Fear Itself - Season 1 DVD Review


Written by Joel Harley

DVD released by Lionsgate Home Entertainment

 

 

Created by Mick Garris
Written and directed by multiple directors
2008, Region 2 (PAL), 533 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 28th January 2013

Starring:
Brandon Routh as Bobby
Eric Roberts as Harry Siegal
Briana Evigan as Helen
Elisabeth Moss as Danny Bannerman
Shiri Appleby as Tracy
Barbara Tyson as Candace

 

fear-itself-dvd-cover

 

Review:

 

Mick Garris's Masters of Horror returns, retooled but with considerably less 'masters' and 'horror' to its name. Gone are the likes of John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper and Takashi Miike, replaced with relative newbies Rob Shmidt (Wrong Turn), Darren Lynn Bousman and Breck Eisner (The Crazies remake) and underrated stalwarts such as John Landis and Stuart Gordon. They do sterling work and some of them show promise, but there's barely an auteur amongst them all. The exception being Gordon, who may just be my favourite horror director ever. I would have picked up Fear Itself for his name alone.
 
 
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As with most anthology series, it's a mixed bag. Even the original Masters of Horror struggled with some duff episodes – particularly those directed by Tobe Hooper (how the mighty have fallen) and John Carpenter's embarrassing Pro-Life. The bad entries were worth wading through though, for Takashi Miike's traumatic Imprint, Dario Argento's bizarre Pelts (which starred, um, Meat Loaf) and anything by Stuart Gordon. Would the highlights of Fear Itself make the inevitable rubbish bits seem worthwhile? I had faith in Stuart Gordon that he could redeem just about anything. He even managed to make Mena Suvari seem like a good actress, in Stuck, after all.
 
 
fear-itself-03     fear-itself-04
 
 
Eater isn't prime Gordon, but it is the nastiest in the series. It's the story of a rookie cop hunting a cannibal serial killer, while her cop pals cast aspersions on her being a horror fanatic and subscriber to Fangoria (or the episode's own version of that, anyway). It being like an early episode of The X-Files made me wish that Stuart Gordon had found the time to direct a few episodes of that show in his time. Unlike some of the other directors here, his style really lends itself to television – perhaps because he really knows how to create a sense of atmosphere and subtle dread. Compare this with Rob Schmidt's uninteresting The Spirit Box, which couldn't be any less atmospheric if it had been made on the literally atmosphere-less dwarf planet Makemake (eat your heart out, Professor Brian Cox). In lieu of Masters of Horror's gruesome gore and nasty ideas (mostly Takashi Miike's) many of the episodes opt for comedy horror or light suspense, like Goosebumps for grown-ups. There are thirteen episodes in the set. None of them are required viewing. Not even yours, Mister Gordon, much as it pains me to say so.
 
 
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At least Spooked (by Brad Anderson, of The Machinist fame) has Eric Roberts as its lead. It says a lot for Roberts' habit of appearing in total crap that this is his best work in a while. And unlike those stupid Syfy movies and cheap action knock-offs he keeps making, he's in it all the way through. A disgraced ex-cop turned Private Eye, Roberts finds himself haunted by both his own mistakes and actual ghosts, in the literal sense. Libby from LOST co-stars, thereby combining two of my favourite things – Eric Roberts and ex-LOST castaways. It's a slow episode, but one of the less silly ones. Meanwhile, unpopular Superman Brandon Routh plays a man who moves into a suburban version of Summerisle in Community. Shiri Appleby reminds why her career died after Swimfan and Roswell, but Routh is a solid lead in this Stepford Wives-esque tale. Elsewhere, Darren Lynn Bousman directs Briana Evigan in New Year's Day, a zombie story with a cool twist. The rest of the episodes have their highs and lows, but everything evens out enough for the series to be worthwhile eventually.
 
Handily, Fear Itself's most watchable episodes can all be found on the one disc (the last one, by which point less tolerant viewers may have given up). It gives a sense of consistency that the series doesn't actually have. But at least it goes out on a high. Fear Itself was cancelled halfway through its first season, with many of the episodes never airing in the US. Will viewers be more forgiving of Fear Itself's shortcomings, or is it destined to remain amongst the many half-watched boxsets which clutter up DVD shelves everywhere?
 

Video and Audio:

 

Each episode looks and sounds like a cheap, straight to DVD horror film. While some of the directors show visual flourish (well, Bousman's looks a bit green, like a Saw sequel) every episode looks pretty much the same. It gets an extra point for the music, because I really like that Lie Lie Lie song by Serj Tankian
 

Special Features:

 

There are no special features with this set.

 

 

Grades:

 

 
Movie: 3.5 Stars buy-fear-itself-dvd
Video: 3 stars
Audio: 4 Stars
Features:
Overall: 3.5 Stars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want to comment on this review? You can leave one below or head over to the HorrorTalk Review Forum.

 

 

 

About The Author
Joel Harley
Staff Writer
Haribo fiend, Nicolas Cage scholar and frequently functioning alcoholic. These are just some of the words which can be used to describe Joel Harley. The rest, he uses to write film criticism for HorrorTalk and a variety of websites and magazines. Sometimes he manages to do so without swearing.
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