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July 23, 2014

Fear Itself: Spooked

by Jason Hughes, posted Jun 12th 2008 11:00PM
Fear Itself:
(S01E02)
This is what is fun about anthology shows, and why I can never understand why they never do better in the ratings. As much as people bitch about and resist taking a chance on long-form new serialized programs like the '05-'06 trinity of Invasion, Surface and Threshold, you would think they would embrace a series where each episode truly stands alone. With a show like this, your investment into it won't be impacted in any way if the network pulls the plug after only thirteen episodes, or even just four.

And yet, anthology shows tend to struggle even more than heavily serialized fare. In fact, Fear Itself got its ass handed to it by Swingtown in the head-to-head premieres last week. The big question is, with the "not-so-good" nature of the premiere, how many people came back to see this much improved second episode, and how many will stick around for Daniel Knaupf's outstanding episode next week? While last week was a poorly written and acted "monster of the week" boobfest, this time we got a well constructed good old-fashioned haunting.

I liked the set-up to get us into this haunting. Eric Roberts played a police officer stripped of his badge for essentially killing a suspect to get more information out of him. Then we cut to years later and now he's a private investigator, spending his time taking pictures of cheating spouses and extorting his clients when he gets the chance to. With the background established, he was hired to watch a house overnight so that he might catch a cheating husband, and the client (Cynthia Watros) even suggested he go to the abandoned house across the street to set up as he wouldn't be bothered there.

And just like that, we got the character into the haunted house. From there, I really enjoyed the twist of the house he was set up in, giving him visions of events occurring in the house he was watching; visions for him alone, as his partner (Larry Gilliard Jr.) who was set up down the street in a van never experienced any of it. The effects on the spectral manifestations were spot on, and the tension was very well handled. About the only thing I would have appreciated more was a true sense of danger for Roberts' character.

All in all, though, the hauntings seemed to be more about addressing the sins of his youth as channeled through his adult behavior. Of course we were going to tap back into the incident that got him removed from the force, but even more compelling for me was the ultimate sin committed as a result of a childhood accident. In a way, his emotional and psychological issues emanate almost completely as a result of what his father forced him to do.

Good horror pulls us into the psyche of our victim and a good haunting is as much psychological as it is just violence and gore (see last week's "The Sacrifice" for just such a lack of depth). "Spooked" gave us disturbing images, from Roberts' father jamming bullets into his gums to the ever-changing images on the wall, and a complex back story connecting all of the disparate elements by the end. But it was the personal connection to those images by both Roberts and Watros that made them all the more compelling.

Again, the only thing that could have made it more "scary" would be if the specters came across as true threats to Roberts. As it was, they appeared to simply be there to show him things he didn't want to remember, freak him out a bit and think about what kind of a person he was. The real and physical dangers came only from the encounters between real people within the episode.

The potential in the story is such that it could have been made a lot more intense and exciting by increasing the threat factor from the hauntings themselves and doing more with Gilliard's character. As it was, his role was essentially to sit in the van and say to Roberts, "Nope, I don't see anything." I get that it was Roberts who was the target of the hauntings, but to pull his partner and friend into the danger, even if he remained skeptical to the whole thing, would have increased the tension and the stakes tremendously for the already embattled Roberts.

In the end, though, we got a typically satisfying horror short story conclusion. Lessons were learned, in some cases, but as is often the case, these lessons are learned too little too late and we must pay for the mistakes we've made in life. And as we pay for those mistakes, we in turn corrupt the next generation of innocents, so the cycle can continue. Maybe I'm over-analyzing things, but I've read a lot of horror stories and novels, and seen a lot of horror shows and movies and I just found this to be a wholly satisfying experience of the genre.

How does this one compare to the pilot?
This one was much better81 (74.3%)
The pilot was better17 (15.6%)
They both sucked!11 (10.1%)

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Horrorelite

Fans of indie horror rejoice, as Fewdio Entertainment launches the internet's first ALL HORROR/ALL SHORT FILMS WEBSITE!

The site goes live on August 6th with all original and UNSEEN content!

Check in at Fewdio dot com as the newest maestros of horror present a new short horror film every two weeks on the only all horror/all short film website on the internet!!!


