Fear (2023) Review
Fear begins with the sound of a tape being placed in a VCR followed by extremely glitchy footage of author Rom Jennings (Joseph Sikora, Night Skies, Power) being interviewed about his upcoming book, a non-fiction work on the mythology surrounding fear. Among other things, he mentions needing to take a research trip to a particular area in Northern California.
That location is the Strawberry Lodge and Rom is bringing his girlfriend Bianca (Annie Ilonzeh, All Eyez on Me, Agent Game) on the trip with plans to propose to her. He’s also invited
his agent, Michael (Iddo Goldberg, Salem, Snowpiercer) and some friends including Serena (Ruby Modine, Satanic Panic, The Survivalist), Lou (Tip “T.I.” Harris, Monster Hunter, Dolemite Is My Name), Benny (Andrew Bachelor, The Babysitter, Holidate), Kim (Tyler Abron, A Rich Christmas, Seal of Desire) and married couple Russ (Terrence Jenkins, Burlesque, Scream: The TV Series) and Megg (Terrence Jenkins, Archenemy, Texas Chainsaw Massacre) to join them.
Director Deon Taylor (Traffik, Meet the Blacks) and co-writer John Ferry set this reunion against the backdrop of an unnamed pandemic. While it isn’t named it seems to be something other than COVID as the symptoms can include hallucinations and rapid death. This becomes a plot point when despite them all supposedly having been tested, one of the group starts showing what could be symptoms.
Unfortunately not making the disease COVID is about as creative as Fear gets. There’s the caretaker Miss Wrenrich (Michele McCormick) who looks to be as old as the building and spouts lines like “I see you carry the light within you”. There’s the local history involving miners torturing and killing Native American women they suspected of being witches. And a campfire discussion of everyone’s worst fears, which they soon begin being killed by.
As trite and cliched as that is it could still make for a decent time killer if the characters and what they fear were interesting and well-developed. But the characters are strictly one-dimensional and their fears are a mixed bag that ranges from a fear of confined spaces to a fear of blood and a fear of losing people’s trust. And if you’re thinking that losing people’s trust doesn’t make for a particularly terrifying demise, you would be right.
But before anyone starts dying we have to sit through the usual scenes of these friends becoming suspicious and turning on each other. One potentially interesting development, a TV newsperson suddenly speaking directly to them, telling them they’re infected and going to die, is left undeveloped as the characters are too busy arguing even to notice it. it’s gaffes like this that show that while Taylor has attracted praise for his thrillers, he’s rather clueless when it comes to horror. Something I would have known if I’d realized he started his film career as co-director of the abysmal Dead Tone aka 7eventy 5ive.
Not that it really matters because there’s never really any doubt what the source of the group’s problems is. And by the time it reaches its laughable climax pitting a character who just coincidentally happens to have a degree in religious studies up against the demonic whatever it is, chances are you won’t care either you’ll just want it to be over. There is a mid-credit scene that teases a sequel, but I can’t imagine anyone hanging around for it or coming back for a second film.
Fear had a limited theatrical run in January and is currently available to purchase as a Digital download. It will be available for rental on VOD and Digital Platforms on April 25th via Screen Media. If you’re looking for something similar but hopefully better, FilmTagger can offer some suggestions.