“Fear” stars Joseph Sikora, Andrew Bachelor, Annie Ilonzeh, Ruby Modine, Iddo Goldberg, Terrence Jenkins, Jessica Allain, and Tip “T.I.” Harris. Released on January 27, 2023, the film has a group of friends encountering a threat arising from a contagious disease.
The film is directed by Deon Taylor, who also directed films such as “Dead Tone”, “Meet the Blacks”, “Black and Blue”, and “Fatale”. Everyone has a dark secret phobia they neglect to share. It might be due to it being embarrassing, or it could be something that traumatizes them, even to this day. There are times when they have to conquer them head-on to make their lives better. Unfortunately, that time happens to come from a life-threatening disease. This weekend sees Deon Taylor returning to the director’s chair once more for this latest movie that was shot during the COVID-19 pandemic. They got to fill in the post-pandemic voids somehow. The film also marks the first release from Hidden Empire Releasing, a new distribution company from Taylor’s Hidden Empire Film Group. For those who don’t know, Hidden Empire Film Group has been known for producing low-budget films with diverse actors that were pretty terrible in my eyes. Fortunately, the only exception is “Black and Blue”, which is a reasonably entertaining thriller with social themes sprinkled upon it. So now we have Taylor’s horror take on the process of fear which hopes to lure his audience in with its concept despite the lack of marketing. With that said, let’s face our phobia and see if it’s fearful enough to conclude January on a high note.
The story follows a group of friends, including best-selling novelist Rom (Sikora) and his childhood aces Lou (Harris) and Russ (Jenkins). They went to an old resort in the remote Tahoe Mountains to celebrate the birthday of his long-time girlfriend Bianca (Ilonzeh). Unfortunately, what seemed to be a relaxing retreat with friends eventually became a waking nightmare due to a disease set loose into the sky. This sickness caused the group to hallucinate their deepest, darkest phobias. As a result, Rom and the others must survive this unusual plague as the truth behind the historic lodge slowly unravels before them.
There’s not much to say about Deon Taylor that hasn’t been said already. The filmmaker has his intentions regarding his ideas, but his execution of how he represents them falls flat for me every time I see one of his movies. Except for “Black and Blue”, which is Taylor’s best film in my eyes, his films struggled to land in two types of categories: “so bad, it’s good” and “popcorn thrills”. As a result, they wind up being so mind-numbing and disappointingly abysmal that they even gave the television movies from Lifetime a run for their money. The fact that they appear in my “top ten worst” lists almost every time is enough to prove my point. I didn’t even bother watching “Fatale” and “Meet the Blacks 2” because I knew they would spell trouble for me when I saw Taylor’s name in the credits.
But, of course, I was willing to give Taylor another chance because “Black and Blue” showed that he could make a tolerable film. He just needs to find the right spark in his vision. Taylor’s return to the horror genre since 2010’s “Chain Letter” seemed like a promising opportunity for him to find it, mainly because of its concept. Since the movie was filmed during quarantine, it’s unsurprising that it’s set around this difficult time when people were highly anxious about getting sick from an unknown sickness. Now, I’m sure we’re all sick of movies set during the COVID-19 pandemic at this point, but the problem is that Hollywood doesn’t quite get the message yet.
Since “Fear” centers around a contagious airborne virus causing its victims to face their phobias, this could’ve been another surprising hit for the horror genre. With its timely commentary and nightmarish thrills, the film would’ve been another comeback for the struggling filmmaker like “Black and Blue”. Unfortunately, it wound up being another thorn in the low-quality horror bush. Instead of a fun and creepy outlook on the paranoia arising from the sickness, I got an overly bleak and mindlessly cliched mess that failed to combine its haunted house tropes with underlying themes.
This is mainly due to Deon Taylor’s direction and script, which he co-wrote with John Ferry. As mentioned before, Taylor has good intentions with his concepts, but he doesn’t do much to make them stand out above the film crowd. His approach in “Fear” is no exception. He attempts to make everything work in the film, including the scares, the perspective of paranoia from the unknown, and even the third act. Sadly, they all fall apart before the first character bit the dust. Fortunately, there were a couple of bright spots I should give Taylor credit for, including the lighting effects and camera angles. The presentation looks overly gloomy, but I think that’s his intention for the film to look like that. It’s supposed to capture the bleak and nightmarish hellhole these characters are trapped in, whether it’s the creepy lodge or their hallucinations. Despite the scares being non-existent, I will give the director props for making it look like something that came out of my nightmares.
As for the screenplay, it means well for providing a relatable topic of the anxiousness of getting sick from other people, especially our closest friends. However, it was quickly overshadowed by its horror cliches, underdeveloped characters, and a predictable twist that anyone could guess easily during the first act, including me. It doesn’t help that some of the dialogue is more “bad” bad than hilariously bad. I don’t mind a modern horror movie as long as it has the proper execution in its concept to be scary, unnerving, and/or fun. But when you have a film like “Fear” that only focuses on making the characters victims of the kills without any sense of fun, terror, and even care, then it’s clear they didn’t do their homework.
The cast did okay with their performances despite the characters being disappointingly mediocre. While some had performances that were phoned in at times, the others were passable in displaying their emotional stress from the scenario. Sikora and Ilonzeh were both suitable in their roles as Rom and Bianca, respectively. There were a couple of attempts for Iddo Goldberg to provide some chuckles as Michael, but they didn’t make much of a dent in the movie’s tone.
Overall, “Fear” represents the biggest phobia that haunts every moviegoer’s mind: watching a poorly-executed and dull horror film filled with cliches and disappointment. Much like Taylor’s other movies, aside from “Black and Blue”, the film has potential regarding its concept, but its low-quality appearance and mediocre execution swiftly wasted it. Despite an okay cast and its lighting effects, the movie is infected by the sickness of Taylor’s direction, the formulaic script, weak dialogue, a predictable twist, and bland characters. I guess January wants to give us something special to finish the month, and boy, was it special. Fortunately, the only way to conquer this fear is by avoiding it like it was COVID-19. If you’re curious about watching it, you might want to wait until it’s free to stream at home because it looked like it was made for that purpose.