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Fear, Inc. (Movie Review)

Fear, Inc. (Movie Review)
6 10
Fear Inc Abigail Breslin Naomi Grossman

PLOT: Privileged slacker Joe Foster (Lucas Neff) lives in a comically huge mansion with his Australian girlfriend Lindsey (Caitlin Stasey), who is crazy rich for no apparent reason, but he wants more out of life. Specifically more fear, because he loves Halloween and the crappy local haunted houses just aren’t cutting it for him. He calls a company called Fear, Inc. which promises an unparalleled scary experience, but they’re all booked up. However, during a drunken weekend with his friends from out of town, a mysterious group of killers descends upon the mansion, terrorizing them by recreating famous scenes from horror movies. Is this the work of Fear, Inc.? Or is something much more sinister going on?

REVIEW: Yes, this is a horror movie version of THE GAME. Nobody’s pretending that it isn’t, not even FEAR, INC., which admits as much in one of its countless movie reference moments. But it’s more timely than even it could have predicted, with the rise of immersive, hands-on haunts like Darren Lynn Bousman’s bone-chilling The Tension Experience. Obviously, FEAR, INC. is nowhere near as terrifying as a real life haunt, but it’s still a fun little piece of Halloween night mayhem.

FEAR, INC. attempts to be the SCREAM of 2016 and it misses that mark by a country mile, but if every movie that couldn’t match SCREAM counted as “bad,” the horror genre would be up a (wolf) creek. The self-referentiality gets a little exhausting, but where FEAR, INC. excels is putting genuinely charming actors into typical horror situations with a wry twist. You see, despite the apparent danger they find themselves in, in the back of his mind, Joe really does sincerely want to be scared and see how his very own horror movie would play out. Instead of making cliché mistakes because he’s an Idiot Horror Movie Character, he makes them because he intentionally wants to feel how Idiot Horror Movie Characters feel.

It’s an interesting twist to chew on, made even better by Lucas Neff’s affable leading man performance. The choices he makes with his line readings and subtle physicality are genuinely funny, allowing us easy entry into the heightened reality of the film. And the rest of the ensemble is surprisingly great for a film of this budgetary weight class. FREDDY VS. JASON’s Chris Marqutte somehow makes his douchey, ripped-straight-from-an-Eli-Roth-film best friend character into a delightful comic sidekick, and Caitlin Stasey and Stephanie Drake ably fill out the cast, though neither of them is given anything particularly interesting to do.

Where FEAR, INC. stumbles is the fact that Joe Foster is a resolutely irritating character. It’s difficult to relate to his need for something more because the movie never plays him as anything but a drug-addled slacker prettying on his girlfriend’s generosity. There’s no reason for them to be together, because he selfishly ignores her every desire even though she clearly supports him for some unfathomable reason. And even at the point where he starts to believe that the terror and violence inflicted on his friends is real, every choice he makes ranges from clueless to actively sadistic. It’s like if THE GAME starred Dennis Duffy from 30 Rock. The thoroughly unlikeable Joe Foster constantly butts heads with the funny and charming Lucas Neff, leaving a big, sucking vacuum right win the middle of the movie where our protagonist should be.

Oh, and did I mention that Abigail Breslin is in this movie? No, of course I didn’t, because she’s in two minutes clearly salvaged from reshoots, playing the “boss” of a 32-year-old man, because evidently he works the cash register at a f**king Tilly’s. But nevertheless, it’s always fun to see her in genre projects. Peace out, Abby.

FEAR, INC. is lucky it’s damn funny, at least for the first hour. The third act is too predictable and overlong to be truly engrossing, but the two disparate parts meet at a comfortable spot in the middle, leaving us with an overall entertaining flick. It’s a fun night in by horror fans for horror fans, and if you’re in the mood for some goofy genre-riffing, you could do much worse than FEAR, INC

Extra Tidbit: FEAR, INC. is currently available on VOD.

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