Based upon the 2009 web series of the same name, the feature-length version of Fear Clinic comes to us after a rather long wait. Was the wait worth it? Well, yes and no. Overall the pros definitely outweigh the cons, but the film certainly isn’t flawless. Some strong performances and inspired ideas with the story elevate this film above its low-budget constraints. The end result is a film that is worth watching, but doesn’t fully deliver on what it promises. Warning, some minor spoilers about the film’s plot are mentioned below.
I have never watched the web series that Fear Clinic is based on, but that didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the film. You don’t need any knowledge of the web series to understand everything that is going on here. We are first introduced to Dr. Andover (Robert Englund), who is attempting to cure individuals of their worst phobias using his fear chamber. The fear chamber is essentially a large metal sarcophagus that he places his patients into and forces them to face their worst fears. We are then presented with a group of friends (among which is the lovely Fiona Dourif) hanging out in a diner when a masked man walks in and starts shooting up the place. Flash forward one year and these friends, who were supposedly cured of their phobias after the shooting incident, are experiencing their fears again. Only now their phobias seem stronger than ever and are affecting them in the form of physical manifestations. Thus, they return to Dr. Andover in an attempt to learn why their fears won’t go away. On top of all this, new patient Blake (Thomas Dekker), who was rendered mute and confined to a wheelchair after the shooting, is brought to the good doctor in an attempt to repair his ability to speak.
The ideas presented in the script are what make the film stand out. It is an ambitious concept, albeit one that the film doesn’t fully deliver on (or explain). I have no problem when a film doesn’t explain everything, but the rules of this universe are never made even a little bit clear. This doesn’t make the film hard to follow, it will just make you ask “Why is this happening?” on more than one occasion. More often than not, there is no answer to that question. Things happen just because they can, and that can make the viewing experience slightly frustrating. The idea presented to us (and this isn’t much of a spoiler seeing as how it is on the cover art) is that fear itself has become a sentient being, taking the form of a viscous black goo that hunts down the main characters of the film. It all leads to a climax that is very reminiscent of the ending to the House on Haunted Hill remake. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it’s still fun to watch. By the way, here is that box art I mentioned:
There are a few plot holes in the film as well (Why is Robert Englund the only person who can operate the fear chamber?) and poor dialogue (“I can’t tell you anything…I’ve already said too much”), but overall it’s nothing that is detrimental to the film. The actors are certainly up to the challenge and help elevate the quality of the writing. At the forefront we have Robert Englund, who by now can sleepwalk through a role and pretty much does just that here. Fiona Dourif, proving once again that she can be the saving grace in a film, is great with the material she has been given. Her role ultimately serves as a stand-in for the audience as she finds out the answers to her (and our) questions. Thomas Dekker is also great in his limited screen time (and limited dialogue). Randomly, Slipknot lead singer Corey Taylor is also in the film as the comic relief, and he’s actually pretty good! His scenes don’t come off as forced and are pretty humorous. There is a scene with him and another orderly that reminded me of the ambulance driver dialogue in Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, which isn’t good, but other than that Taylor is fairly entertaining.
With the exception of a few shoddy CGI effects (the CGI spiders look awful), the effect are top notch. Director Robert Hall got his start as a makeup artist, eventually leading him to write and direct the two Laid to Rest films (both of which I love). Based on that alone, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the gore effects look great. The aforementioned spider scene has a particularly gross moment involving a boil, and the black goo fear monster with Englund’s face on it (again, not a spoiler since this is the cover art) looks great and is pretty disturbing. Hall is a competent director and films quite a few interesting shots. The guy certainly knows how to film a horror film. That being said, flickering lights are overused way too much in the film. To the point where it started hurting my eyes (that may just be me, though).
All in all, Fear Clinic is at least worth a watch. It isn’t an amazing film, but it has enough interesting ideas going on with some pretty great practical effects that make it a slightly above average film.
Fear Clinic is currently available on select VOD Services and iTunes and will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray on February 10th.