Deon Taylor is an easy filmmaker to admire. Having emerged from a pro NFL career to become a successful movie director, crafting mid-budget thrillers (such as Black & Blue and my personal favorite Fatale) targeted at diverse audiences, Taylor has come a long way. However, Taylor’s latest film, the COVID horror Fear, a cliche-riddled misstep saddled with poor performances and a severe lack of genuine thrills. The only thing you should be fearing is the amount of time wasted watching it.
Power actor Joseph Sikora stars as Rom, a horror novelist who takes his anxious, asthmatic girlfriend Bianca (Annie Ilonzeh) for a romantic weekend getaway at the Strawberry Lodge. The isolated, rustic locale is perfect for a number of reasons. It’s just lovely enough that Rom might finally pop the big question to Bianca (if he wasn’t full of so much FEAR!!!!), right there in front of all of their friends. But the place also has a haunted backstory, about miners and the Indigenous women they murdered for being witches.
Wait, what? Good pick there, Rom. Real solid, and very romantic!
Everything about Fear unfolds through clunky exposition. It’s a fairly large cast, and so Taylor and co-writer John Ferry struggle to establish everyone and what their particular “thing” is. A night around the fire pit finds each person unloading all of the necessary details, including their greatest fear. Some are minor but ominous; like the fear of drowning or closed spaces. Others, like the fear of blood, of not being trusted, or losing someone special, carry heavier weight. Predictably, it isn’t long before some of these fears begin coming to pass, and Rom’s book research has led to some deadly consequences.
One problem that Fear is unable to escape is that the acting is pretty terrible all around. Rapper Tip “T.I.” Harris plays Lou, and he’s probably the best of the bunch because the role isn’t much of a stretch. It’s Lou’s apparent illness, at a time when COVID-19 fears are high, that begins to spread anxiety among the group. But are any of these concerns real? Or caused by something supernatural infecting their minds? Andrew Bachelor, Iddo Goldberg, Ruby Modine, Jessica Allain, and more play Rom and Bianca’s friends, but they don’t actually seem like friends at all. Even worse, Rom and Bianca don’t seem like they’d ever be a couple, either. There’s zero chemistry among the cast, and worse, the storyline is a tired and familiar one. Fear can never be allowed to rule over our lives. It’s a point the film hammers home but doesn’t do anything particularly interesting with.
If Fear were a scarier movie then maybe the other problems could be overlooked. The film proceeds at a snail’s pace and is loaded with convoluted, uninteresting backstory. Taylor is a talented guy but horror isn’t his realm of expertise yet. The scenes meant to chill the audience don’t connect at all, and visually we don’t get much that sticks in the mind. Horror is in such a good place right now that there’s no reason to waste 90-minutes on something like Fear. Too many better options are out there right now, so be bold and choose elsewhere.
Fear is in theaters now.