Review: FEAR CLINIC

unnamed (16)When the FEARnet web series, FEAR CLINIC, appeared a few years back, it was great to see different phobias put under the microscope and dealt with, with the help of Robert Englund’s Dr. Andover character at the helm of his “Fear Chamber”. The device was made and used to force people to face whatever scares them. Each entry was very episodic, and when it had finished, a feature-length version of the film seemed like a surefire thing to do. Thanks to director Rob Hall and co-writer Aaron Drane, fans get just that, with the new FEAR CLINIC feature, a film that while still feeling close to the original web-series, does an excellent job standing on its own and offering fans a wild ride.

In the time that has passed in between the web-series and the film, Dr. Andover has become somewhat of a medical celebrity, winning awards, gracing the covers of magazines and labelled as the man who “Battles Fear”. In the high point of that popularity though, an accident happens, one that leaves a patient dead and Andover scarred by the incident. Instead of the proud and sure of himself Dr he once was, he’s now somewhat of a hermit and has since retired the Fear Chamber. When a group of individuals who have all survived a horrible shooting come back to the Fear Clinic seeking help, Andover agrees to treat them, but refuses to use the fear chamber to do so. Leading the pack is Sara (CURSE OF CHUCKY‘s Fiona Dourif), a strong and confident woman who was given the phobia of the dark by the shooting. Along with Sara, the rest of the shooting survivors all arrive, but in various conditions. Angelina Armani’s Caylee character is scarred by the loss of her brother, and is in bad shape; Blake (an excellent Thomas Dekker, CHROMESKULL, TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES), a young man confined to a wheel chair and mute, having been shot in the head during the shooting, just sits there, almost catatonic. Leading the group (who is filled with a  few others as well), Dr. Andover’s staff (Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor makes his film debut as the not so likable Bauer) helps them all into their rooms to begin treatment.

Andover, knowing that the whole group needs the best treatment possible, knows what he needs to do, but the gut feeling that the patient’s death wasn’t just a coincident makes him continually refuse to turn the fear chamber back on. Sara, given life by an excellent performance by Fiona Dourif, challenges Andover, doing her best to convince him to start the machine again, and when he finally does, we get one hell of a second half. With each person facing the shooting inside of the fear chamber, they’re changed in a way, with the mute Blake coming out of his shell and talking, and while that is good, something terrible begins to happen, Andover realizes that it’s not just a machine malfunction that caused the death at the beginning, but it was fear itself, wanting revenge.

Hall and Drane’s script does a great job allowing you to know each character, feeling close to them and their fears, and when they’re faced with either facing them and enduring or going crazy and losing their fight, we as viewers actually care. Dourif, Dekker and especially Englund are the highlights of the film, as each scene they’re in, they give it their all, and it really shows. Thought the Kurtzman and Steve Johnson special fx are fun to watch, it’s the subtle, growing performance by Dekker that keeps you on the edge of your seat, and Dourif shows that she has just as much talent as her father, as she is absolutely great in the film. The biggest pleasure in FEAR CLINIC, is seeing Englund work with a character and material that seems to be closer to what he should be doing these days, and it’s his first role in quite a while that doesn’t under-utilize his classically trained talents. Englund’s Dr. Andover character is just one of the many ingredients that when put together make FEAR CLINIC an excellent film, one that challenges you to think of your phobias and entertains you the whole time.

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