Fear Clinic (2014)

Fear Clinic posterWhen you think of filmmaker Robert Hall, “subtlety” isn’t the first word that pops into your mind. Hall, the director of LAID TO REST and CHROMESKULL: LAID TO REST 2, has become known in the genre as delivering fast-paced, extremely gory films with practical f/x that would have Tom Savini himself impressed. This is partly because Hall has a sick and twisted mind as well as being a top-notch special f/x artist with over eighty-five projects under his belt with his f/x company, Almost Human, Inc. Hall was a make-up artist on THE X-FILES, did the special makeup designs and f/x on the TV shows BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and FIREFLY, and did the f/x in the genre films THE CRAZIES remake, QUARANTINE 1 and 2, JOHN DIES AT THE END, and designed the creature f/x on AREA 51.

Hall is also the creator of the TV series FEAR CLINIC which ultimately led to directing and writing (with Aaron R. Drane) the feature length film of the same name. The film centers around a group of patients who are all being treated for a trauma they shared. They were all involved in a shooting at a diner and as a result manifested various phobias and fears due to their PTSD. All the survivors are being treated by Dr. Andover (Robert Englund) who is an expert on fear. Andover conducts what he calls “total immersive exposure therapy” where he places people inside a specially designed chamber (the “fear chamber”). Once inside the machine the patient’s fears become hallucinations and Andover is able to talk them through the visions thereby freeing them from the grasp their fears have on their lives. Andover isn’t just trying to help patients learn to live with their fears and phobias, he’s trying to cure them. His research focuses on a specific part of the brain and the fear chamber helps open a door into the amygdala, an area of the brain that usually remains closed. This is an interesting idea and Hall takes his time setting up the plot and then really lets go in the second half of the film.

Fear Clinic2While one of Andover’s patients, Paige (Bonnie Morgan) is in the chamber something goes wrong and she dies. This sends Andover over the edge and makes him realize he’s been playing with mysteries he had no right playing with. One of the other survivors of the diner shooting, Sara (Fiona Dourif), who was previously cured of her fears, has recently been experiencing a relapse. She heads over to Andover’s institute only to find that several of the other patients are also starting to experience their old “cured” fears coming back (Sara called them “prolonged fear afetrshocks”). Caylee (Angelina Armani) has a fear of gaining weight; Megan (Cleopatra Coleman) has a fear of insects; and Blake (Thomas Dekker) is in a catatonic state as a result of his fears. Caylee is the worst off and vomits a black, viscous liquid that seems to trigger fear in anyone who comes into contact with it.

Fear Clinic1Anyone who is familiar with Hall’s previous LAID TO REST films and expecting the same type of flick will be disappointed here. The LAID TO REST films are slasher films. Granted they are way above the typical slasher flick and have some incredible special f/x in them, but they at the end of the day they are slasher flicks. Hall, though, is doing something different in FEAR CLINIC. We get what seems like a typical plot that suddenly takes a right turn into the speculative horror realm. Hall really takes his time setting up the characters, establishing their backgrounds, and making the viewer care about what happens to them. The first half is what some may describe as slow but I enjoyed the build up. The story has more depth than your typical horror plot and I liked the extra detail Hall spent on fleshing the story out.

Fear Clinic6The set designs were also fun. There was a lot of neon green and some sweet looking medical/scientific equipment that made me nostalgic for the horror films of the 1980s. The fear chamber itself has a sweet looking design!! As the second half of the film rolled around this is when we started to get the payoff. FEAR CLINIC really comes to life in the second half with the help of special makeup and visual f/x by the legendary Robert Kurtzman. There’s a spider scene that’ll make your skin crawl for the next two weeks!! There’s also a nice blending of practical f/x and CGI and the CGI is done extremely well and doesn’t take you out the moment.

What I also really appreciated about the script was just when you thought you had the story nailed down, knowing exactly where it was going, Hall throws a few fun curveballs our way. Without giving anything away, FEAR CLINIC turns into a creature flick with a pretty damn unique creature. The cast all does a great job and Fiona Dourif (Sara) is quite the unconventional horror heroine. She is smart, doesn’t panic, and makes intelligent choices when running from and fighting the creature. You’ll also appreciate the cinematography as Hall plays around with the camera during various shots.

Fear Clinic5FEAR CLINIC won’t be for everyone. Some won’t like the pacing of the first half while others will be expecting another LAID TO REST. But if you go into this expecting a good story with solid characters, good acting, and great f/x then you’ll be greatly rewarded. The final act has a great payoff that really pulls the entire film together and explains everything that was going on. I had a really fun time with FEAR CLINIC and applaud Robert Hall for taking on such am ambitious storyline. Check this one out.

My Summary:

Director: Robert Hall

Plot: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Gore: 5.5 out of 10 skulls

Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Scott Shoyer

Stay Bloody!!!

Fear Clinic4

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