CREATOR Mick Garris STARS Margherita Donato; Valerie Womack; Marie Zydek DVD 28 January
The horror anthology has been a staple of television since The Twilight Zone first shocked audiences in the early 60s. From Rod Serling’s classic through to current fare like American Horror Story, they’re a breeding ground for fledging writers and directors to spin tales of terror. Mick Garris has been involved in the genre more than most; he created the often superb Masters Of Horror that aired for two seasons in 2005. Following its cancellation he attempted to recreate the same format with Fear Itself: standalone stories from established horror icons, utilising much of the Masters Of Horror production team. Absolutely no reason why the show shouldn’t have all the elements to work.
Well, not really, and don’t blame yourself if you’ve never heard of Fear Itself. There are two reasons why it’s been forgotten. Firstly, its initial season aired in America for eight weeks, and was then postponed to make way for the 2008 Olympics coverage. It never returned. US television scheduling is fickle at best and harsh at worst, and shows are often buried before they’ve even gotten into their stride. Secondly, it aired on NBC, one of the major networks that are governed by values and censorship not recognised by cable channels such as HBO or Showtime, which is where Garris found a home for Masters Of Horror and was given free rein for violence, splatter and edgy filmmaking from the likes of Takashi Miike and Dario Argento. Fear Itself, stifled creatively by network rules, feels weak and predictable, presenting clichéd stories with little substance. It’s all very safe.
Shame, because there’s talent involved here. John Landis, Stuart Gordon and John Dahl step behind the camera, while the likes of Anna Kendrick and Eric Roberts appear. There are also decent production values and some good effects. But while some of it works (Gordon’s episode “Eater” is a fine serial killer story) much of it doesn’t (“The Spirit Box” is typical Ouija board and vengeful spirit madness) with the major problem being it feels like you’ve been here before. Perhaps you have, and while Garris deserves praise for pushing his vision, it does feel like a series too far. This DVD collection presents the eight transmitted episodes plus the final never-aired five. Plenty of show for your money then, but there’s a lot of similar product available, much of it far superior.