Today's column was originally going to be a two-fer, with me reviewing both "Swingtown" and NBC's new horror anthology series "Fear Itself," but I wound up going on so long about the former that the latter didn't make the cut. So after the jump, some non spoiler-y thoughts...
I'll say upfront that I'm not much of a horror fan, so take the rest of this for what you will. But I've seen three episodes of "Fear Itself," and for the most part, they're neither fish nor fowl: not gory enough for the "Saw"/"Hostel" crowd, and not genuinely scary enough for anybody else.
The series launches with "The Sacrifice," where four partners in crime (including Jesse Plemons, aka Landry from "Friday Night Lights") get stranded in a remote winter cabin populated by a bunch of creepy blonde sisters and some kind of monster in the shadows. The plot -- in particular, the eventual explanation for why the sisters behave the way they do throughout -- doesn't make any sense, and the "twist" ending is really anything but.
Next week, we get "Spooked," with Eric Roberts as a dirty cop-turned-private-eye who gets a surveillance job in what turns out to be a haunted house. Despite the presence of Roberts and Cynthia Watros and Larry Gilliard Jr. (D'Angelo from "The Wire"), there's really no there there, and the ending is particularly arbitrary.
The third episode, "Family Man," has some promise. It has Colin Ferguson and Clifton Collins Jr. as two very different kinds of family men -- Ferguson an upstanding husband and father, Collins a serial killer who likes to slaughter families -- who switch bodies after simultaneous near-death experiences in the same hospital ER. Again, because it's on NBC and they can't show much in the way of blood and guts, the show is going to succeed or fail based on its ability to do psychological horror, and this was the only one of the three that felt (owing more to the premise than the execution, though Collins and Ferguson are both good) genuinely disturbing.
If you watch it tonight, feel free to comment here. As a non-fan of the genre, I doubt I'll be checking in regularly past the ones I've already seen, even if the casting's good.