Phobophobia (2023) Review
Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” And that’s what we’re dealing with here, Phobophobia, the fear of fear. To this we might add the fear of actually releasing the film as the segments were actually shot in 2013 and have sat around until now when wraparound footage featuring Jessa Flux (Murdercise, Debbie Does Demons) as a comic host was shot and the film completed.
Since the segments that make up Phobophobia are some of the earliest work by Christopher Leto (The Cheerleader Sleepover Slaughter, Death Blow) and Sean Donohue (Blood, Guts and Sunshine, Swamp Woman) it’s obviously going to be of interest to their fans, but is there anything of interest to more general genre fans?
Director Chris Leto and writer Jason Henne (Crazy Lake, Seeing Evil) contribute the first segment, “Coulrophobia”, no relation to the feature of the same name. Steven (Jason Henne) has a fear of clowns that is causing him to suffer from extreme sleep deprivation. He seeks help from a therapist (Karen Nice, Turn Up, Cycle) whose treatment has unexpected results.
“Claustrophobia”, directed by Henne and co-written with Leto is next. Julie (Maylin Morera, House Guest Massacre, Southsyde) wakes up trapped in a wooden box with a phone whose battery is running out. Why is she there, and can she escape before both she and the battery die?
Phobophobia’s third segment, originally titled “Romaphobia”, is “Wiccaphobia” which is the fear of witches. Directed by Chris Leto and Phobophobia’s third segment, originally titled “Romaphobia”, is “Wiccaphobia” which is the fear of witches. Directed by Christopher Leto and Jake Jalbret (10 Seconds to Run, Mind Games) from a script by Jason Henne, it’s the story of Charlie (Michael Bringuier, Solus, Delivery Disaster), a wheelchair bound man who resorts to drastic measures when he sees his wife (Dahlia Legault, Actress Apocalypse, The Walking Dead) acting overly friendly with a neighbour.
“Scelerophobia” is the fear of burglars, robbers and criminals, probably the most common of the phobias featured in Phobophobia. Directed by Jennifer Lander (Desecrated) and written by Jason Henne and Christopher Leto, it’s the story of Kelly (Katelyn Studer, The Neighborhood Roadshow, Hell’s Hitman) who constantly wakes her husband (Francisco Soto Jr., Cobra Kai, In the Weeds) insisting she hears someone in the house. Then comes the night he’s called into work…
Directed by Sean Donohue from a script by Arturo Portillo (Die Die Delta Pi, Lady Belladonna’s Tales From The Inferno), “Agrizoophobia” is the fear of wild animals which Doug (Chris Cavalier, Hidden Figures, Halloween at Aunt Ethel’s) suffers from. He was willing to deal with it for a chance to hook up with Bianca, but when she cancels, he’s a lot less enthusiastic about going camping with Tommy (Morgan Middlebrook, The Groveland Four, The Broadcast) and Jill (Lexi Balestrieri, Terror Talk, The Hart-Break Killer).
Portillo wrote and directed the final segment, “Kosmikophobia’ which as you may have guessed is the fear of outer space and what might be living there. On the night that a large meteorite crashed somewhere in Russia, Henry (Hector Dez, Dominion, The Farmer) receives a visit from his father (Todd Carroll, The Domicile, Shadows of the Dead). He claims to have proof that it wasn’t a meteorite or any other kind of natural phenomena.
Jessa shows up to deliver a couple of jokes and wrap things up, and that’s it for Phobophobia.
If you’re setting your expectations based on the films Leto and Donohue have done since these shorts were filmed, you’re setting yourself up for some disappointment, because compared to most of their output, Phobophobia is pretty tame. “Agrizoophobia” does have plenty of gore courtesy of Marcus Koch (100 Tears, The Third Saturday in October) but that’s it. And none of them have any nudity, this is the first film I’ve seen where Jessa Flux keeps her clothes on.
In terms of quality, none of the segments are actually bad, though a couple are fairly predictable. There’s also a couple that are above average, so it all balances out. And do remember, this was all filmed over a decade ago, the filmmakers didn’t have the experience and skill, especially at writing, that they do now so again, set your expectations accordingly.
Despite its origins, though, Phobophobia is better than a lot of similarly budgeted anthology films out there. Fans of the filmmakers will want to check it out, as will fans of the multistory format. It’s currently available for order via its Indiegogo page.