‘Fear’ (1990) Taps into the Horrors of Second Sight [The Overlook Motel]


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This week, I am looking back oat Rockne S. O’Bannon’s Fear (1990). Fear is in the vein of films like Eyes of Laura Mars. It centers on an individual with second sight with a connection to a violent maniac. But unlike a lot of similarly-themed efforts, Fear has been largely forgotten by the moviegoing public. And that’s a shame because it is a riveting psychological horror thriller well worth the price of admission.   

Fear follows Cayce Bridges (Ally Sheedy), a psychic medium and prolific nonfiction writer as she works with law enforcement to capture a murderous madman. But when the culprit proves to also possess the gift of second sight, the case takes a dangerous turn that finds Cayce putting her life on the line 

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While we have seen this basic setup done several times before, Fear gets enough right to be legitimately enjoyable. And the always-likable Ally Sheedy does solid work in her turn as Cayce. When she is connected to the killer, Cayce really appears to be going to a strange, scary, and uncomfortable place. And I can’t imagine conveying that cluster of emotions all at once was easy. Yet, I think Sheedy does a commendable job of helping the audience understand her experience through a variety of nonverbal cues. 

Writer/director Rockne S. O’Bannon has certainly scripted Cayce as an endearing lead. We quickly learn that she’s not full of herself or jaded by her success. Finding out that Cayce was an orphan until she was eight years old, due to the off-putting effects of her psychic abilities on prospective adoptive parents allows us to see a fragile and vulnerable side to her. That seemingly minor nuance makes Cayce infinitely more relatable. 

But not all of the credit for the way Cayce comes across onscreen belongs to O’Bannon. Sheedy does a great deal to make the character engaging. She typically brings a quirky charm to the roles she plays and she manages to do exactly that with Fear. Cayce is smart and successful but she always comes across as down-to-earth and approachable, even a little unsure of herself at times.  

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Solid performance from Sheedy aside, the film also benefits from smartly-chosen locales that aid in amping up the intensity inherent to the subject matter. One such instance sees Cayce stalked by the killer in the corridor system that runs behind the shops at a local mall. And anyone that’s ever worked at a shopping center, likely remembers just how dark and creepy those hallways tend to be. Additionally, although it’s not particularly groundbreaking, the finale makes effective use of its carnival setting. Some of the attractions play into the narrative and they are used to great effect. In concert with an effective score and thoughtful editing, the film’s climax plays out as thrilling and fast-paced. 

If you haven’t seen this tale of psychic terror, you’re not alone. And that may have to do with the film’s botched release strategy. The flick was shot with the intent of going theatrical. But it ultimately made its debut on the Showtime network and later on home video. To this day, Fear has not been granted a splashy physical media release. The flick premiered on DVD as a double feature with Parents. But it deserves better than that. I’d love to see Fear get the Vestron Collector’s Series treatment in the near future. It is an entertaining ride with an endearing lead and a compelling mystery at its core. 

If you’re keen to check Fear out, you can also track it down as a digital rental or download it via Amazon. 

Lastly, if you’re a fan of under-seen cinema and are keen to chat more, you can find me on Twitter: @FunWithHorror



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