Editor’s note: Dave “Dr. Shock” Becker is a host on Horror Movie Podcast, Universal Monsters Cast and Land of the Creeps horror podcasts. He is also the mastermind behind DVDInfatuation.com, a movie review blog where he is watching and posting one review every day until he reaches at least 2,500 movie reviews. Follow Doc on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation.
Directed by Vincent Masciale, Fear, Inc. is an entertaining motion picture with a likable cast of characters and some nifty nods to the classic splatter films of yore. But with its ever-twisting story and preference for laughs over chills, there’s a good chance horror aficionados will walk away from this one disappointed.
Joe (Lucas Neff), an unemployed slacker who spends his days hanging out at the beautiful L.A. mansion owned by his Aussie girlfriend Lindsey (Caitlin Stasey), is a big-time fan of horror movies, and with the Halloween season in full swing he visits a number of haunted attractions in the hopes of finding one that will scare the living hell out of him. Unfortunately, they all fall short of his expectations. Then, one night, he’s handed a card by a random stranger (played by Patrick Renna) advertising a company called “Fear, Inc.,” which guarantees its customers the most terrifying experience of their lives.
Joe’s best friend Ben (Chris Marquette), who recently arrived in town with his wife Ashleigh (Stephanie Drake), says that Fear, Inc. is bad news; rumor has it some of those who’ve called the service have never been heard from again. Intrigued by Ben’s warnings, Joe decides to give Fear, Inc. a try. But instead of a fun-filled evening of frights, Joe, Ben and the ladies are forced to play a deadly game of cat and mouse that could ultimately cost them their lives.
The entire cast of Fear, Inc. is strong (especially Chris Marquette, who was also good in both Infestation and Night of the Living Deb), but what makes it so much damn fun is Lucas Neff’s spirited turn as the naïve but hopeful Joe, a guy whose unbridled enthusiasm for all things horror lands him and his friends in some pretty hot water (to get the most out of his Fear, Inc. experience, Joe purposefully leaves a door unlocked so that a masked killer can walk right in; and he’s as giddy as a schoolboy when his neighbor Bill, played by Richard Riehle, is seemingly stabbed to death in the middle of the street, a murder that Joe believes was staged by the good people at Fear, Inc. Or was it?)
In addition, director Masciale and screenwriter Luke Barnett pay tribute to the horror movies of the ‘80s and ‘90s throughout Fear, Inc. Along with sequences that hearken back to both Friday the 13th and Scream, the story owes quite a bit to David Fincher’s The Game, and at one point Ben, Joe and their significant others discuss their favorite horror film kill scenes (Ashleigh chooses Johnny Depp’s blood-soaked demise in 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, while Ben is partial to the shower death in the original Final Destination).
Yet while moments such as these are sure to bring a smile to the face of any true genre fan, Fear, Inc. features one too many plot twists for its own good (I was pleasantly surprised by the first, but could figure some of the others out well before their big reveals), leaving Joe (and the rest of us) to wonder if what he’s seeing is real, or part of an elaborate hoax. And while the movie was genuinely funny at times, it wasn’t as frightening as it should have been. In fact, the film gets less scary with each successive scene (though the finale does, admittedly, pack a wallop).
Still, despite its weaknesses, I had fun watching Fear, Inc., and if you ever find yourself in the mood for a horror / comedy that’s light on the horror, I recommend giving this one a whirl.
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