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Fear Itself (DVD)

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Fear Itself DVDReviewed by Uncle Creepy

Featured stars: Johnathon Schaech, J Larose, Anna Kendrick, Eric Balfour

Featured directors: Stuart Gordon, Brad Anderson, Mary Harron, Breck Eisner, John Landis, Ronny Yu, Ernest Dickerson, Darren Bousman, Larry Fessenden, John Dahl, Rob Schmidt, Rupert Wainwright, Eduardo Rodriguez

Distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment


Despite its intentions, Masters of Horror Season Three this was not. Fear Itself came, went, and was ultimately killed off by the Olympic Games, never to be seen again until right now on DVD in an interesting little package from Lionsgate.

Before I begin, let’s take a quick look at the episodes included here, some of which are director’s cuts and were never aired.

“Eater” is directed by Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator) and written by Cemetery Dance Magazine publisher and editor Richard Chizmar (From a Buick 8) and actor Johnathon Schaech (Masters of Horror). A rookie cop (Moss) must spend her first night in the precinct watching over a serial killer, coined “The Eater” (Stephen R. Hart, Shoot ‘Em Up). When her fellow cops start acting bizarrely, she quickly learns that no one is who they seem. Russell Hornsby (Lincoln Heights), Pablo Schreiber (“The Wire”), and Stephen Lee (“Boston Legal”) also star.

“Spooked” is directed by Brad Anderson (The Machinist) and written by Matt Venne (White Noise 2: The Light). While on a stake-out in a haunted house, a private eye (Roberts) is made to confront the demons of his past. Jack Noseworthy (“Judging Amy”), Cynthia Watros (“Lost”), and Larry Gilliard Jr. (“The Wire”) also star.

“Community” is directed by Mary Harron (American Psycho) and written by Kelly Kennemer (The Music Within). When a young married couple, played by Brandon Routh and Shiri Appleby, find the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood, their lives seem…well…perfect. But as the dark underbelly of their neighborhood creeps to the surface, they soon realize that their neighbors will go to any extreme — even murder — to make sure that they comply with their twisted sense of conformity. John Billingsley (“Star Trek: Enterprise”) also stars.

“The Sacrifice” has a screenplay written by Mick Garris (Riding the Bullet) from a story by Del Howison (Dark Delicacies). Breck Eisner (Creature from the Black Lagoon) directs. When four people find themselves stranded in an old, snow-covered fort, they slowly discover both the fort and the seductive trio of sirens who reside there are filled with deadly secrets.

“New Year’s Day” is directed by Darren Bousman (Saw II, III and IV) and written by Steve Niles (30 Days of Night) from a story by Paul Kane. A young woman wakes up in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by horrifying zombies.

“Family Man” is directed by Ronny Yu (Freddy vs. Jason, Bride of Chucky) and is written by Dan Knauf (“Carnivale,” “Supernatural”). This action-charged, psychological thriller focuses on a likable family man who switches bodies with a serial killer after a near-death experience. Now he must fight from behind bars to keep the murderer from adding his family to the long list of victims.

Fear Itself DVD“Skin & Bones” is written by Drew McWeeny and Scott Swan (Masters of Horror) with Larry Fessenden directing. When a cattle herder returns home to his family after being lost in the woods for days, he just doesn’t seem the same. Soon a terrible mortal struggle ensues against the terrifying monster possessing him.

“Something With Bite” is a reinvention of the classic werewolf story from writer Max Landis (Masters of Horror), the son of John Landis. Ernest Dickerson (NBC’s “Heroes”) directs.

“Chance” is written by Lem Dobbs (The Score) with John Dahl (You Kill Me, The Last Seduction) directing. In the vein of such classic doppelganger stories as Jekyll & Hyde and Poe’s “William Wilson,” the episode explores a dreadful, classic battle that ensues when a man is confronted by his evil self.

“In Sickness and in Health” is directed by John Landis (An American Werewolf in London) and written by Victor Salva (Jeepers Creepers). On her wedding day a beautiful bride receives a mysterious note that reads: “The person you are marrying is a serial killer.”

“The Spirit Box” is directed by Rob Schmidt (Masters of Horror, Wrong Turn) and written by Joe Gangemi (Wind Chill, the novel Inamorata). When two suburban high school girls, played by Anna Kendrick (Rocket Science) and Jessica Parker Kennedy (Kaya), try to contact a dead classmate via a board game, they receive an unexpected message from beyond the grave. The dead girl, thought to be a teen suicide, was actually killed by a teacher with whom she’d been having an affair and now wants their help in avenging her murder. Martin Donovan (“The Dead Zone,” “Weeds”) and Mark Pellegrino (“Dexter,” “K-Ville”) also star.

