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April 3, 2013

Movie Review: What Really Frightens You? (2009, DVD)

Review By: Rob Sibley

“What Really Frightens you” is the latest film from cult movie director Richard W. Haines. If your a fan of cult 80's movies you'll know him as the director of two Troma feature films. Those flicks are 1984's Splatter University and the classic cheese fest 1986's “Class of Nuke 'Em High”.

The film starts off with a mysterious writer (Ian Tomaschik) who's currently working for a monster fanzine “Ghastly Horror Magazine”. He pitches an idea to the head honcho of the mag to do an article on what really frightens people. Head honcho gives him the go a head and agrees to publish it if it turns out decent. The writer heads out with a camcorder in one hand and a clipboard in the other. He comes across three people in Times Square willing to discuss their personal fears.

First person up for an interview is a gal Chloe (Jennifer Sorika), who works part time at a bookstore. Her biggest fear consists of a re-occurring nightmare where she's in public in her underwear and everyone is staring at her. Then somehow she ends up at a strip club where all the men grab and manhandle her... I didn't phrase it that way. She spoke it that way in the flick, a pretty complicated fear eh? Whatever happened to that fear of waking up in your classroom just in your underwear? Must not be complicated enough and it wouldn't give us a chance to visit a strip club later in the flick.

Second sucker up for an interview is a lawyer Drew Evans (Postell Pringle). Drew's fear is that after 10 years of working to get out of the ghetto or “the hood” as he puts it. A “bad neighborhood filled with drug dealers, pimps and hookers”. Come on Drew... lighten up! What's a neighborhood without drugs and hookers? Anyhow he's afraid of running into the gangs from the local hood again who are jealous that he got a scholarship to a law school. Makes total sense, every gang banger is going to be preoccupied with that grudge. Hope it doesn't affect their pimping and drug dealings.

The last shmuck interviewed is a computer programer by the name of Brett Andrews (Chris Keveney). Brett still holds onto his childhood fear of monsters under his bed... yep 25 years later and dear old Brett still believes something in lurking and just waiting to grab him when he gets out of bed for a midnight snack. The man can solve that problem easily, invest in a night light... good luck explaining that your girlfriend though bro!

Once all three peeps are interviewed the article in published about a month later. Things soon become weird for are ill fated three as they begin to suffer from hallucinations sort of relating to their primal fears. Let me start out by saying this is a fun concept for a film, not 100% original but what is these days? This could have been a fantastic episode of Tales from the Dark Side or even Tales from the Crypt... but the project ends up resembling a poor episode of The Twilight Zone. Not the original classic series either, but the bad 2000's reboot of the series.

The film is just one missed opportunity after the next. The creature FX are hit or miss, I understand this was a low budget but there should be no excuse for such shoddy looking make up. The director insisted on shooting the flick on 35MM as he prefers it to digital. Fair enough, but if he had shot on digital he could of spent the cash spent on 35MM film stock and used it towards the FX budget.The one latex monster is nicely done but sadly it's used twice for two different and completely nightmare sequences. Must be budgetary issues... the less said about the stop motion like gargoyle that appears near the end of the film the better.

The story also loses focus very quickly, they took some great high concept ideas but didn't have the budget to execute it. Take in mind though, I didn't hate this film. I just resent the fact that a talented writer and director such as Mr. Haines turned out a film like this.

He's has tons of years of experience behind the camera and has made some very solid and entertaining films in the past. This one was a nice effort, close but no cigar is the case sadly. But the film does get a few things right. The general atmosphere evoked in the film by Haines & cinematographer Tom Agnello is stand out. When the films middling plot and lack of action was losing me Agnello's dream like candy colored high contrast photography kept me interested.

The acting is also much better then your usual independent horror film. Postell Pringle gives a stand out performance, interestingly enough he's worked with the director on his much better crime Noir “Soft Money”. Sorika Horng also brings a lot to her role and makes her somewhat believable which is saying something because of her absurd fear. She also worked with Haines on Soft Money so it's not surprising that her performance was natural.  I heard a sequel may be in the works and I'd actually like to see one if Haines is given a bigger budget to work with. 

Shot on 35MM and mastered in High Definition, this 178:1 16X9 enhanced transfer looks outstanding. The film has a very nice technocolor look it to, the colors really pop and the contrast & black levels are nearly perfect. Grain is kept to a minimal. It's refreshing seeing a Independent horror film shot on 35MM.

The 5.1 Dolby Digital track is very clear, no complaints.

For extras we get a commentary track that primarily features Writer/Director/Editor/Producer Richard W. Haines but some of the cast members, the composers and the D.P. Pop in to speak for a bit. It's an interesting track in the sense that it's more of a film school then actual commentary track. Haines spends more time discussing the technical aspects rather then the actual story or what's going on during a particular scene. The track also had a tendency to be a bit dry but it's informative enough.

Last up you get a trailer for the film and some production photos. Oddly enough none of the extra's are listed on the back of the DVD box.

So what we have here is not a bad film, it's just a film that's missed the mark by an inch or two. I'm tempted to recommend it but viewing a film just for it's visual atmosphere and “okay” acting isn't enough. I give it an A for effort but... SKIP IT.

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