Fear Clinic Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
DVD released by Anchor Bay Entertainment UK
Directed by Robert Hall
Written by Aaron Drane and Robert Hall
2014, 95 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on March 30th 2015
Thomas Dekker as Blake
Cleopatra Coleman as Megan
Robert Englund as Dr. Andover
Kevin Gage as Gage
Robert Englund plunders his own back catalogue for a soft remake of the third (and best) Nightmare on Elm Street, with the erstwhile Freddy Krueger in the good Doctor Neil Gordon role. Head honcho at an experimental clinic dealing only in phobias, his Doctor Andover is the creator of a revolutionary piece of kit capable of curing the fearful of what ails them. When a patient dies during treatment, Andover shuts his operation down, quitting the fear business for good. He's forced to reconsider when those he cured begin to suffer violent relapses, seeing visions of the masked gunman who terrorised each of them into their own individual phobias.
Originating as a short series for the now defunct horror site FEARnet, Robert Hall's Fear Clinic has the stink of wannabe franchising all over, from its relatively high profile lead to the unresolved questions and story it leaves in its wake. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it does leave the film feeling unfinished and a little cynical. Many great horror films have ended on a sequel-baiting note – including A Nightmare on Elm Street itself – but this one doesn't even bother wrapping up its own story first, leaving the door wide open for a sequel which may never come.
Thankfully, the preceding ninety minutes are so strong that you'll be left clamouring for that sequel almost as hard as the film itself does. Englund is on fine form as Doctor Andover, managing to come across as scary and sinister in spite of his essentially playing the good guy. He's well supported by a cast which includes Fiona (seed of Brad) Dourif and musician Corey Taylor, of Slipknot fame. Dourif doesn't really get the material she deserves (apparently playing a complete imbecile, desperate to climb into a Lovecraftian TARDIS which has killed at least one person) while Taylor is amusing as one of the clinic's two gruff, filthy handymen. The rest are apparently there only to give Andover's grisly fear demon something to feed on, but they do so well enough – most notably Angela Armani and Thomas Dekker, playing characters straight out of a Nightmare on Elm Street sequel. The latter was even in the remake, furthering the comparisons to, frankly, uncomfortable levels. Not to mention the fact that Dekker plays a mute character for much of the film, just like, yep, Dream Warriors' Joey.
Thankfully, there is more to it than its very obvious inspirations. It looks fantastic, with great care given to its atmosphere and scares. There's a nice level of gore and body horror throughout, as well as an effective bit of imagery in its masked gunman. As the poor patients' fears take hold, the film becomes reminiscent of the wonderful From Beyond, complete with a gruesome transformation torn straight from the ending of Gordon's cult classic. It's far from original, but steals what it does cannily enough that it's hard to begrudge them for it. Besides, if you're going to get outraged about anything, it should be Robert Englund's hair – a limp mop that wouldn't look out of place in a Nicolas Cage movie or Bruce Willis flashback sequence.
Bad hair or not, Fear Clinic is the best thing Englund has done in years. It's gruesome, nasty and enjoyably demented, with an interesting story, cool cast and an impressively dour atmosphere. It may be derivative of stronger and more effective things, but if they are going to go the franchise route, I would be more than up for a repeat prescription.