Boy oh boy, sometimes I really think I might be cursed. It's either me or these terrible slasher flicks. Remember when I tried to watch The Sorority, and it died on me? Or The Forest, which had no sound at all, until a laptop crash forced me to reboot? Well, this week's current fiasco is called The Fear, and it's the 3rd movie to give me a hassle when trying to watch the damned thing. I tried on 3 different players on my laptop, and had actually given up and started to write a review based solely on the silent images I was seeing, when it worked on someone else's laptop fine. *sigh* SPOILERS FOLLOW*, so don't say I didn't warn ya....
The movie begins with a weird dream sequence: A young boy is running in a forest, laughing at someone chasing him, when he spots 2 robed figures burying something. The figures sense his presence and confront him by just saying "Diametric!" over and over again. It's pretty bad when I'm more confused by a movie WITH sound than without!
So then the dream ends with a wooden statue looming over the kid, and it turns into Wes Craven. He plays the main character's teacher and shrink, Dr. Arnold, and he encourages the guy to explore his fears if he wants to be a successful shrink himself. Taking that to heart, the young guy, Richard, plans to have a group attend "fear therapy", a sort-of weekend getaway where everyone will confront their worst phobias. Yeah. I called that high school.
The following scene shows a young woman getting attacked. Who is she? What does she have to do with anything? Don't know. Don't care! "Diametric!!!"
Anyway, Richard posts a sign-up sheet at his college, and a kid who looks like he solves mysteries with a cartoon dog decides to attend. Oh, and the sheet says "WHAT SCAR ES YOU?" Uh, besides guys who can't figure out how to re-size their fonts before printing up bulletins? As they talk, 2 cops question them about a girl who was attacked. The cops give the usual cop-talk, then leave, probably to audition for the 200th "Law & Order" spin-off.
At this point, we meet the group-therapy patients: the hippie is Troy, or at least that's what it sounds like one of the cops called him; Troy's sister Leslie; her boyfriend Vance; Richard's girlfriend Ashley; Uncle Pete and Tanya, who is Uncle Pete's bimbo; Mindy, a psychic with verrrry sexy curves; and her boyfriend, Gerald.
As soon as they get to the cabin where Richard spent his childhood, Ashley finds 2 creepy items: the first is a family photo, showing Richard as a boy with his folks, standing in front of the cabin. In the photo, she sees a shadowy presence looming inside the cabin, at a window. The 2nd creepy thing she finds is a life-sized wooden puppet, nicknamed Morty.
They decide to use Morty in the phobia therapy. One by one, each person confesses their worst fears to Morty. Troy is deathly afraid of insects; Leslie's afraid of losing her youth and beauty; Vance is afraid of being seen as weak, I guess; Tanya has a fear of water; Mindy is afraid of heights; Uncle Pete's afraid of people seeing through his BS, I guess; Richard's afraid of commitment, according to everyone else; and Gerald, whose greatest fear is being the last guy mentioned in a dude's slasher-film blog synopsis. Whoops! Sorry, Gerald...
After they confess their fears, Vance tries flirting with Mindy, which doesn't end well. Later, as Vance and Leslie start knocking boots, Richard and Ashley also decide to have sex, until Morty shows up, sporting wood. Nah, just kidding. But he does show up, propped against a window, like he's watching them, which freaks Ashley the hell out. Richard accuses Troy of putting Morty there, but he denies it.
The next day, Richard tries to help Mindy with her fear of heights. Under hypnosis, Mindy draws Morty, and names him as the source of her fear. Immediately after, Uncle Pete, being a self-centered jerk, is terrifying Tanya by trying to force her to join him in a hot tub. She freaks out and refuses. When everyone leaves, she decides it's okay to be in it alone...until Morty somehow pops up next to her! As Morty keeps popping up(in bedrooms, tubs, hanging from rafters), the tensions run high and pretty soon everyone's trading off their sexual partners. Uncle Pete sees all the trouble brewing, and proposes a change of scenery.
"Change of scenery" means a road-trip to Uncle Pete's amusement park, a Christmas-themed place not unlike Santa's Village in northern New Hampshire. From here on in, the plot twists require an expert contortionist, so good luck trying to piece this all together as I did.
The amusement park is The Saddest Place on Earth, and everyone kind of splits up to go exploring. Uncle Pete reveals that Morty, as well as the wooden masks in the cabin and the amusement park that Richard saw in his dream are all part of some American Indian supernatural legend, yadda yadda yadda. Supposedly, before Morty ended up at the cabin he was used as a mannequin in the amusement park's gift shop, or as a prop in various attractions. Gee, I wonder what else he may be keeping from Richard?
Troy, Leslie and Ashley decide to take a carousel ride. Of course. Leslie just wants to ride the rides because it pisses off Vance...the other 2 probably tagged along to make sure the ditz doesn't fall off. While they're all riding horseys, Mindy and Gerald wander around a bit before stopping at a sign that says "Black Peter's Gaol." Being the only afro-american couple in the movie, it seems like an odd place to position themselves. Oh, and one of the wooden masks from the opening dream sequence is here as well, though I almost missed it while debating whether the sign thing was just a bad joke in the film, or a poorly-timed coincidence.
