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Something to Fear: Review of “Fear Itself” episodes 1-7

Genre: Horror
Format: 13-part anthology written by masters in the field.
Airs: NBC at 10 p.m. (ET/PT) on Thursday nights.
Rating: TV-14

>>MINOR PLOT SPOILERS<<

Episode 1:

“The Sacrifice,” screenplay by Mick Garris based on the short story, “The Lost Herd” by Del Howison; directed by Breck Eisner ; starring Jeffrey Pierce, Jesse Plemons, and Rachel Miner; music by Brian Tyler

Summary: four convicts become stranded at a strange farmhouse in an out-of-the-way stretch of woods.

Well-acted and well-written, this particular tale has plenty of action and a familiar villain. However, deviated from the current (and rather tired) trend, going instead for the original view of monsters as true monsters, horrific in aspect as well as action; there is nothing romantic about this creature. The three mysterious sisters add depth and navigate the emotion, while the convicts themselves find unexpected and nasty surprises waiting for them in a place they think is safe.

Though not horror buffs ourselves, this was one episode we actually thought we might like to watch again. One has no idea of the villain’s true nature until well into the story, and the atmosphere truly lends itself to the fear factor and the isolation of the group. Beautiful winter woods become at turns a desolate death trap and the symbol of freedom and unrealized dreams. However, be forewarned, those of you who are not regular horror enthusiasts: this episode (as is par for the course for the series so far) does contain gory details and disturbing acts. It isn’t the gore alone which makes this episode stand out; there’s a disquieting psychological element that will haunt the viewer after the show is over.

Episode 2:

“Spooked,” written by Matt Verne; directed by Brad Anderson; starring Eric Roberts & Cynthia Watros; music by Anton Sanko.

Summary: An ex-cop turned private detective confronts his own inner monsters.

The story of a cop gone bad and the attempt at retribution by those he has wronged is a bit done, and the reason for his going bad seems pat and unrealistic. Roberts’ partner is also a very standard character and lends little to the story.

Neither as atmospheric nor as eerie as “The Sacrifice,” this episode nonetheless delivers some creepy moments, particularly with the graffiti in the haunted house. Roberts does a passable job, but it is Watros’ expression at the end that makes the episode worth watching.

Note to the sensitive: commits a cop-out (so to speak) by writing in a totally unnecessary “gross-out” moment. Also be aware that the gore continues in this episode.

Episode 3:

“Family Man,” written by Daniel Knauf; directed by Ronny Yu; starring Colin Ferguson and Clifton Collins, Jr.; music by Jeff Rona.

Summary: Following a car crash, a man finds he has switched bodies with a serial killer.

The “switched bodies” idea has been done before, and a major key in making the idea seem fresh is in the casting; part of the enticement of watching two people switch lives is in believing they are, on the inside, different people than they appear to be.

The cast, particularly Clifton Collins, Jr., as the hero in a serial killer’s body, does a good job of this, and his confusion and growing fear as he faces horror after horror is well played. The suspense builds, and while there is significant blood in both the beginning and ending, the middle is surprisingly mild compared to, say, Prison Break. The ending offers a neat little twist — two, actually — to deliver one final psychological horror.

Episode 4:

“In Sickness and in Health,” written by Victor Salva; directed by John Landis; starring Maggie Lawson and James Roday.

Summary: A bride gets a sinister note on her wedding day.

The actors are a bit wasted in this somewhat odd episode which has “Psych” star Maggie Lawson receiving the note “The person you are about to marry is a serial killer.” There are a few jumpy moments, particularly when the bride is alone in the church at the beginning, but there isn’t a lot to the story, and the ending is at once a little predictable and a little confusing. Roday and Lawson do a fine job, though, and the episode isn’t a total wash, because fans of “Psych” get to see them stretch their acting muscles somewhat. The ending has a creepy tone, and although there are several gruesome body parts in the final moments, there is less blood than in previous episodes.

Episode 5: “Eater,” Review unavailable.

Episode 6:

“New Year’s Day”; story by Steve Niles; teleplay by Steve Niles and Ben Sokolowski; starring Brianna Evigan, Zulay Henad, and Niall Matter

Summary: A woman wakes up on New Year’s Day to find her world taken over by zombies.

No one seems to do zombies in a new way, and this story is no different; this episode isn’t likely to keep you up at night, either. Still, it holds its own as one of the more watchable pieces, partly because of the acting. Brianna Evigan is particularly good as the confused and terrified lead. There’s considerable blood and gore, as one would expect in a zombie story, and though a lot of it is in shadows, you still see quite a bit. The love angle is somewhat tired, but there is a refreshing twist at the end, one which might get you to watch the episode again just to see the little clues leading up to it. Unfortunately, the twist doesn’t quite make sense even when you go back to rewatch the episode — almost, but not quite.

Episode 7: “Community” review unavailable.

3 Comments

  1. So each episode are their own individual stories, kind of like Outsiders but with more horror?

  2. Ruth:
    It’s an anthology series – like The Twilight Zone. Each week we get a completely different 1-hour TV horror movie. So far, they have been really good, creepy and cool, IMHO.

  3. Ahhh, okay. Awesome.

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