“Echoes” is directed by Rupert Wainwright (The Fog, Stigmata) and written by Sean Hood (The Crow: Wicked Prayer, Halloween: Resurrection). Steven (Aaron Stanford, The Hills Have Eyes), an affable, good-natured young man, moves into an apartment where he believes he once lived — 88 years ago in a past life. But as memories appear to him like ghosts, he begins to believe that in this previous life he was a sadistic murderer – or is he just imagining things? Eric Balfour (“24,” The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and Camille Guaty (“Prison Break,” “Las Vegas”) also star.

“The Circle” is written by Cemetery Dance Magazine publisher and editor Richard Chizmar (From a Buick 8) and actor Johnathon Schaech (Masters of Horror, That Thing You Do!), based on the short story of the same title written by Lewis Shiner, with Eduardo Rodriguez (Curandero, Daughter) directing. A group of people meet every Halloween to tell horror stories and suddenly discover they’re living one. Starring Johnathon Schaech (Prom Night, Angels Fall), Ashley Scott (“Jericho”), Melanie Nicholls-King (“The Wire”) and Eric Keenleyside (“Traveler”).

Simply put, damned near every single episode comes in at either the average or below average mark with the exception of Fessenden’s “Skin & Bones”. One good episode does not a series make. Maybe it’s because the breaks for commercials are there, eliminating what little tension there is. But then what of older TV shows like Tales from the Darkside, et al? They managed quite a few good episodes. Maybe it was the horrid B-grade CGI that snapped you out of every scene it’s used in. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s the ridiculous theme song. Either way the whole affair seems kind of stamped out.

Then there’s the packaging. While it looks good in photos, when you have it in your hands, it’s kind of laughable. The tombstone and skeleton are fashioned from really thin plastic. The kind you’d find at 99 Cent party stores. The DVD’s (all flipper discs) are stacked on top of each other (begging to be scratched) with only a tiny loose foam ring separating the two sides of the package. Wow, really?

Then there are the special features. Each episode has a short interview with the director. Joy.

Yep, suffice it to say that even a year later … Fear Itsucks.

Special Features

  • Director interviews for each episode

    Show:

    2 1/2 out of 5

    Special Features:

    1 out of 5

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    The Cured Review – Ellen Page Fights for Her Life

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    Starring Ellen Page, Sam Keeley, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Paula Malcomson

    Written and directed by David Freyne


    Taking a cue from AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” the new Irish horror film The Cured begins where most zombie stories end. Drawing more comparisons, the themes of mistrust and social upheaval are front and center here as well. We’re the real villains, and the infectious disease turning humans into monsters is only there to hold up a mirror to show the worst sides of ourselves. The Cured uses the zombie mythos as Romero intended as a commentary on culture, with a little cannibalism thrown in for good measure.

    Against the backdrop of a military takeover attempting to reintroduce the recently cured back into society, two people try to return to some kind of normalcy in a war-torn Ireland that’s been turned upside down by the zombie menace. Recently widowed, Abbey (Page) allows her now virus-free brother-in-law Senan (Keeley) to live with her and her son, even though most survivors are forced to live in an army encampment. Under constant surveillance, Senan’s old friend Conor (Vaughan-Lawlor) radicalizes the mistreated survivors of the virus into open rebellion.

    The treatment of the survivors isn’t entirely unfair considering that they still have a connection and are not detected by a small percentage of the infected that haven’t responded to the cure. As both sides size each other up, Abbey and Senan are caught in the middle as they try to restore their humanity before the powder keg around them erupts.

    Given its far out premise, the story stays firmly grounded in reality, focusing on the growing resistance and its political implications, drawing parallels to the protest movements such as the “Black Block” that have dominated some recent news cycles. When the virus divided the population, it was easy to know what side you were on; now, the cure has created a new class structure where the lower class is maligned until they cross the line and overthrow the uninfected. Clearly still affected and haunted by the heinous acts they committed when they were infected, the cannibalistic rage they still carry reflects the rage felt by the mistreated masses hellbent on overthrowing the powers-that-be.

    Whether for budget reasons or simply a style choice, the eating frenzies that occurred before the cure are never fully shown so any gore and graphic images that could’ve been showcases for effects are left to the imagination. Maybe they weren’t shown because these acts were so unspeakable that they are too horrific to see and too painful to fully be remembered by the survivors. The top-notch sound design ratchets up instead and roars to life to the point where just hearing the carnage is enough to make you turn away.

    Page’s performance is the emotional core of the film as she goes from understanding to fear to dealing with the ultimate betrayal. It’s important for a slow-developing story like this to have an actress with some star power, and director David Freyne and his team were fortunate to have a high caliber actress ready to deliver in some of the film’s quieter, more intense moments. Freyne directs these smaller character moments with care and also delivers once things open up to show the inevitable anarchy brimming under the surface.

