Fear Itself: Family Man, The (2008)
Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Starring Collin Ferguson, Clifton Collins, Jr., Josie Davis
Directed by Ronny Yu
Is three episodes enough to deem a series failed? Maybe for regular shows, but anthologies are just too hit or miss. But man, “Family Man” was one of the thinnest premises I think I’ve ever seen stretched out to fill in an hour run time and if they don’t get better soon, we may have to write this one off.
Yu’s entry into the series tells of a dedicated husband and father named Dennis (Ferguson) who, on the way into the office one Sunday afternoon, gets into a car accident. He dies, and his spirit soon meets up with another dead guy, Brautigan (Collins), who explains their situation, even showing him their dead bodies on the operating tables. Well, that sucks for sure, but it gets worse when Dennis comes back to life and realizes he’s in Brautigan’s body; and Brautigan is a wanted serial killer known as The Family Man.
If this were a “Tales From the Crypt” episode, that’s where the episode would end. A nice ironic twist, cut to the Cryptkeeper’s trademark punning. But, because it’s a new age of anthology, that’s just the beginning. The rest of the episode consists of Dennis-as-Brautigan sitting in jail, being harassed by his captors, and Brautigan-as-Dennis attempting to live a “normal” life with the beautiful wife and kids.
And it just goes on and on. Nothing really happens for a good chunk of the run time, so yet again we have what could’ve been an interesting premise stretched to its limits. I will admit that when shit finally does start happening, it does so pretty quickly, and the ending of the episode does have that trademark “Tales From the Crypt”/EC Comics irony, but it’s just not worth the time it takes to get there. Plus you can see it coming from a mile away.
There’s a weird moment at the beginning, when Dennis-as-Brautigan is brought back to his jail cell after meeting his attorney, where they implied that Brautigan might be impervious to pain, a nightstick to the head having no noticeable effect on him. I was really hoping they’d go somewhere with that, especially since the cop who hit him had made it a point to mention that Brautigan had been stabbed and shot and kept coming back only moments before. Sadly, though, it was just a weird moment and nothing more, and other than a spiritual body swap, the episode’s all based in reality.
The only real positive of the whole episode is Ferguson, who turns in a very natural performance as Dennis/Brautigan. He’s got a wit about him, a way of speaking that makes him very believable, both when he’s being “normal” and when his darker side comes through.
Conversely, Clifton Collins, Jr. is just terrible as Brautigan/Dennis. Terrible. He has the same surprised look on his face for the show’s entire run time, it seems, and can’t seem to say anything more than “I’m innocent!” Even when Dennis/Brautigan is taunting him, he can’t do much other than look more and more surprised, his eyes widening to the point you’re sure they’ll pop out of his head.
With a paper thin plot, twists that a child could see coming, and one terrible actor in a sea of good ones, “Family Man” is the second disappointment in a row for Fear Itself. Some would say third, but I still hold that “The Sacrifice” has been the best one so far; at least it was entertaining and had a cool monster. Next week John Landis gets a shot with “In Sickness and Health”, so my fingers are most assuredly crossed that the worst is past us.
1 1/2 out of 5
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