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HORROR DVD/BLU-RAY REVIEWS

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FEAR ITSELF (S1)
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Reviewed by: Zombie Boy

Directed by: Various

Starring:
Various

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
Fear Itself is NBC’s anthology horror show, featuring various directors from the genre serving up hour-long segments covering the gamut of styles and stories.
Is it good movie?
Fear Itself is Mick Garris-created, just like HBO’s Masters of Horror, though he wisely chose not to helm an episode himself. And unlike MoH, this show is on the whole entertaining. There are (fittingly) thirteen 42-minute episodes, all by different directors. We’ve got everyone from the big boys you’d expect, like John Landis, Stuart Gordon, and indie stalwart Larry Fessenden, to dabblers like Mary Harron and Ronny Yu, to relative newcomers like Brad Anderson, Rob Schmidt, and Darren Lynn Bousman. And the people that are at the mast of the episodes that work and don’t work might surprise you. Thirteen episodes are far too many to give each a review of, so I will stick to what struck me most, both good and bad.

Starting with the good (see, I can be positive sometimes), Fessenden’s Skin and Bones episode particularly made me happy. Not even so much for the content, but for the performances of Doug Jones and JP Ferguson (Pete Hutter from Brisco County, Jr). A man encounters a Wendigo in the mountains, and develops a taste for human flesh…namely that of his family. Anderson’s Spooked is another favorite. It employs Eric Roberts as a PI with a past, who is hired for a special type of case. Any fan of Anderson’s films (Session 9 and The Machinist, for instance) knows he can tweak an audience. The way the graffiti on the wall of the abandoned house changes as Roberts cracks up is a good example. Yu’s Family Man is another great one. Clifton Collins. Jr and Colin Ferguson, as serial killer and the titular family man, respectively, change bodies after a vicious car accident. The end is some seriously effed up ess. But probably the best use of the medium is Rupert Wainwright’s Echoes. It begins with a whimper, admittedly, but ends with a bang, as an unstable graduate student comes to believe he and his would-be girlfriend are reincarnated doomed lovers from the ‘20s. From the “floating” camera lens to the wonderfully atmospheric cinematography of the period scenes, it is surely the most visually dynamic of all the entries.

Now, on to the not so good stuff. Landis’s In Sickness And In Health, alas, comes up bust. After a bride-to-be receives a cryptic note about her bridegroom, they play a boring game of cat and mouse that leads to a weak and contradictory conclusion. I am not a fan of American Psycho, and Mary Harron’s Community does not endear her to me any further. Brandon Routh looks more like Christopher Reeve here than ever as a husband trying to make his wife happy by moving her into an exclusive gated community. The complex has strict rules and severe consequences, and we’ve seen this tired story a kabillion times. Ernest Dickerson’s Something With Bite is a werewolf story written by Landis’s kid, Max, that is just clumsy and tedious. Darren Lynn Bouman tackles a zombie holocaust in New Year’s Day that softens any visceral impact with silly editorial effects and has a twist that my little sister could see coming, and she doesn’t have any arms.

The rest of the entries are credible pieces of television, if not strictly inspiring. Gordon’s Eater is earnest if slightly anemic, The Sacrifice had a cool monster but kept reminding me of Ginger Snaps Back, Chance features a cool fight scene between Ethan Embry and Vondie Curtis-Hall but suffers from an anemic plot, The Spirit Box is a Japanese-type ghost story that gets an A for effort, but becomes increasingly contrived as it goes on, and The Circle, featuring the estimable Jonathan Schaech, has a great look, and truly horrifying visuals, but features a logic flaw at the end that cannot be ignored.

One final note on the packaging: the DVD case is very cool, a vacu-formed headstone featuring a skeleton in relief, but the four DVDs are double-sided (is this the 90s again?) and are stacked two on top of each other on each side. Basically, looks cool on the outside, but is cumbersome on the inside.
Video / Audio
Video: Shot on video, for television, with a widescreen presentation. Each episode has its own look and feel, but I detected no flaws in the transfers.

Audio: Dolby Digital. The sound is impressive, especially for a network television show. Which is good, because some of the eps really rely on audio cues.
The Extras
This is where this collection sort of falls short. Each episode contains a 4-5 minute director’s interview, complete with a smattering of behind-the-scenes shots, but I was really looking for some commentaries, or at least some SFX docs. I mean c’mon, this is a horror show!
Last Call
Despite the flaws in packaging and slight special features, this is still a really good collection. Even the less impressive episodes have entertaining moments, and the good ones far outweigh the bad. This set really should be a must on any true horror fan’s DVD shelf.
ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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