The first reviews are in:
http://digg.com/movies/FEWDIO_A_bunch_of_horror_guys_that_you_should_be_keeping_a



FEWDIO
We Create Nightmares

August 08 2008 at 3:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Horrorelite

Fans of indie horror rejoice, as Fewdio Entertainment launches the internet's first ALL HORROR/ALL SHORT FILMS WEBSITE!

The site goes live on August 6th with all original and UNSEEN content!

Check in at Fewdio dot com as the newest maestros of horror present a new short horror film every two weeks on the only all horror/all short film website on the internet!!!


The first reviews are in:
http://digg.com/movies/FEWDIO_A_bunch_of_horror_guys_that_you_should_be_keeping_a



FEWDIO
We Create Nightmares

August 05 2008 at 8:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rene

I am an Eric Roberts fan from the old days, when I was a high schooler. I am bummed that I missed this one. It was like ten o'clock right after it went off that I remembered. I do plan to watch the show again, I saw it the first week and I look forward to the one with Christie Laing next week. It was really scary but interesting. I like that get all of it in one week concept I have gotten used to the monster of the week watching Supernatural though we are way past that in that show LOL :)

June 16 2008 at 12:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Horrorelite

I liked the second episode a lot better too. Although the production design (of all things) got in the way for me. The haunted house was VERY forced and I just didn't believe that this spooky old place was JUST across the street from that multi million dollar mansion. Otherwise, a good episode. To satisfy my strong love of horror anthology (night gallery anyone?, tales fromt eh crypt?) I've found this new horror webisode that just started here by a group(or person) calling themselves "Fewdio".

Anyway - check out their smart macabre take at

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wqz0YtSCetg

June 14 2008 at 11:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
RJ

II thought that the 2nd episode was MUCH better then the pilot. If NBC would of aired this episode 1st, I think they would have had better ratings.

June 13 2008 at 2:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Alicia

I jumped in the last scene. Even though I knew it was coming....

I am looking forward to next week... and if things keep progressing in quality as they have in the last two, this will be killer by the end.

(Yes, I said it... killer)

June 13 2008 at 10:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Craig Michaels

Can someone explain the moment when the Roberts character looks at the wall and realizes that there were four not three individuals. The moment passed me by and I was confused throughout the remainder of the show as to how he figured it was the sister who set him up.

June 13 2008 at 9:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Craig Michaels's comment
Kurifurisan

I think when the art showed the first three slicing their necks and blood coming out but not the fourth, things clicked in his head and the details all fell into place.

June 13 2008 at 9:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joanna

I didn't like it at much as you did. You obviously understood much more than I was able to catch. I missed the connection between the father and pulling bullets out of his mouth. I thought the ending was rushed, down to the last shot.

I love the format though and will keep it on my season pass.

I think the best thing to do is avoid all previews or descriptions before the show. The description of the episode was basically "bad cop turned private investigator faces his childhood demons in a haunted house." Way to take all the surprise and mystery away.

June 13 2008 at 8:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Scott

I have not watched the episode yet, so I really can't comment on it...my question is about the review itself...I don't mean to nitpick, but there are multiple references in the review to "Roberts". Roberts who? (and Gilliard who?) Isn't it usually customary to use a persons full name at least once before simplifying it to just the last name? Since there is only one Watros that I know, I'm going to assume it's Cynthia.

Maybe it's just me....

June 13 2008 at 2:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Scott's comment
Jason Hughes

Looks like I edited out the paragraph with the first mention of their names. Unforgivably sloppy, I apologize. Thanks for keeping me on the straight and narrow!

June 13 2008 at 2:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joey Geraci

I can't be the only one who is asking why in the fuck NBC put this against Swingtown. Yes, they aren't exactly in the same genre, but there is enough room in the schedule for both, they are the only new non-reality shows in broadcast!! Why have them compete against each other, where one loses and one wins, then just have them in their own hours!! It makes no sense whatsoever!

June 13 2008 at 12:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Joey Geraci's comment
Brad

It's definitely strange, but I'm really not sure why people seem to be watching Swingtown anyway, it's terrible. Sorta bad planning all around I'd say.

June 13 2008 at 1:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joey Geraci

Swingtown's OK. They probably figured it is summer, probably weren't going to get a lot for their ads whether they ran a rerun or a new show, and there would be people desperate enough for new shows (such as myself), that they would watch.

Given CBS' track record, I don't expect much. And I got more than I expected.

June 13 2008 at 3:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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