Review by Cole Groth
Fear is frustrating. If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the movie. It’s funny because one of the top comments on the YouTube trailer states the opposite, but I can see how it’s easy to think that the plot wasn’t spoiled when there isn’t a plot to begin with. Directed by Deon Taylor, this horror/thriller struggles through a lame first two acts before shifting to an overstimulating gorefest in the last thirty minutes that resembles more of a supercut of other lousy horror films than a film of its own.
Written by Deon Taylor and John Ferry, the premise follows a group of friends who gather at an old and remote hotel during the COVID-19 pandemic for a celebration. After a clichéd night by a fire where each person details their greatest fears, the group learns that a sinister secret is coming for them all. Ugh. It’s so derivative that it sounds like an AI generated the entire script. A creepy old white lady makes everybody uncomfortable, there’s some witchcraft at the hotel, and each group member slowly loses their mind.
Beyond the frustrating premise, the dialogue adds nothing to the dull experience. None of the actors elevate their roles beyond nameless faces that the audience won’t miss when their character inevitably dies.
Andrew “King Bach” Bachelor’s character’s backstory demonstrates the general problems of Fear. His greatest fear stems from a night when police brutalized him. Like each other subplot, this is thrown in there for the shock factor and isn’t developed beyond a jumping-off point for a potential kill later on. Like the other characters, his background could’ve been generated from a focus group of things that people might fear rather than a thought-out story from a talented writer.
What this film lacks in substance, decent writing, pacing, or any other hallmarks of good storytelling, it makes up for in horrific presentation. There aren’t many scares for the first 45 minutes or so, but the last 40 cranks it up in a series of elaborate kill scenes that, while entirely unnecessary, will please horror fans who crave gore. Casual viewers will start yawning by the time they’re on the fifth kill scene in a row because of the repetitiveness of it all.
While I won’t spoil the contents of the ending, I’ll point out that one of the final mistakes, demonstrative of the film’s laziness, is the last title slide. Instead of stating the movie’s title, it takes a twist and says, “DON’T FEAR.” It took me a few minutes to figure out why Deon Taylor would end his film with something that isn’t the title. This was the previous title of the movie, so is this a simple editing error? It’s an awfully big mistake to screw up on the last shot, but it’s easy to conclude that, like the rest of the film, this was a rushed decision without any purpose.
All together, Fear might prove to be an appropriately frightening experience for those who enjoy bizarre amalgamations of gore, slimy monsters, and jumpscares, but anybody looking for more than a surface-level thriller will be disappointed. There’s little substance to be found in this film because the script tries to have so much of it. The complex messaging will have audiences trying to figure out what’s going on, which is a huge mistake because this film is better enjoyed without paying any attention to the plot. Director Deon Taylor has exclusively produced bargain-bin material films throughout his career, and Fear might be the bargain-biniest of them all.
Fear releases in theaters everywhere on January 27th.