    The Cured may feel too closed off at times to allow its bigger ideas to fully breathe, but it never pretends to encompass a more epic scope that would be more in the vein of something like World War Z. Without ever addressing it directly, Freyne, as an Irishman, seems well aware of the history of the country; and he and cinematographer Piers McGrail inject their film with a pathos that makes Dublin come to life inside the world of the undead.

    • The Cured
    3.5

    Summary

    The Cured is a gritty take on the genre that fits nicely into the new type of storytelling that these stories need to embrace in a post-Romero world.

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    Bad Apples Review – Rotten Fruit, Indeed

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    Starring Brea Grant, Graham Skipper, Alycia Lourim

    Directed by Brian Coyne


    Like a seriously bad rash, some films stick with you regardless of whichever topical ointment you slather in generous fashion over your regions – ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce today’s orbital irritant: Bad Apples.

    Directed (rather misdirected) by Brian Coyne, this lamentably sterile piece of celluloid follows a couple of murderous sisters, donning horrific (and not in a good sense) masks, and generally putting the sharp edges to random folk on Halloween night…case closed. Only problem here is this: the film has no pulse, no interesting characters to speak of, and basically nothing to redeem or recapture the time that you’ll have spent watching this complete dud. A husband and wife duo has a spotlight on them as well, but their tempestuous relationship makes rooting for them about as pleasing as sitting through 3 hours of Olympic curling…absolutely brutal. Also, you’re reading the babblings of a guy who loves to put the boots to any film that has been deemed “unwatchable”, but this complete wreck of a production is entirely that – something so remedial and uninspired that to type an endless array of rightful vitriol would be an utter waste of time.

    So I’ll go on a bit longer with my public display of vehemence, as the casting seems WAY out of whack, and the production? Whoa…don’t even get me started on this – okay, I’ll go on a bit. With differing levels of sound editing, you’ll get the feeling at times like you could pick up a needle drop inside of a concert hall, and other frames of dialogue are so muddled they’re incomprehensible (not like you’ll feel the need to know what’s going on). Wonky camera angles and following shots are so horrendously captured, you’ll be wishing to watch your Mom and Dad’s old home movies just to gain a sense of stability. I normally pride myself on not begging this particular audience to take what I say to heart, or to shy away from something that could potentially ruin their eyesight, but believe me when I plead with you: do not waste your valuable time on this shipwreck – even if your time isn’t all that valuable: don’t waste it. Find something else to do and take a big ol’ pass on this wannabe slasher.

    • Film
    1.5

    Summary

    I don’t mean to pick on the low-hanging fruit, but these Apples should be batted away with a Louisville Slugger.

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    Edge of Isolation Review – A Movie with a Simple Message: Don’t Trust Anyone

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    Starring Michael Marcel, Marem Hassler, Alexandra Peters

    Directed by Jeff Houkal


    Sometimes, relying on the kindness of strangers is the thing that’ll do your gullible asses in – kindness? Strangers? Come on – think about it! Even further proof of said warning comes in the form of director Jeff Houkal’s brutally blatant film, Edge Of Isolation – won’t you come inside and grab a seat? You see! You fell right into another trap – jeezus, people…don’t trust just anyone, will ya?

    Set up in a simplistic format, we’ve got a traveling couple (Lance and Kendra) whose Jeep, conveniently enough decides to shit the bed along a desolate stretch of roadway, leaving them at the mercy of the Polifer family, a slightly odd bunch of backwoods residents. This particular clan isn’t exactly wrapped too tightly, and they’re not afraid to let their freak flags fly, that’s for sure. You see, the family has been deeply-rooted in these here woods, and their “hospitality” has kept them fed for quite some time, and with a fresh supply of unsuspecting commuters stopping in at varying spells, their stomachs never truly seem to growl out of sustained hunger…oh, that kindness will bite you in the ass every single waking moment.

    As I mentioned earlier, the film is constructed fairly simple, yet effective in its barbarism, and those who dig survivalist-horror will be wringing their mitts in anticipation for this one. While some editing does look a bit hokey, the practical effects more than make up for an at-times bit of strewn-about plot navigation, but who’s keeping score? Certainly not me, that’s for sure. I absolutely revel in low-budgeted films that don’t necessarily have the looks and feels of such, and Edge Of Isolation is one of those presentations that is certainly worth its weight in blood and guts – do yourself a solid and give this one a look when it becomes available to the masses, and for f**k’s sake, don’t take up anyone’s offer to chill at their place when your ride breaks down – get AAA and save your life (the previous statement was in no way affiliated or endorsed by the Triple A Automotive group – just sayin’).

    • Film
    3.5

    Summary

    Edge Of Isolation doesn’t need a full-blown allocation to keep future stranded motorists from losing their heads – all they have to do is push “play.”

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