Fear Itself: In Sickness & In Health (2008)

Fear Itself: The Family Man reviewReviewed by Sirand

Staring Maggie Lawson, James Roday

Directed by John Landis

Each passing episode of Fear Itself makes it more and more obvious why Mick Garris jumped ship. As usual, the failure comes not from the censorship, but the creatively challenged committee-thinking of network television. While Masters of Horror was more hit-than-miss, its success/failure fell squarely on the shoulders of the filmmakers, and no two episodes ever felt the same. Despite the best efforts of several talented horror gurus, Fear Itself has absolutely no identity and no aspiration beyond commercial success – a trend that even John Landis can’t buck with “In Sickness and In Health.”

Sam (Lawson) is about to tie the knot after a short-term relationship with her man-squeeze Carlos (Roday). Minutes before the ceremony, the bride receives an anonymous note reading, “The person you are marrying is a serial killer”, which obviously doesn’t sit well with her. Is it a practical joke? A jealous ruse? Or is someone really going to marry an axe murderer? This being a horror series, it’s not hard to guess which.

Fear Itself: In Sickness & In HealthYou know you’re in trouble right from the opening pre-wedding sequence, which features the bride-to-be recounting the entire history of her love life with friends. It’s not only awkward, it’s some of the worst exposition this side of a daytime soap, and things only go downhill from there. After the dreaded note appears, the script completely abandons any sense of paranoia, relying on hokey false scares and obvious red herrings to move the plot along. You would think with Landis at the helm, there would at least be some black humor, but he plays this one with a straight face. The only laughs come from the unintentional, like a hallucinatory sequence where Sam’s husband morphs into a CGI skeleton at the altar. Of course, like all anthologies, there’s a twist ending involved, and this one turns out be the most ill-conceived, silly turn since the finale of Haute Tension.

John Landis, having produced some of the best episodes of Masters of Horror, proves once more that he is only as good as his script. It’s sad to watch a man of his talents pinned – no, crushed – by such an awful one-note screenplay. Furthermore, this series continues to demonstrate the biggest fault of Masters of Horror: Horror anthologies are best suited to half-hour episodes a la Tales From The Crypt instead of the bloated hour-long format.

Unless future directors are able to turn it around (doubtful given the talent wasted in previous episodes), Fear Itself is all “sickness” and no “health” to the horror genre.


1 1/2 out of 5

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  • micbev

    Mick Garris (born December 4, 1951) is an American filmmaker and screenwriter born in Santa Monica, California. He is best known for his adaptations of Stephen King stories, and is the creator of the Showtime series Masters of Horror. Garris won a 1986 Edgar Award for an episode he wrote for the Steven Spielberg-produced television series Amazing Stories.

  • Messiahman

    Incidentally, I guessed the obvious “twist” two minutes in. This made the episode even more interminable, if that’s possible.

    • Morgan Elektra

      What?!?!? It’s not like they made it obvious or anything… The awkward wording of the note coupled with the best friend’s painful exposition about the not-so-nice ex-boyfriends who ‘just disappeared’ was TOTALLY subtle.


  • Morgan Elektra

    Oh my GOD that was bad. I wonder whose call it was to cast Roday and Lawson opposite each other. I kept thinking it was an episode of Psych that was missing all the funny bits on, and I was waiting for Gus to pop up.

  • ivelnoslo

    It’s unfortunate that this is what we get with this series, and I thought the second season of MOH was disappointing.

    Nothing personal to Sirand, but in regards to Haute Tension, the twist ending was not silly and ill-conceived.

    It seems that nearly everyone that has seen the film wasn’t paying enough attention to the beginning minutes of the film that shows a video camera and the main character while she is sitting in a room dressed in a gown.

    She was beginning to tell her version of the entire story to the camera, which makes up the rest of the film. And of course her story is confused. This is because she’s INSANE!

    There was nothing silly or ill-conceived about it, unless Aja needed to be more obvious with what he was doing so that more people would have understood. Maybe he wanted to mess with our heads and make us say ‘Wha?’

    I don’t know, but it seems that no one has made any effort to go back and watch the film again to see that they missed something of major importance the first time around.

    • Messiahman

      Please don’t start the HAUTE TENSION argument again. Yes, we’re all aware of the opening scene. Both the opening and the ending were only added at the absolute last minute during production. They didn’t exist in the original script, which, aside from this completely inorganic twist, is blatantly plagiarized from Dean Koontz’s INTENSITY, anyway. Indeed, it’s likely that the twist was added in order to prevent a very well-deserved lawsuit by Koontz.

      And yeah, we’ve all heard the goofy justification that the entire film is told by an unreliable narrator – which only serves to make it LESS worth watching. If nothing we’re seeing is supposed to be real, what’s the point in investing any time at all?

      • Sirand

        The unreliable narrator doesn’t even hold water, because that means she would have suddenly realized she was insane when the twist came in.

  • PelusaMG

    In England, I grew up watching a series called “Tales of the Unexpected”, which I guess you could say is the 70s equivalent of MOH and FI.


    I agree with Sirand, half hour shows (as “Tales” were) are the way to go – short, sharp and snappy!

  • syd13

    i suppose this could be for the best…with only two seasons, masters of horror becomes an interesting and concise experiment in the genre. fear itself will, from all indications, die a sputtering death after this season (if it even makes it to the end) and will quickly be forgotten. masters of horror will remain, for all its highs and lows, a pure piece of work.

  • Messiahman

    I say we amend the statement to read “each episode of FEAR ITSELF only makes even the worst episodes of MASTERS OF HORROR look like masterpieces in comparison.”

    There. Fixed. 😉

  • Sirand

    Bad writing. Scab writers. Do the math, GD. Better yet, lay off the hooch.

    • The Woman In Black

      Even Knauf? Or was his ep written after the strike?

  • G.D.

    “Each passing episode of Fear Itself makes it more and more obvious why Mick Garris jumped ship.”

    Really? Each episode highlights the fact that he didn’t want to take part in rewrites while on strike as a writer? Jeez, I missed that in each of the first three episodes. Or is there an alternate feed that points out what parts of the script were in place before he left and which parts were changed after he left and over his objections?

    How about we can the ignorant commentary and focus on the review?