Monday, April 24, 2017

Film Review: Fear Clinic (2014)

Fear Clinic (Review)
United States/2014
Format Viewed For Review: Shudder
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"Fear Clinic is a disappointing film. For everything it does right, it does something wrong."

Dr. Andover (Robert Englund) has created a machine that allows him to cure his patients' phobias by inducing and controlling hallucinations, but playing God leads to some severe issues.

Fear Clinic is an interesting film. I was naturally drawn to the concept of this movie. Unfortunately, the execution is mediocre, especially when it comes to storytelling. The plot begins with one of Andover's procedures. The procedure ends in tragedy, so he closes his clinic. Fast forward one year and now Sara (Fiona Dourif), a former patient, arrives at the clinic because she's suffering from 'fear aftershocks.' To her dismay, Andover has become a recluse due to the previous incident. Anyway, more of Andover's former patients arrive, sharing similar side-effects to Sara. Also, it's not obvious in the beginning, but it turns out all of the patients suffer from PTSD after surviving a shooting. It's supposed to be obvious from the beginning, but, like I said, the storytelling is mediocre, so it's not as clear as it should be. It leads to a bizarre climax and underwhelming ending.

Fear Clinic is a disappointing film. For everything it does right, it does something wrong. The story is unique and interesting, but the storytelling is sloppy and incoherent. You have some interesting characters, like Andover, while most of the cast is hollow and forgettable. The film delves into some of the pseudoscience of the concept, trying to appear smart and thought-out, but the plot is riddled with plot contrivances and blatant exposition. The visuals stand out, often creating surreal experiences, but some of the effects are too heavy-handed. The plot, despite its premise, doesn't really capitalize on any phobias. Everyone has a phobia, but they're not highlighted in the film. It's a hit-or-miss type of movie, so it always landed towards the middle for me.

The acting was okay. Robert Englund and Bonnie Morgan were good. Fiona Dourif was a bit on the bland side. She really only had one emotion throughout most of the film. The supporting cast never gets the chance to shine. The film has moments where it looks great. Then, it has moments where it's either too difficult to see or flashing lights are trying to give you a seizure. The music... I don't really remember the music, so it wasn't exceptional or terrible. The film was written by Aaron Drane and Robert Green Hall; Hall also directs. The writing needed to be heavily revised. The idea is interesting and the plot has some strong moments, but it's loosely strung together—it feels sloppy, disjointed, and lost. The direction fares a bit better, but it suffers from similar issues.

Overall, Fear Clinic is a decent film. I would say it's as good as it is bad. I was engaged from beginning to end and I enjoyed certain moments. Yet, I still felt utterly disappointed. With such a great premise, this could have been so much better. If you have nothing else to watch, this is worth a rental at most. (I streamed it through Shudder.)

Score: 5/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some sex and nudity.

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