Back on the carousel, Leslie starts having some kind of asthma or panic attack, so she whips out an inhaler, and Troy grabs her arm. Before anything interesting can happen, the movie goes back to Mindy. What, did the director run out of Ritalin or something? Mindy sees someone walking toward her, and assuming it's Gerald, she relaxes. Nope. It's Vance, looking and acting like a stalker. Mindy runs away, and calms down when she spots a train ride. Grinning like Donald Trump in a bathtub filled with gold water, Mindy hops aboard the kiddie train. WHEEEEEEE!!!
Gerald is still wandering around as well, looking for Mindy. Maybe these characters should buy a crate of those house arrest tracking devices. I swear, half the movie is watching people wander around and bump into each other, over and over again. So Gerald sees a beckoning silhouette in a window, and assuming it's her, decides to go inside.
It's not her. Mindy is still on the train, trying to figure out how to stop the damned thing. Uh, it's a ride for kids: why not just step off of it? Apparently she didn't think of that. When the train ride does finally stop, it's in a dark tunnel. A figure appears at the mouth of the tunnel, but disappears when Mindy approaches. Before she can investigate any further, someone grabs her and knocks her out.
Mindy wakes up and is very disoriented. She keeps seeing the scary masks and wooden figures everywhere she turns. There are also several shots of the various rides, with no one riding them now. Getting seriously freaked out now, Mindy screams.
Gerald and Richard find and rescue her. As they try to head for the exit, Uncle Pete, Tanya and Leslie show up to lend a hand too. Ashley also turns up, and has a hissy fit because she's not the center of attention anymore. Oh, and Vance arrives last, has a meltdown of his own, then pulls out a gun. Before anyone can stop him, Vance takes one of the vehicles and returns to the house.
Back at the house, he starts venting his anger on luggage, but a trail of money catches his eye. He follows the trail of wadded-up cash to a trapdoor, where he finds stacks and stacks piled away. As greed gets the best of Vance, he bends down to retrieve the cash-stash, but someone sneaks up and uses the trapdoor as a weapon, bashing Vance repeatedly in the ol' noggin. His body is then pulled through the floor, and the door is shut.
Using the 2nd vehicle, everyone else gets backs to the house by this time. They find the vehicle, but with slashed tires. Inside, Ashley tells Richard that she's breaking up with him. At the same moment, Troy and Leslie share a tender moment, but it goes horribly wrong. As Troy tries to console Leslie about Vance's disappearance, he inadvertantly winds up getting turned on. They start to kiss, but Leslie doesn't react well to her own brother trying to get to 2nd base with her. It's not the whole brother-sister thing that gives her cold feet--it's the whole mother-son thing.
SAY WHAT NOW?
Yeah, Troy is her son. She got pregnant in her younger teens, and her folks helped her to keep Troy's birth a secret. They adopted Troy, and she kept up the pretense of being his older sister. No wonder she's so obsessed with her youth. Troy gets upset and runs into the forest. Also lost in the woods is Tanya, while Uncle Pete searches for HER. With all of these characters wandering around, how is it posible that I'M the one who's the most lost???
Well, look at the bright side: at least Uncle Pete ditched the Santa suit! He also caught up with Gerald, who somehow found time to get murdered. The killer crucified him, then shoved a crown of thorns on his head and wooden crucifix through his chest. Uncle Pete grabs a gun from his car and decides to go hunting!
Leslie finds Troy leaning against a tree, and tries to make amends. When he gives her the silent treatment Leslie grabs him, only to discover that it's Morty, dressed in Troy's clothes. As Morty stares at her, Leslie ages several decades in a second. Why can't he just kill her the old-fashioned way?
Richard goes back inside, to get rid of the headache the movie gave him, and probably to fire his agent. He checks on Mindy, who appears to be fast asleep. When he reaches over to wake her up, her eyes snap open, revealing that they've becoming murky. Seems that Morty has possessed our sexy psychic. She caresses Richard's face and tells him that she remembers him as a boy. Or Morty does. Or something.
As she's acting out the role of Morty, Morty himself also comes to life in front of Ashley. Mindy grabs a chalkboard filled with magnetic letters, and Morty pantomimes doing the same thing. She grabs Richard's wrist, and makes him spell the word from his dream, "DIAMETRIC". It turns out that it's an anagram for "MATRICIDE". So the masked creatures were trying to tell him that he killed his own mother? Why not just say the right word the first time?
Wait, it gets better. Richard starts remembering more pieces of his childhood, like his mother having an affair with a man who had a distinctive tattoo. As Morty tries to force Richard to face his dark past, Ashley runs outside and finds Troy, the real one this time. He tries to rape her, but a knee to the crotch makes for a compelling counter-argument. A chase ensues, and we return to Richard and Min-Morty.
