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October 6, 2015

Fear Itself: Eater

by Jason Hughes, posted Jul 4th 2008 1:47AM
Fear Itself - (S01E05) NBC's website says that writer Richard Chizmar's first big project with his writing partner Jonathan Schaech is an adaptation of Stephen King's From A Buick 8. Then, they say that Jonathan Schaech's first big project with his writing partner Richard Chizmar is an adaptation of Stephen King's Black House. I'm not horribly familiar with either of them, though they've written for Masters of Horror and Heroes, nor the director Stuard Gordon (Re-Animator). Yes, that means I've never seen Re-Animator.

I am familiar with Elisabeth Moss who played the female rookie officer, though more for her work on Mad Men than The West Wing. She's one of those girls who isn't classically beautiful and because of that can play both the pretty girl when done up and the mousy girl when needed. For this installment she is cast in the latter role and put opposite the towering Stephen R. Hart as a serial killer named "The Eater." He doesn't even have to be anything more than his 6'11" in height and he's scary as all hell, but with the teeth and make-up added here, he's downright terrifying.

Right from the beginning, this episode won me over with the ultra-realistic banter between the cops. The ribbing of the girl and the sexist reluctance to have her on the force at all. Boy, thank goodness they aren't resorting to lame-ass stereotypes. [The preceding was brought to you by Sarcasm, Inc. "Sarcasm, Inc. When speaking plainly just isn't good enough anymore there's always Sarcasm. Where we respect all consumers as intelligent and thoughtful people."]

By the time the set-up staff meeting ended and "the girl" asked "Hey Sarge, he really ate all those people?" I settled down to really hate this episode. But at least they acknowledged that they ripped some of the characteristics of their cannibalistic serial killer from The Silence of the Lambs. Surprisingly, after a terrible set-up the show got a lot better. They did a great job of establishing the mood and of making the empty police station a pretty damned spooky place to be.

Why does Bannerman have two full sleeves of tattoos? I get that she's established as a horror buff, but I'm not seeing where the tattoos fit in with her personality. I guess I just don't see someone so skittish as she portrays this character to be going out and getting sleeves like that.

I did like Stephen Lee as fellow officer Marty Steinwitz. He was crass, crude and a bit creepy all at the same time. There was a lot of strength in the acting on the parts of both Moss and Lee, which served to ratchet up the tension perfectly as the hour progressed. That and the minimalistic usage of Hart's towering persona only exacerbated the psychological terror. Even Pablo Schreiber, who showed up later as an almost exact replica of the personality Lee had established, maintained the creepy level.

Pablo Schreiber and Stephen Lee were both sweating profusely throughout the episode, to establish that they were a little "off." I don't like that they used this trick and the odd swooping camera angles for Lee so early in the episode as it gave too much to the audience too soon. Let us be as uncertain as Bannerman at least for a little while.

Stupid Horror Movie Moves & Other Thoughts
  • Hey, I'm a young girl alone in a room with a 6'11" serial killing cannibal. Why don't I open the locked jail door that is the only thing standing between me and him to make sure he's all right?
  • I want to know how long Officer Marti Bannerman has been on the force, as there were times when the captain talked about her as if she's put in some time making arrests, and other instances where they almost act like this is her first week.
  • Like anyone believed the captain wasn't "The Eater" when he showed up. But where the hell did his body come from to suddenly be in the holding area. And why the bag over its head? Plot holes? Let me just fill those up with flashing lights.
  • The bad guy moves like a lumbering zombie, even when possessing other bodies, such that the girl can easily escape him, and has to take dramatic pauses to laugh maniacally.
  • A hide-and-go-seek scene in a locker room. That's never been done before.
  • The scene where he bit her hand couldn't have been done more awkwardly if it had been staged and filmed by those morons who do backyard wrestling videos on the 'net.
  • So who chained the doors from the outside anyway? And how come nothing came of the rippling waves of reality?
  • And then the ending. Rat poison? Really? Just like that? That was your ending? Guess you kind of wrote yourself into a corner there, huh? Yeah, horror is hard.
Wow, I am really losing all kinds of faith in the folks at Fear Itself to craft a clever and intelligent horror story. Is it truly a lost art anymore? How about we have an episode about a television reviewer being forced to watch crappy horror anthologies and how it drives him mad and he starts writing to TV Squad (because that's television you know) and begging them to take the show off the air. Next week looks to be the best episode of the run so far ... because there isn't a new Fear Itself. It's skipping next week to give us all a chance to recover from all the fear we've amassed over the past five weeks.

