Thursday, June 05, 2008

Pretty scary, eh, kids?: 'Fear Itself'

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.

10 comments:

Ratchet said...

Hrm, yeah...I am still not sure if I'll watch this, but it did get me thinking. Are there any other anthology shows on right now/coming soon? I love the old sci-fi anthology shows The Twilight Zone/Outer Limits.

Anonymous said...

Why do the networks keep bothering with these shows? In the last few years we've gotten Masters of Horror, Masters of Science Fiction, the new Twilight Zone, and Night Visions. Most of them have ended up being summer burn off and NONE of them have been successful. I give this one 2 weeks tops.

Alanna said...

I've noticed that many of the episodes appear to feature actors from various NBCU channels - Colin Ferguson, Jesse Plemons, James Roday, etc. Odd coincidence, or is this some strange marketing strategy?

And if so, then can Bravo loan them Tim Gunn for an episode?

xyz said...

I thought Masters of Sci-fi was pretty good atleast the only episode I watched (the one with Terry O' Quinn).

As far as 'Fear Itself' goes, I was entertained even though the story was eh and the ending predictable, I enjoyed it. The first 45 minutes were cool but it falls apart at the end with the explanation which was very bland.

Rich C said...

Well, that was a waste of Jesse Plemmons...

Kristin said...

xyz, I agree...I was entertained, even though it had a so-so ending. I missed a bit of it when our power went out for a moment...so perhaps I skipped over the explanation part that was weak?

I was not expecting a vampire story, so that did catch me by surprise.

I'll watch them all, just because I am a fan of horror/suspense stuff. And there's just not much else new on!

cg said...

I actually kind of like watered down horror (completely not a sarcastic remark!) I can't watch straight-up horror/gore but I've always enjoyed READING Stephen King and the like and watching old anthology shows.
Not horrible (particularly considering there's nothing on my tivo To Do's right now except The Mole and the last Top Chef) but I agree this was a sad waste of Landry...

Jay said...

Fear Itself was better than I expected. Of course, after Mick Garris's mild Masters of Horror on "no limits" Showtime, I had particularly low expectations for the show in the first place.

def said...

I don't want to register to the New Jersey paper to leave a comment, so I'll leave one here.

Very good column. The notion of entertainment is different to different people. TV has become much more legitimate over the last 15 years, as an artful competitor to film. If other art forms had to worry about "the family" every time something was produced, where would world culture be? HBO has indeed raised the standard for producers everywhere.

dez said...

Fear Itself was better than I expected.

Same here, considering how mostly awful Masters of Horror was. I understand that Garris left the show after the writer's strike, so there may be some hope for it yet. Bummer that Del Howison didn't get a credit for the story since the ep was based on his work, but I also understand that Garris changed it so much that it barely resembled Del's original anyway.