What I'm Watching: Fear Clinic
Oh look, I can justify calling this Fredbruary a little longer by doing a review of a NEW movie starring Robert Englund!
This time out, I'm bringing you my thoughts on Fear Clinic, a spin-off and expansion of a webseries from Fearnet. Now, I've not watched the series, and didn't know about it 'til after watching the movie, but let's just say I am very interested to go back and watch those episodes now.
The movie picks up after the events of the series, and recaps them briefly to establish the universe we're playing in. Englund plays a doctor who has created a new treatment to have patients confront and overcome their fears, and after the events of the series, it's a wild success.
After the setup, we are thrust into the plot of the actual movie, about a group of people who were all involved in a diner shooting, which traumatised the lot of them. They went to Dr. Andover for treatment, and they all did very well. Except for one patient who went into a 'fear coma' and never came out. This accident ruined Andover, and his clinic all but shut down.
We find Andover as a broken man in this movie, dealing with his treatment destroying a woman's life, and I gotta say, Robert Englund shines. He totally sells this broken, discredited doctor, spending all his days in seclusion and drinking, and wanting nothing more to do with treating fear. Englund is almost always worth watching, but he brings SUCH a level of pathos to Dr. Andover, that it is easily one of the highlights of the movie.
Anyways, after a year, the rest of the victims are starting to have their fears and trauma resurface, so begin seeking out the titular Fear Clinic to renew their treatments before all the good work unravels. They have to deal with the downtrodden Andover and help him get his shit together, while the mystery of what happened that day in the diner, and that day in the clinic, slowly unravel around them.
The lead victim is played by Fiona Dourif, who is fairly new to the horror genre, although her name should be familiar since she's the daughter of Brad Dourif, who is a legend on par with Englund in horror movies. She does a solid job, and I definitely look forward to seeing more of her work, and seeking out her earlier roles too. She's strong willed, and does the largest work to get Andover off his ass and out of the bottle. She also serves as the character you follow through the journey of this mystery, and the main driving force to the narrative. That's a lot for Fiona to carry, and like Englund, she does a great job at it. Some people might criticise her for having a largely empty expression to her face, but I'd say that's more of a choice for this haunted, fearful character.
The movie says some pretty good things about fear, although maybe nothing too revolutionary, that's not what the movie's about. It uses the typical lore of fear and works well within those boundaries.
Speaking of familiar ground, there's some similarities on the surface to Flatliners, of a group of people exploring new medical procedures, and along the way they bring something back with them. The fact that we deal with fear, and not just bringing people back from the dead, lets this movie be similar, but different in its own right, so it exists in the same sort of genre as Flatliners, but can't quite be compared too much to it. Still, the comparison is favourable, in my opinion.
While the story unfolds fairly well, and the twists work and create a good narrative, they're also pretty obvious if you're looking for them. But they play fair with the viewers, and there's nothing so out there that you call BS on the movie. The biggest problem comes from the ultimate solution to stop the fear creature from feeding upon the fear loops all the comatose patients end up trapped in. It's almost too simple, and honestly, kinda lame. Still, it's a better emotional pay off than a narrative one.
I really enjoyed this movie, and I was not expecting much, so I am nicely pleased with what I got. Englund and Dourif are great, and they carry the story. Englund might be getting tired of dealing with monsters who live inside people's heads and feed on fear, but at least he got to play on the opposite side of Freddy for a change.
The movie isn't the most original, but it does what it does well, has a solid cast, and a pretty enthralling story that I was really interested to watch unfold, and I wasn't really disappointed by the mystery. The ending is more of a sigh and eyeroll of a letdown, than making me want to throw my hands in the air and fling the disc across the room. They could have found a better way to defeat the evil, I think. It certainly doesn't ruin the movie, and I *almost* like that it was a quiet, simple way, and the symbolism of just letting go almost works. I've recommended better movies with worse endings, so it breaks even here, I think.
Fear Clinic is absolutely worth seeing, even with the admittedly minor flaws. If for nothing else, check it out to watch Robert Englund knocking it out of the park with a fairly dramatic turn for him, and a horror movie character.