dirt bikes, horseback chases and a few other surprises to make things more interesting. There’s also a bigger cast which, of course, means a bigger body count. The effects are a bit of a mixed bag. The missing patches of skin on the victims are far from convincing looking. On the other hand, there’s a death by electrocution that is quite nasty looking. At least until its CGI climax.
It’s all nicely and entertainingly staged as everyone runs through the maze. With the emphasis on the plot’s chase aspects for much of the film, Fear Pharm 2 occasionally feels more like an action/horror hybrid along the lines of The Most Dangerous Game punched up with a few jump scares rather than a straight-up slasher, but that’s not really a bad thing.
The problem is, Fear Pharm 2 isn’t just a sequel, it’s a launching pad for a franchise centred around the Walkers and their company. The problem is, while Hershel and Gemma are OK as villains they just aren’t interesting or charismatic enough to make me want to see them continually coming back for more.
The script makes some effort to give them some depth, such as Herschel’s feelings about the family members he’s lost pursuing his goals. But neither he nor they were developed enough in either Fear Pharm or Fear Pharm 2 to be anything but psychos we want dead so the viewers don’t feel his pain. It’s more successful providing some dark humour as father and daughter argue over human lives in terms of profits versus risks.
In and of itself though, Fear Parm 2 is a fun film, and worth a watch for slasher fans. But while I might be interested in a third film if it wrapped the story up, I can’t say I have much interest in an ongoing Fear Pharm franchise unless they come up with a big surprise.
Fear Pharm 2 will be available on DVD & On-Demand on October 19th From Indican Pictures. You can check their website for more information.