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Fear Itself Review: Episode 1.4 ‘In Sickness & in Health’

This morning Tex sent in his review of the latest episode of Fear Itself (all reviews), “In Sickness & In Health,” which was directed by John Landis (“An American Werewolf in London”) from a screenplay by Victor Salva (“Jeepers Creepers”). Airing this Thursday, the film takes place on the protagonists wedding day, where a beautiful bride receives a mysterious note that reads: “The person you are marrying is a serial killer.” Read on for Tex’s negative review and drop back tomorrow to let everyone know what you thought.
I’m going to come right out and say it. This week’s episode of FEAR ITSELF wastes what was inarguably the series most promising logline. What if, on your wedding day, you received an anonymous note that simply read, “The person you are marrying is a serial killer”? The realm of psychological possibilities are endless and the conclusions that can be drawn, both accurate and inaccurate, both benign and brutal could make for a compelling piece of entertainment. Sadly, Director John Landis and Writer Victor Salva are not up for the task of delivering such profound plot conclusions. Instead what they convey is an ending that only shocks because it has no justification in the whole of the film that preceded it.

Sam (Maggie Lawson) is about to marry Carlos (James Roday)–a man that we are told, by a pair of overprotective bridesmaids–she has known only for an indeterminate, but short, amount of time. The question they needle on about, is whether or not, she really knows the man she’s about to commit the rest of her life to. When the ominous note arrives, Sam is torn between her obvious feelings for Carlos and her terror of the unknown. Before and after the ceremony, Sam tries desperately to quell her fears and uncover the truth. But, every action raises more suspicion than the last and every twist reveals that Carlos is clearly hiding something from his new bride. But who is Carlos? What is he hiding? Is he a killer, and who delivered the note?

As I said before, the possibilities are endless and under that vast umbrella it’s certainly conceivable that Salva and Landis accurately reached their climax–but without giving the ending of the film away–it’s difficult to describe why the film ultimately fails without once again reiterating that you would actively need to be already considering the conclusion to recognize any signs in the film that lead to it’s reveal. It feels like a cheat, a way to end a production when the filmmakers didn’t know how to end it.

Truthfully, the ending is not the only problem with the episode either. It doesn’t seem to know where it’s going. It’s missing a traditional act structure and the mystery that Sam is trying to solve is not really proving any monumental clues that would cause the suspense to ratchet up. Lawson’s performance, as well as that of her bridesmaids, is a bit to sing-song and stilted in the beginning, lending a kind of hyperrealism to the story, in much the same manner that Landis employed in his twin entries for MASTERS OF HORROR. However, both those films (FAMILY and DEER WOMAN) bent to more of a fairy tale setting and thusly the characterizations flowed much better in the whimsical environments Landis created. Here everyone feels cardboard and plastic. Even minor appearances by some noted genre vets like William B. Davis (The Cigarette Smoking man of X-FILES fame) and Marshall Bell (TOTAL RECALL) are cast-offs with Bell suffering through some odd exposition that is supposed to increase the cloud of doubt on Carlos, but ultimately makes little waves in the grand scheme of things.

I’ve always been a fan of Landis, even when he’s been saddled with more minor fluff pieces. Since he doesn’t write as much as he used to, he’s had to conform his comic-horror stylings to suit other people’s material and he’s nearly perfected making a gun-for-hire film feel like it’s from the mind of “John Landis”. This time around Salva’s screenplay is killing him and what we wind up with is a film that has none of the absurd Landis flourishes and frankly could have been directed by any unknown television series regular. It’s a waste of talent in front of and behind the lens. Let’s hope it’s the last time we see such a fiasco on this season of FEAR ITSELF.

3/10 or 1



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