Fear Itself is a horror anthology TV series that ran on NBC in 2008. It’s sort of the unofficial third season of the Masters of Horror series which aired on Showtime, but this time it’s on network television, so the episodes are shorter and feature less gore, nudity and profanity. Like MoH, each episode is essentially an independent story made by different writers and directors, usually folks famous for their horror chops. And like MoH, the series so far appears to be very uneven. So far, none of the episodes really approaches MoH‘s best stuff, though one or two are mildly diverting enough to be worth watching for genre fans. It’s available on Netflix streaming (and I feel ok saying that now that they’ve reversed the whole Qwikster debacle), so I’ve hit up a few of them this past week (note: apparently the series was aired out of the originally proposed order, which is how Netflix has it ordered):
- Eater: Director Stuart Gordon was the man behind two of the better episodes of the MoH series (not to mention Re-Animator), and from what I’ve seen so far, this is the best of the Fear Itself episodes. As you’ll see below, that’s sort of damning with faint praise, but this was actually reasonably well done. The story concerns a serial killer’s layover in a small town police station. He’s a cannibal, and of course, he knows some obscure form of Cajun magic. Our heroine is officer Danny Bannerman, played by Elisabeth Moss (she of The West Wing), and there’s a nice supporting turn by Stephen Lee as well. The Cajun Cannibal is played by Stephen R. Hart and he’s certainly an imposing presence. There’s some nice creepy moments and stingers in the episode, but the ending is ultimately a bit weird. Still, the most satisfying of the Fear Itself episodes I’ve seen so far.
- Spooked: This is director Brad Anderson’s (of Session 9 fame) contribution, and it’s a middling episode at best. There’s an interesting idea at the heart of the episode, but it’s executed somewhat poorly, and there’s a little too much… melodrama? Also, it stars Eric Roberts. I’m not normally like this when it comes to actors, but I just take anything this guy does seriously. The mere fact that he’s in it is a big strike against it for me, even though he was probably no worse than the other actors in an objective sense. I don’t know, maybe he wronged me in a previous life or something. Anyway, he’s a private detective and he’s been hired to sit in a haunted house whilst staking out the house across the street. But, you know, all is not what it seems. As the episode started, my mind was racing, as there were many interesting directions the episode could have gone. And yet, it doesn’t really do any of that. Fleh.
- Community: Mary Harron, who directed American Psycho, did her best with this, but damn, it’s derivative and kinda boring. It actually reminded me of an old X-Files episode. Unfortunately, that episode was much better than this one. It’s basically a story about the horrors of the suburbs, gated communities, and homeowners associations. It stars Brandon Routh, who’s a charismatic actor and does his best, but again, this is a hard episode to elevate. Not recommended.
- The Sacrifice: Once again, we’ve got an interesting premise that’s been executed rather poorly. The setting is rather interesting. A few criminals (though it’s never really established what they’re doing) have car trouble (that’s original!) and seek to take refuge in a nearby… almost Amish-like compound. There’s a preacher and three beautiful women living there… along with a pesky vampire. Again, there’s some interesting stuff going on here, but the main characters are kinda hackneyed and dumb here, and well, I almost fell asleep watching this. Oh, and Breck Eisner? This is a director who has never had much in the way of success and even if he did, he’s not exactly known for horror (which may be a bit of a problem on a series premised on showcasing horror directors). This has been the worst episode yet!
- In Sickness and in Health: Wow, an actual decent episode. On the day of her wedding, Samantha the Bride gets a note with some rather disturbing information about her husband-to-be. It’s one of those stories where you’re constantly wondering why the hell no one actually wants to talk to each other, but it works well enough, and in the end, there might be a reason for it (even if it’s a rather thin reason). Directed by John Landis, it’s got some well constructed atmosphere going for it, and the script isn’t absolutely awful. Worth a watch…
Well, things haven’t been particularly encouraging so far. I doubt I’ll get much farther into the series this year, especially seeing as though I still haven’t seen all the Masters of Horror episodes (which are also mostly available on Netflix streaming)… See you Sunday for some Wes Craven awesomeness.