Directed by: Riccardo Freda
Written by: Antonio Cesare Corti
Starring: Stefano Patrizi, John Richardson, Laura Gemser, Silvia Dionisio & Martine Brochard
Reviewed by: Brett H.
ďGood, very effective scene. Quite realistic. It looked as if you really wanted to murder herÖ Ē
After reviewing Zombiethon, a compilation tape from notorious Wizard Video offering clips from their zombie related releases, I immediately got the urge to watch an Italian movie it featured entitled Fear. Thatís not the only name the film goes by, the IMDB lists no fewer than ten alternate titles. And if you ever want to find the film in the database, youíre pretty much forced to type in one of its alternate titles, Murder Obsession unless you want to sift through an infinite amount of flicks with fear in the name. In Zombiethon, the film is portrayed very selectively and is extremely convoluted, and for good reason. Fear isnít a movie thatís easily explained by its gore and atmosphere. A five minute condensed version sure impressed me due to those two qualities, but now the real quandary will be answered. Can Fear go ninety minutes with a seasoned horror veteran?
Michael Stanford (Stefanio Patrizi) is living the dream as a professional actor. His expertise? You guessed it, the villain in slaughter movies. Along with his sweet girlfriend, Deborah (Silvia Dionisio), they take a trip to a house that Michaelís not set foot in for a long time. Michael had a rough childhood and only now is he finally returning to the home of his mother to make up for lost times. He also has another reason to check out the property of his childhood dwelling, itís ideal for shooting horror flicks. Michael brings with him a few of his close industry friends, including the directors and an actress he most frequently works with to scout locations for the next picture. Upon arriving, Michael is greeted by a lantern being held up in the darkness by Oliver (John Richardson). Oliver is instantly startled and in awe. He canít believe how much Michael looks like his pops.
But, Michaelís musician father wonít be showing up to chum with his son on this visit. As a child, Michael stabbed his dear old dad to death after he caught him beating his mother. But, secrets run deep in the Stanford home. Not down to a well for drinking water, but to the dungeons beneath. After arriving, Deborah begins to have terrifying nightmares of of being the subject of black magic ceremonies and one of Michaelís friends is almost drowned in the tub by someone wearing black gloves. Simply find the man with the black gloves, you ask? Not so fast, mon frere. It seems as though every occupant and visitor to the house has donned the onyx gauntlet at one point or another. But, the secrets cry out in the night and soon all will be revealed. Memories will be shattered. And the truth will set nearly everyone free; in death.
Fear is an interesting little Italian supernatural slasher that most surely would garner a bit of a following should it be released on a digital format someday. The film allows the viewer a lot of time, too much in fact, to really get a handle on Michael and his history with his mother. There is a lot of dialogue and exposition in the opening half hour or so before the bodies begin piling up and we get to the good stuff. But, we arenít given too many clues to who the culprit might be. In that sense, it keeps the viewer guessing because thereís really the feeling that a good four people could be waving instruments of death around the heads of the occupants. Michaelís sanity is always in question and Oliver is one odd bird. His mother bears affection towards Michael that borders on incest and then thereís always the chance that some kooky film director worked on one too many movies.
Midway through the film is home to the best and creepiest scenes in the film, but it also puts a big black mark on what the film itself could have been. It turns out that Deborahís dreams were real, and in these dreams the dungeon she was being held captive in contained a hideous zombie, complete with burning crosses and a giant spider. So, naturally, one would expect this to play a large role in the film and of course, we are let down. The film uses these scenes to its advantage finally at the end. Even then, it's just a basic explanation. These evil scenes give the viewer an exciting break from what starts out as a slow slasher/gialli hybrid and builds to a pretty interesting climax where everything finally is revealed. Thankfully, the plot twists a few times in the last act and makes the film all worthwhile.
Back to the hideous zombie, however. That one scene is the only living dead inspired event in the film, and the only reason it was included in Zombiethon, because itís never referenced again. Was it the corpse of Michaelís father? I suppose it was, but it isnít explained why the hell it was present at such a ceremony. The real reason is obvious; it was most likely tacked on to please the horror audience of the time, much like the random zombie attack in Satanís Baby Doll. Slasher fans most likely wonít care, but as a die-hard Italian zombie nut, it leaves me feeling a bit unfulfilled. Inconsistencies are nothing new, and the film makes up for it by providing atmospheric thunderstorms, sleaze and bountiful nudity. To put it bluntly, Fear abides by the rule that if youíre going to have a hot girl walk through dank crypts in the dead of night, you may as well have her titty pop out. I couldnít agree more. With Laura Gemser attached, you know the viewer is going to get more than a standard boob shot and will spend a little time in the bush around the old homestead. The violence of the film isnít really the main objective, but a nice axe to the head and a vicious chainsaw to neck scene stick out among all others.
A decent horror film always has its nice touches, and Fear stays interesting because it seems as though Michaelís fatherís music always seems to be playing from beyond the grave. It has a tragic Phantom of the Opera type effect that can be fully appreciated once the last secret is exposed. All in all, itís really an average horror flick with above average visuals that does nothing outstanding in particular, but manages to hold onto its audience well. The slasher element is solid, all things considered, and itís great to see the filmís kills actually have substance to the killer rather than using characters to rack up a body count. Each kill is nicely calculated and never seems gratuitous. Zombiethon was essentially a for-sale promotional tape for Wizard Video from 1986, and it proved to be a fine one. By a stroke of luck, I already had the film in my collection (based solely on amazing big-box cover art) and it made me dig it out well before I normally would have. But, if this was 1986, Zombiethon sure as hell would have made me head down to the Mom & Pop store and Rent it!
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