JUNE 5, 2009
When I was like 15 I had an idea for a horror villain called Fearkeeper, who needed fear to stay alive and would gain exponentially more power when someone inadvertently died from their fear (but not actually CAUSED by the Fearkeeper; it was just a coincidence). I forget what it was actually about, but I can guarantee that if I actually finished writing it, peoples' fears would actually play a part in their demise, something screenwriter Ron Ford didn't bother to do with his script for The Fear.
Really, how hard is it to fuck this up? A grad student does a fear study in a cabin in the woods with six folks, each of whom have a traditional fear (getting old, water, bugs, etc). And there's a franchise-ready villain in Morty, a wooden mannequin who may actually be alive. So you're probably thinking, cool - people go off alone, and Morty gets them with their fear. Sweet!
But no. To its credit, it tries to be a little more serious and delves into some psychological territory (the grad student guy discovers that he may have subconsciously had his mother killed by telling his dad that she was having an affair), instead of a standard slashfest. However, it's also damn near incomprehensible at times, and just gets more and more baffling as it goes. The climax revolves around, as best as I can tell, the hero being given a sphere by the ghost of his younger self, which, once broken and the pieces placed back together, will cause all of the supernatural elements to disappear. OK.
The movie even manages to make incest confusing. The lady that is afraid of getting old tells how when she was 17 "he came along", meaning the film's most annoying character, a typically mid 90s dreadlocked "urban" white guy. Anyone in their right mind would understand this to mean that she was his mother. But later on they start making out, with the guy saying its OK because they aren't really related, just adopted by the same woman (?). She then reveals that she is really... his mother. Huh? We already thought that! Also the main guy catches his mom with his uncle. Unless I missed it, it's never clear whether the uncle was on the mother's (hey-o!) or father's (meh) side of the family.
Now, as I understood later, the DVD (labeled as a collector's edition!) is actually edited. But the edits are quite obvious and exist to cut nudity/violence/swearing (!!) out of the film, not story-based elements. But even still, I will cut it SOME slack for the baffling narrative, even though other reviews (based on the VHS, which is uncut) point out that it's just as confusing.
However, edits or not, the film is blandly shot, contains nearly no likable characters (as well as too many; they have like 6 for the study but then two others show up), and doesn't do anything with what should be its central character. Morty should be front and center, but he actually seems like a MacGuffin in the grand scheme of things. The acting is OK for this type of thing, but the film gives none of them a chance to shine or even pay off their various character arcs. I can't even tell who was alive at the end.
The best actor, oddly enough, is Wes Craven. He plays the main guy's psychology professor in a pair of scenes, and is quite good. To be fair, Craven actually WAS a professor in college, and has a masters in psychology, so he's sort of playing himself. But he literally played himself in New Nightmare, and wasn't very good there, so we're back to "he's a good actor here". My mid 90s crush Heather Medway (the "non-laugher"'s roommate in the classic "The Switch" episode of Seinfeld) also pops up, but like everyone else, doesn't quite get anything to do in the end, as the movie spins so far out of control/coherency its impossible to even gauge what she was doing in the movie in the first place.
As I mentioned, the movie is dubbed a Collector's edition, but unless you count a full frame transfer (another one!) and that godawful menu that's just as confusing as the film itself, there are no extras of any sort. Unless, of course, you consider that this version is eight minutes shorter than the VHS version, which equals eight less minutes spent being bored/confused by it. Thanks! Apparently there is a sequel, but it won't be until HMAD reaches the end of film availability that I bother with it.
What say you?