This episode of the Horror TV Shows We Miss video series was Written and Narrated by Niki Minter, Edited by Adam Walton, Produced by John Fallon, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.
So what happens when your first anthology was cancelled but you’ve got round three on the back burner? Well, actually, it’s complicated. We’ve spoken previously about Mick Garris’ Masters of Horror, which brought life into the anthology genre when we needed it again. A year later, Fear Itself brings anthology horror back to primetime.
Now, if you’re me, anthologies are kind of your life. This is one of my favorite parts of Horror, and so being able to see what new takes and tales are on the horizon excites me. Fear Itself was essentially the spiritual third season of Masters. The first episode Eater drug me down the rabbit hole and before I knew it I was already on the other side waiting for the next set. Well, the next set comes a little later in the form of Black Mirror and Channel Zero. Oh, it would bother the metal kid in me if I didn’t mention the theme, Lie, Lie, Lie from none other than System of a Down’s Serj Tankien. It’s one of the themes that I can’t press skip on.
If you’ve all seen Masters, you are certainly familiar with how this works. Garris would bring together the Horror Think Tank and spin up some ideas. Unfortunately, things went in a different direction before the show went into production. Prior to delving into that, let’s discuss some of my favorite episodes.
Eater: There’s a reason this is a fan favorite episode. Stuart Gordon directing a script, co-written by That Thing You Do’s Jonathan Schaech is wild to me, but it works out. Elisabeth Moss plays Danny Bannerman, a stand out rookie cop, who also happens to be a massive Horror fan, though her fellow male officers are not impressed. One of them actually commenting that “Horror fans are the worst.” This particular night they’ve managed to catch a cannibal who has committed some seriously horrendous acts. Danny is utterly fascinated by the background of the Eater, which they have lovingly nicknamed him. But things start to get a little weird and Danny is the only one picking up on it. I love what Gordon did here in terms of tone and setting. As the episode goes on, you feel more and more uneasy and the atmosphere feels like it matches it to a T. The ending goes hard here, and while I personally may have tried to find another way to take care of that dude, the outcome is still satisfying and bittersweet.
Family Man: Do you just need to feel terrible today? Absolutely you do! Gotta love body swap plots especially when they make it so miserable. Much like the ending of The Mist, like I said, if you are in the mood for that. A loving family man and a serial killer wind up in the hospital at the same time and as they are on the brink of death wind up swapping souls. Daniel Knauf, creator of Carnivale, who I absolutely adore, was on writing duties here. I am in no way surprised that this belongs to him especially with the supernatural and religious elements wrapped within the story. Clifton Collins Jr and Colin Ferguson do an exceptional job at playing face-off with each other’s characters. Honestly though, all I needed was mention of Clifton Collins Jr, and I’m there.
The Sacrifice: If they were going to choose an episode to start the series off with, this was a good choice. I would have gone with this one or Eater to bring the viewers in. This a slow burn as well, though I think the action kicks in a little later. The plot centers on four friends, two of which are brothers, played by Jesse Plemons and Jeffrey Pierce who wind up taking shelter in a fort within the woods when their car breaks down. They run into three beautiful sisters who volunteer to help their wounded friend. The performances of Plemons, Pierce, and Rachel Miner are the standouts here. It’s a welcome take on the vampire genre. The story was adapted by Mick Garris, one of his only entries, from Del Howison’s short story, The Lost Herd. It was originally meant to be directed by Garris, but he bowed out of the series before he got the chance. In his place we have Breck Eisner, who most of us know from The Crazies remake and most recently The Expanse. Despite my sense that the episode could benefit from additional time, the ending is fitting and leaves an everlasting impression.
