Fear Itself: Eater (2008)
Reviewed by Andrew Kasch
Starring Elisabeth Moss, Stephen R. Hart
Directed by Stuart Gordon
Week after miserable week, the only thing to fear from Fear Itself has been more network TV hackery. If this were any other show, horror fans would have already forgotten its existence, but it’s the roster of (continuously wasted) talent the likes of Brad Anderson, Ronny Yu and John Landis that still compel us to watch – hoping against hope for something decent. But even the worst anthology shows have a high point, and luckily for us it’s genre stalwart Stuart Gordon who somehow managed to save some face with his installment, "Eater".
Rookie girl-cop Bannerman (Elisabeth Moss) is spending her first night at a precinct where her gender and geek love of horror movies make her the subject of ridicule from all her male co-workers. But when a creepy Cajun cannibal killer (Stephen R. Hart) is hauled behind bars, her interest in the macabre pays off when she is the first to realize that their new guest has unleashed some serious voodoo onto several fellow officers.
The biggest problem with Fear Itself is that every episode has followed the anthology formula beat-for-beat. We get the pre-credits hook followed by the padded out mystery-hunt with the inevitable “gotcha!” twist ending. Furthermore, none of these stories has come as a surprise to anyone who has seen a single Twilight Zone or Tales from the Crypt episode - it’s all of the cliches with twice the running time! "Eater"’s ultimate saving grace is that it’s simple, straightforward and hits the ground running. Gordon and screenwriters Richard Chizmar and Johnathon Schaech aren’t concerned with the hooks and twists of anthology shows and establish their scenario and characters within the first couple of minutes.
With its surprisingly high grue factor, "Eater" is also the first episode that is directed, shot and scored with some artistic sense. Through eye-popping visuals, Gordon ratchets up the weirdness and paranoia without resorting to CGI and Avid farts. Also refreshing is the decision to cast normal looking people for a change. In particular, Moss is a likeable lead actress and in no way resembles the bombshell fem-cops we’re used to seeing.
"Eater" is far from perfect though. There’s nothing particularly inventive about this concept, and The Silence of the Lambs influence (female rookie in male-dominated profession faces off with a cannibal) and horror geek references are laid on way too thick. This episode also lacks a satisfying climax and runs head-first into a wall, leaving an uber-quick resolution that altogether feels random, downbeat and just plain silly. But this is the first time in the series where the good outweighs the bad.
While "Eater" isn’t quite the 360-turn this series needed, it’s downright Emmy-worthy compared to its predecessors. If Fear Itself is renewed for a second season, here’s hoping more filmmakers take a cue from Gordon and get right down to business instead of repeatedly humping Rod Serling’s bloated corpse.
3 out of 5