Is the art of good horror on film truly dead?
Apparently26 (24.3%)
It's not dead, it's just not being done anymore66 (61.7%)
No15 (14.0%)

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A few things I didnt get, maybe others didnt either. I remember that she tried to use 1 radio to call for help, there weren't others? Such a big time serial killer is captured, no news media, no FBI, they are just going to house him in a local jail for the night, by the size of the headquarters Im sure their is a county prison where he would be held. No other guns in the police department that she could shoot the killer with or shoot out window. All the other cops in briefing and no one stops in hq, no radio traffic? Also the Sgt. comes in towards the end changing and says his shift is over. What about the other cops? They shouldve kept the show on showtime where horror shows should be. network tv just cant get a true horror show down, although this episode was good and i enjoyed watching it.

July 07 2008 at 11:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

re-animator was a classic! you've really missed out jason!

July 07 2008 at 2:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

yes, it was full of cliches, but it had its moments, the thing that made it for me, was actually the ending, contrary to what others said, i thought it was very creepy (the eating her alive thing), and i actually liked how she kill him, :)

July 05 2008 at 9:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Oh... I liked this one better than last week's... but I don't think it was the best. There were some cringe (And I mean that to be good) worthy moments, (the arm in the door thing. I know I know, but I still cringed.)

I think the problem with this show to be honest, is that it is on NBC. If it were on HBO, Showtime, or even TNT, it would be more.... intense.

I'm still going to watch next week though.

July 05 2008 at 9:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree with Phillip & Michael, this was the first episode I've really been disappointed in. They made the "twist" so obvious, I didn't think there was any suspense at all. I knew exactly what The Eater was going to do, and while the ending was ok, I sure felt letdown afterwards. When you add in the typical dumb moves everyone seems to make in these "there's a killer on the loose" tv/ movies (like when she couldn't open the door to get out, the GLASS door & she had a gun!), the whole thing just really fell flat. I've been more worked up watching Criminal Minds. At least they know how to write a good killer.

July 05 2008 at 7:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

yeah, I was pretty sure it was a demon possession thing, similar to Fallen within the first 20 minutes or so. I wasn't far off.

July 04 2008 at 5:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This was by far the weakest episode of Fear Itself. I think I would've settled with... as she's getting choked on the floor it flashes it back to her in the locker room looking at the papers, indicating that it was a dream. Then as she's changing shirts the lights flicker and the show ends. It would fit in with the anthology series because of the whole "it all begins again" storyline that has been apparent in almost all of the Fear Itself episodes. The beginning i found was actually pretty good, but like you mentioned they revealed the twist a little too early and took away from the "fearfulness".

July 04 2008 at 2:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
eric f

Jason, Why are you confused by her full sleeves? They made perfect sense with the character. The fat cop referred to her as "goth girl" at the beginning of the episode. It was obviously not simply because she liked horror magazines/movies.

If they had substituted her character with a woman of "average" interests, it would be harder to believe that she would be so intrigued by the "man eater".

July 04 2008 at 1:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I thought this was the weakest episode of the series so far - way too many clichés and plot holes to be enjoyable.

I'd like to know why this city has a 12-storey police headquarters (at least it seemed that big, given all the stairs they kept climbing) and yet only three officers alone in the whole building working the night shift.

And the big mystery: what was in the "special blend" cup of coffee that the grizzled veteran gave the young rookie?? I kept waiting for him to say that he spit in it (or worse) but they never revealed what made it so special.

July 04 2008 at 12:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This was by far the most effective episode. It delivered chills and thrills in a format that is nearly impossible to do so in today's politically correct society. The best way to enjoy any horror or thriller is to suspend disbelief in the same ways we do for other forms of film. You just have to accept certain things as fact even if they are not logical or proven facts. I really enjoyed the episode and look forward to the work of other horror masters to see if they can make network tv horror workable.

July 04 2008 at 9:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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