Spooked: Eric Roberts. Eric Roberts is probably one of my favorite wildcard actors of all time. Brad Anderson directing Eric Roberts is much like him directing David Caruso in 2001’s Session 9, which is one of my favorite movies of all time. I have the fondest memory of watching that movie in my best friend’s attic bedroom. However, that is another tale for another time. What I said in the beginning is what makes this episode particularly good. Roberts plays Harry, a disgraced cop who winds up working as a Private Detective. He is hired by Titus’ Cynthia Watros (Yes, Titus is what I chose) to spy on her cheating husband. Her desperation paired with her directive to Harry to go spy in the spooky murder house across the street is a little telling. This episode winds up going a little deeper than the viewer may have intended. The house preys on Harry’s deepest, darkest secret. This one reminds me a lot of Tales from the Crypt episode, Surprise Party from season six.
Community: This episode directed by American Psycho’s Mary Herron is the perfect look at the fears within a supposed utopian suburbia. A couple, played by Brandon Routh and Shiri Appleby are trying for a baby and looking to settle somewhere a little less upper east side. They find The Commons, a gated community that requires a contact that contains a little more than they bargained for. From the beginning, Appleby’s character feels off despite the empathy you do have for her reasoning when raising a family. Even though this topic isn’t exactly a new one, there’s something about it that’s hitting differently at the moment than when it first dropped in 2008. It’s like a blend of Stepford Wives with a dash of 1984 vibes. I found myself really invested in Routh’s character and as horrible as it sounds hoped that he would burn that motherfucker down, or get us all revenge in some form or fashion. Unfortunately, the moment you think it’s all going to happen is the moment you are just gutted.
Where Can I Watch It?
You can watch all 13 episodes on the Youtubes and some of them even offer a director’s cut. I will say that recently the ads have gotten ridiculously out of hand and it made me want to walk outside and scream. Roku Channel, Vudu, and Plex are also options. Pick whoever one makes you less crazy.
If you crave physical media, you can get this one as low as $8.00 on some sites. I say it’s worth it as the box itself is a headstone with a pretty chill skeleton on the front and engravings of the episodes and features on the back.
What Happened? Where Is It Now?
I’d say this is a reason that doesn’t get brought up often–the 2008 Olympics. The show came out on June 5th 2008. NBC aired 8 of the 13 episodes then put the show on hiatus to give time to the remainder of the Summer Olympics. However, after the Summer of Michael Phleps and Usain Bolt, it seemed Fear Itself was just kind of… forgotten.
Watching it again, I feel like Masters had stronger episodes, but you know anthologies– even the best ones have less than stellar installments. Then on the flip side, the less than stellar ones end up being the more memorable ones. I’ll let you decide which is which here. I personally like it all. It’s usually easy for me to pick out the ones I like, but the longer I think about it the more and more start to populate in my mind. That’s what’s awesome about a series like this one. There’s so much talent involved that there’s a little something for everyone. We also have to mention the NBC factor. Masters originally aired on Showtime so there was plenty of wiggle room in the creativity department. You could absolutely get away with more blood, guts, sex, violence– just total depravity. Okay, near total depravity. Imprint crossed some lines.
Now, time to circle back as to why this was even happening. Well, according to Mick, he quit before the show even went into production. Going to NBC there were tons of advertising and censorship issues. They had all 13 scripts developed, not to mention, much of this occurred during the writers strike that year. The new owners said whatever, after the strike non-guild writers can do the episodes. Mick felt like it wasn’t his baby anymore and sadly departed from the project. Obviously, he’s not a huge fan of what came of the show after his exit, but he says he does love some of the episodes along with the talent involved. One of those episodes being Eater, due to the direction from Gordon. He knows that the show has a fan base and certainly understands even if it’s kind of a sore spot.
Well, did the rest of it ever get dug back up? Yeah, when the series was released on DVD in September of the same year.
Does Fear Itself live up to what Masters of Horror started? In my eyes, eh, but there are some truly great installments that give us fond remembrance. Lately, Mick has been spending his time on his magnificent podcast, Post Mortem, but with all the talent he connects with there’s got to be something stirring inside of him. Maybe it’s another anthology with a new mix of writers and directors? Maybe it’s something completely different? Either way, I welcome whatever Mick has up his sleeve. Mick, we salute you.
A couple previous episodes of Horror TV Shows We Miss can be seen below. If you’d like to see more, and check out the other shows we have to offer, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!