Fear, Inc. (2016) Film Review from the 15th Annual Tribeca Film Festival, a movie directed by Vincent Masciale, starring Lucas Neff, Caitlin Stasey, Chris Marquette, Stephanie Drake, Patrick Renna, Richard Riehle, Abigail Breslin, and Mark Moses.
The set up scene pretty much told me everything I needed to know about what was to come. Falling on cue remains an understandable staple of the genre; but not observing certain Zombieland rules, in this day & age, is just unforgivable. It was going to be that kind of a movie, I thought… and then it delivered worse. What’s worse than a poorly executed genre film? One with no one to care about.
Joe Foster (Lucas Neff) was established, from the get-go, as the lovable loser we all know at least one of; but this one came with the supposedly endearing quality of being a reference spouting connoisseur of horror/ slasher films. Except, there was one simple problem: he wasn’t lovable. Clearly a lot went into making him the kind of guy you just wanna bean with a coffee mug, just for sitting there; so the filmmakers over emphasized one half of the equation. Another problem: I think if anyone knew someone like Joe well enough to acknowledge him/ her as a ‘loser,’ a certain distance would be maintained. Hey – here’s a reference that would’ve applied to this crop of characters: “Who’s the more foolish – the fool, or the fool who follows him?”
The indulging of Joe was an automatic disqualifier for the others – the fact that he would perfectly play to expectations should be considered a red flag to anyone with either sense, or just self-respect; so, no, not a sympathetic banana in the bunch. Let the peeling begin.
When champion level mooch, Joe, decided that there are no more real scares left in the world (and life had lost some of its meaning, as a consequence), his closest enablers find themselves caught up in an ‘opportunity’ to bring some professional, genre referencing, customized terror into his life, courtesy of the titular agency.
Aren’t films with conflict supposed to have at least one protagonist? At least one character who – in a case like this – you don’t want to die? Well, Joe did sport a man-bun, in one scene – so he had to die; but when the time came for some heartfelt reflection, and raw catharsis… I couldn’t care less.
I know we are supposed to laugh at Joe’s brand of self-centered impulse control issue; but if you take the film seriously, you can only get mad at having a friend/ s.o. like Joe. You don’t take the film seriously enough, and you may find yourself rethinking the merits of Broken Lizard’s Club Dread. At least that film had some raunch – and well meaning characters – going for it (but mostly the raunch).
One other major problem: Fear, Inc. didn’t get the memo, after Scream 2, that there’s a difference between self-aware & self-conceit. In its effort to shout-out to horror/ slasher fans, it wound up telegraphing a series of cliches – taking all the’fun’ out of the stalk-and-kill ‘process.’ Not helping was Joe’s inability to see what was right in front of him, once convinced it was real – giving one particularly ridiculous moment a pass. As for the whole “what’s real, what’s part of the game” element: too many reversals just undermine the suspension of disbelief – but it did suggest that there could only be one salvageable outcome (one I actually looked forward to).
BTW, I may have missed it, fidgeting around like I was, but was Neighborhood Watch guy Bill (Richard Riehle) supposed to be in on it? I mean, was his ‘involvement’ even addressed, once the masks came off? I guess self-conceit allows for film-swallowing plot holes a lot more than self-awareness does, now doesn’t it?
The really sad thing is, once I allowed even for the possibility that things didn’t go according to plan, I found myself sympathizing with the ‘professionals,’ for incurring a personal loss for this derivative’s amusement. Worse still, I cheered them on when they followed through on a job well done.
Their pride in their work was supposed to leave us antsy about the kind of people who would provide such a service. All Fear, Inc. said to me was that when people start getting this bored, their whole way of life needs be threatened, and that there may be a lot of societal dead weight, out there, in need of a serious culling. Horrible, horrible notions, that just won’t go away.
Fear, Inc. was about as scary as the idea that people like the clients may actually exist, infuriating in that you may find yourself genuinely rooting for the bad guys, and disturbing in that the outcome was akin to Jason turning to the audience, removing his mask with a smile, and saying “you’re welcome.”
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