When he found his mother having sex with the other man, Richard went to tell his father. Dad made him show him where the wife had been, and Dad confronts her. The masked figure who had turned around to speak to him was his father, wearing some kind of costume. Oh, and Morty had been helping him to bury the mother as well.
Horrified by these memories, Richard tries to escape. Min-Morty starts chasing him, and manages to grab his ankle as he attempts to climb some stairs. The pursuit continues to an upstairs bedroom, until Mindy topples out of a window. Richard sees Morty's "soul" leave her body. Morty becomes solid again, and Richard resumes running away.
Meanwhile, Troy is busy trying to rape Ashley, with little success. She tries braining him with a log, but he just shrugs it off. At one point he starts hopping around, scratching at his body, and she uses the distraction to hit him again. This is starting to look like a Jerry Springer episode...
Richard bumps into Uncle Pete, and tries to tell him about his memory breakthrough. Uncle Pete gets angry and stomps off, and fails to notice Morty turning his head as he walks past the wooden figure. Yikes.
Richard goes outside and finds Ashley standing next to Troy's body. Troy's fear of insects seems to have been valid, because a few are still crawling over his back. Richard sees that Ashley is distraught, but nothing he does seems to calm her down.
Uncle Pete finds one of the bedrooms transformed to look like it did when Richard's mother was kiolled. He moves to a sink, and begins washing up. After removing his shirt, a tattoo on his arm reveals that he was the man Richard saw with his mother the night she died. Richard talks to Ashley a bit more, then goes inside to confront Uncle Pete.
Uncle Pete confirms that he was having the affair with Richard's, and that he is responsible for the mother's death. He was also the other masked figure the night Richard watched them bury his mother's corpse. Morty enters the room, and Richard leaves his uncle alone with Morty, who tries to shoot the animated dummy with his pistol.
Bad plan. All the shooting does is piss Morty off. He grabs Uncle Pete's wrist, and forces him to turn the gun on himself. Morty then staggers outside to chase down Richard and Ashley. As the couple tries to get some distance between them and Morty, Richard sees a familiar landmark and flashes back again to the day his mother was murdered. He keeps hesitating, which allows Morty to catch up. Realizing that his options are limited, Richard changes tactics and tries to fight Morty. Oddly enough, Morty doesn't attack him directly. Instead, he uses some kind of Wooden Guy Magic to raise Richard's mother, who grabs Richard's ankle. As Richard busies himself with the task of fighting a zombie, Morty continues to go after Ashley.
Then it gets even WEIRDER. As Ricard is crawling away from the zombie, 3 more figures show up: the 2 masked figures from his dream, and his younger self. Yup, I shit you not: Big Richard meets Little Richard. Wop Bop Aloo Bop, Awop Bam Boom!
Younger Richard gives Adult Richard a puzzle Wes Craven had in his office, a small globe comprised of puzzle pieces, with 1 section missing. He takes it and uses it as a weapon, by smashing it on his mother's head. The globe breaks open, revealing that the last piece was inside the globe the entire time. Little Him gives Big Him the pieces and tells Richard to re-assemble it.
Every piece seems to make Zombie-Mom weaker. As she falls back into the ground, Richard hugs himself, and thanks him for the puzzle. The masked figures vanish in the darkness, as does Little Richard. Great Gosh Almighty!! Safe, Richard runs deeper into the woods to rescue Ashley.
Ashley runs and runs and runs. As Morty inevitably outpaces her and gets in Ashley's way, Tanya shows up in a skin-tight leotard. Now, both women are fighting off Morty, until Tanya gets thrown into a pond. She climbs out looking royally pissed. And pretty hot.
Just in time, Richard shows up to save the day. He tells Morty that he's sorry, and that he now understands that Morty was trying to protect him. He asks Morty to release Ashley, and the puppet-man complies. Then he extends an arm, and Morty grabs him by the wrist. But instead of attacking Richard, Morty merely holds his hand for a moment. AWWWWWW...
Morty stares at the young couple and mad Tanya for a few more seconds, and now just looks sad. He staggers away from the trio, and walks into the pond. They watch until he goes completely under, then Richard hugs Ashley. There's a brief scene in Wes Craven's office, where Richard gives him the broken puzzle and tells him he "found the missing piece". Richard then reveals that he has dropped out of college, and has also put the family house up for sale. In the final scene, we see a realtor showing the house to a young couple. Their son runs off into the woods and meets Morty. The kid asks if Morty is a "good guy or a bad guy", and Morty kind of smirks. THE END?
Probably not, since there was a sequel. Eh, as weepy and melodramatic as it was, The Fear could have been a LOT worse. I'd give it a solid 3 killer trees outta 5, mostly for Morty's look and the attractive women in the cast.
So what were The Fear's big life-lessons?
-"Getting wood" can be a bad thing.
-You should never trust a guy who dresses like Santa year-round.
-Wes Craven is now seeing patients. I hope my HMO lets me make an appointment...
If all goes well, hopefully I'll get to see The Fear 2 next. Wish me luck!!