Review by Adam Donato
Phobias is directed by a group of people including several first time directors. Camille Belle, Maritte Lee Go, Joe Sill, Jess Varley, and Chris von Hoffmann come together to make one film about a group of individuals who have their fears tested in a government facility. Just like how there are several directors, there are also several stars in the movie including Alexis Knapp, Lauren Miller Rogen, Hannah Mae Lee, Martina Garcia, Macy Gray, and Leonardo Nam. The story follows Nam’s character of Johnny who has his fear chase him to the brink as he ends up in a government facility and learns of the other patient’s fears. A crazy doctor revels in them and tries to harness their fear into some kind of weapon.
Almost like The ABCs of Death and other horror anthologies, Phobias is an excellent opportunity to see new filmmakers get a shot to direct a short that would contribute to a larger picture. One of the more interesting parts of a movie like this is choosing a favorite of the set of short stories. The directors worked together to make the script feel cohesive, but each of the stories have their own feel, which helps to keep the movie feeling fresh. It’s easy for something like this to feel very rinse and repeat. Despite this, the movie as a whole doesn’t work as well as the shorts do on their own.
The purpose of a scary movie is to be scary. Phobias is scary enough... barely. The short stories are more interesting than actually scary. One thing that does not help with the tone is the scenes at the government facility. Ross Partridge plays Dr. Wright in an over the top kind of way. It’s also clear that, while the individual stories are fleshed out, the overarching plot is silly. The government is secretly kidnapping people and trying to weaponize their fear? That doesn’t fit well with the story of the mom who has ptsd from being a cop. Also, some of the stories are more high concept, while others are extremely grounded in reality.
Overall, there’s enough here to satisfy the hunger for horror here. It’s nothing great, but it’s certainly enjoyable enough. It will be interesting to see where certain directors go after this movie, which is hopefully a jumping off point. Once again, movie by committee is a great opportunity to do some weird individual stuff, but as an overall picture it lacks a compelling through line.
Phobias hits VOD on March 19.