Release Date(s)1995 (March 30, 2021)
Studio(s)A-Pix Entertainment/Devin Entertainment (Vinegar Syndrome)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B+
One of many Full Moon-ish slashers to pop up in the 1990s, The Fear was briefly released theatrically and made its way to home video pretty quickly soon thereafter. A slow burn mystery with a group of odd characters and a plot that doesn’t develop until nearly an hour into its running time, it’s also not what its poster and cover art would lead you to believe it is. Characters are certainly bumped off, but this isn’t a killer doll movie loaded with blood and guts—at least, not a straightforward one. It’s a bit more complex than that, even with a wooden dummy named Morty that may or may not be alive at the center of it. The film teases us that it could also be one of the other characters instead, teeing up early on that there’s a rapist on the loose. It’s an interesting idea, and there are most assuredly twists and turns that you won’t see coming. That’s saying a lot for a low grade horror film that appears to have nothing more to it on the surface than a killer Pinocchio, especially from this era. The use of rap music is gratuitous, relationships between characters border on bizarre, and there isn’t enough of the Freddy Krueger/Wishmaster modus operandi of killing people based upon their deepest fears, yet there’s something weirdly efficacious about it. Take note of the cameo by Wes Craven, who would reshape the horror landscape that very same year (1995) with Scream.
Richard (Eddie Bowz) is a college student studying psychology under the tutelage of doctor Arnold (Wes Craven). He develops a thesis study in which he wants to isolate a group of his friends and explore their fears. Reluctantly joining him are his devoted girlfriend Ashley (Heather Medway), his freewheeling friend Troy (Darin Heames), Troy’s foster sister Leslie (Ann Turkel), her wayward boyfriend Vance (Leland Hayward), Richard’s uncle Pete (Vince Edwards), his young girlfriend Tanya (Anna Karin), and their other friends Mindy (Monique Mannen) and Gerald (Antonio Todd). They all convene at a remote cabin in the woods, which is also the childhood home of Richard. Inside they find a lifelike wooden dummy nickednamed Morty (Erick Weiss), using it as a tool for Richard’s study. One by one, everybody admits their fears and later even find themselves victims to an unknown murderer who is using the information against them. Meanwhile, everybody is having various problems and their secrets and lies between each other are spilling out. But whether Morty is to blame for what’s going on is up to Richard, who seems to have a suppressed and traumatic childhood memory in which Morty might have been involved.
The Fear comes to Region Free Blu-ray for the first time with a new 4K scan of the original 35 mm camera negative and is presented in its uncut 102-minute original version (it was previously available on VHS and DVD in an 88-minute version). It’s a shockingly good looking film, filled with a variety of shadows and textures to the give the visuals the proper atmosphere. Grain is moderate with high levels of detail while blacks are inky deep. Saturation offers an array of bold hues, including the green and brown foliage of the surrounding forest, the multiple colors on costumes and objects within the cabin, and the many tones found within the holiday village scenes. It’s also a stable transfer with only minor speckling leftover.
The audio is presented in English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio with optional subtitles in English SDH. This Ultra Stereo mix is quite impactful with a good sound system to back it up. It roars to life with a potent score and music selection, both of which have remarkable clarity and depth. Low frequency activity is evident throughout as well. Dialogue exchanges are clear and precise, and directional moments crop up from time to time, making good use of the two channel setup. It’s also a clean track free of any leftover debris or distortion. It’s a surprisingly robust sound experience that might only have been improved with a 5.1 remix. It’s worth noting that an English 2.0 Dolby Digital track is included as well, but not mentioned on the menu or the cover art.
The following extras are also included:
- Audio Commentary with Vincent Robert and Brad Henderson
- Audio Commentary with Greg H. Sims and Brad Henderson
- Face to Face with The Fear: The Making of a Cult Classic (HD – 50:09)
The separate audio commentaries with director Vincent Robert and executive producer Greg H. Sims, both moderated by Vinegar Syndrome’s Brad Henderson, offer pleasant Q&A discussions that cover a lot of ground about the making of the film. Face to Face with The Fear is a nearly hour-long documentary that interviews many of the main cast and crew, including Greg H. Sims, Vincent Robert, writer Ron Ford, actors Darin Heames, Erick Weiss, Heather Medway, Eddie Bowz, Ann Turkel, special make-up effects artist Tom Irvin, and special effects technician Jason Hamer. It’s clear that everybody had a good time making the film and they’re not ashamed of it, even gaining long-lasting friendships with each other because of it. The disc comes housed in a clear amaray case with reversible artwork, the original poster art on one side and new artwork on the other. When ordering directly from the Vinegar Syndrome website, a limited slipcover is offered as an option. The only item missing from the film’s previous UK DVD release is a photo gallery.
Ultimately, The Fear seemed destined to be a cult film. It has too many disparate elements, and for some, repeatedly annoying characters and music, but it has more on its mind than many of its low budget brothers and sisters. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray release manages to breathe new life into it, allowing for a retroactive critical analysis with an excellent A/V experience and enriching bonus materials. If you’re looking for a slasher far removed from the norm, it’s worth your time.
- Tim Salmons