Force to Fear (2020) Review
Writer/directors Chad Bruns and Zane Hershberger (10/31) let us know where Force to Fear is coming from right from the start with opening credits that look like they were lifted from an 80s VHS. And it is indeed an homage to the straight-to-video films of the era, but rather than a slavish copy of those films. Or worse yet, a generic B movie with digital tape damage, they’ve added a couple of twists to the formula while still keeping everything feeling authentic.
Ryan (Mitchell Musolino, The Barn, Cryptids) sold some drugs to a woman who died of an overdose. That woman was Clint’s (Joseph Setticase, The 5th Dimension) wife Sarah (Sé Marie, The Desert Project, Career Opportunities in Organized Crime) which is why he’s now beating the shit out of Ryan in an abandoned school.
His plans are interrupted by the arrival of Socks (Chad Bruns, CarousHELL, Devil’s Night), Vega (Ginny Griedel, Midnight, Desk Clerk), Anomaly (April Yanko, Galatea) and their friends. They just want a place they can party without being noticed. Someone else is also in the building, a large, nameless masked figure (Ted Opalinski, Escape from Death Block 13, Escape Plan: The Extractors), and he has his own plans for all of them.
“Growing up watching films like ‘Savage Streets’, ‘Night School’, and the 1987 Australian film ‘Dangerous Game’ inspired me to make my own action/thriller. My co-writer Chad Bruns and I wanted a story that keeps the audience guessing the whole time and throws some curveballs in there as well. I think we’ve delivered what we think a midnight movie crowd would want with this story.”Zane Hershberger
The first half-hour builds nicely, we get some tough guy dialogue from Clint and his buddy Nick (George Saulnier, I Had Fun). And we get crimped hair, bad music and dancing from a bunch of characters who look too old to need to hide their drinking. I was all set for Ryan’s buddies to show up and the kids get caught in the crossfire when Force to Fear takes a hard turn and one of them draws a silenced pistol. From there Force to Fear turns into a wild mix of vigilante action and slasher films As the two rapidly shrinking groups are forced to contend with the unnamed and seemingly unstoppable killing machine as well as a few dark secrets.
For a film made on such a low budget, Force to Fear looks good and manages to stage some good fights. They’re hardly on the level of Castle Falls or even Nightshooters, but they are well ahead of much of what you get in microbudget films that weren’t made by stunt crews. It also manages to make its cast and limited sets, mostly just the school, look authentically 80s. There’s a Jeep that looks fairly recent, but that was the only major error I noticed.
Force to Fear also delivers a fair amount of blood, although no major gore or effects. But Robert Lanphere (Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories, 10/31 Part 2)delivers some solid practical effects and not CGI which is authentic and always appreciated. A couple of the exteriors of the school however looked like they might have been CGI substituting for old-school matte paintings.
And while we’re talking about authenticity, the synthwave score by Matt Cannon (Final Caller, Horrortales.666 Part 2) and Rocky Gray (In Memory Of, That Night) provides the proper backing for Force to Fear’s mayhem.
A film that can take its place beside Streets of Vengeance and Plan B in the ranks of retro cinema, Force to Fear is available on Blu-Ray from Scream Team Releasing. You can check their website or the film’s Facebook page for more details.