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August 31, 2014

Fear Itself: Skin and Bones

by Jason Hughes, posted Aug 1st 2008 11:19AM
Fear Itself - (S01E08) Well, first off I have to give props to the make-up and effects departments. In some prior episodes there have been some pretty awkwardly awful effects scenes ("Eater" when her arm is bitten), but throughout this episode, the make-up on Doug Jones (the Hellboy movies) was just astounding. It's interesting to me that at the NBC website and everywhere I can look, Jones is the only principal listed for this show.

I'll grant that his performance as patriarch Grady was a show-stopper, but John Pyper-Ferguson as his brother and Molly Hagan as his wife are just as integral to the effectiveness of the story and the emotional power that the character back-story provides. In fact, Doug Jones got third billing in the show credits themselves. I guess they just know where the strength of the show lie. And Jones is a proven master at playing the bizarre and/or downright creepy under heavy make-up, as he ultimately does here. With roles like the Silver Surfer (Fantastic Four), Abe Sabien (Hellboy) and El Fauno/The Pale Man (Pan's Labyrinth), Jones is absolutely brilliant at bringing these characters to life.

And make no mistake, it is the power of Jones' acting that truly propels this story into the upper echelons of the short Fear Itself catalog. All in all, the entire cast really helps keep the credibility of this story moving along. Hagan's was the only face I recognized right off the bat, but she has a very distinctive look about her. In a way I was glad that there were no better known stars in this, as it allowed Jones to steal the show.

And while the horror cliches of the isolated environment, the monster picking off the survivors one by one, as well as getting "killed" multiple times before the final blow really takes him down were all in attendance here, as well as the modern horror cliche of an empowered female not allowing herself to be a victim and even giving the final killing blow, ultimately it didn't matter. "Skin and Bones" wasn't about innovative storytelling. It was a classically styled monster yarn told well and acted well.

It's a testament to the casting director that there were no weak links in the acting ensemble here. And with only seven different actors on-screen throughout, it's pretty important that they all hold up their edge of the plot and dialog. Even the kids were believable throughout. And much credit goes to writers Drew McWeeny and Scott Swan, who join us from Showtime's Masters of Horror, for keeping that dialog light on the cheese. In fact with all that solid dialog and a distinct lack of overacting or bad acting in general, this hardly stands up as a typical horror film at all.

The more I think about it, the more pissed I'm getting about it. Half the fun of horror is making fun of the terrible acting and mooning over the girl running through the woods in her underwear tripping over root after root as the monster lumbers after her. What the hell were these guys thinking giving us a well told tale with real sinister elements, a true sense of suspense and an emotional resonance between the characters. Bastards!

In the sense of the classic elements this episode did have, you could argue that it's little more than the earlier episode "Eater" on a farm. Almost all of the same elements are there, except that the body counter in "Eater" is quite a bit higher. It's harder to kill a mother and her children on broadcast television I'd wager. But apparently having her eat the secret father of her children is perfectly alright. You've got to love American television. Intense gore and violence and even a dash of cannibalism are just fine and dandy but flash a nipple and prepare to give up the farm!

The bottom line is "Skin and Bones" is an excellent little horror yarn told well in the limited format. It's a great example of the potential of horror on television. And in retrospect, these later episodes have been so much better than those early installments that I can't for the life of me figure out why the network and/or producers started the series off so weakly. I guess maybe these weren't finished yet, so maybe the whole product is just improving as it goes along.

The problem is that I'm starting to enjoy these different tales so much that I might like to see Fear Itself return for a second season. Perhaps it could become a summer staple for NBC. It'd be a nice change of paced from the deluge of reality television that clogs up the TV pipelines each summer. On a side note, Fear Itself is going on hiatus now to make room for the Olympics. I'm not 100% sure how the ratings have been or if NBC is committed to putting it back on the air afterward, but I hope they do. If, however, this is our final episode together, they definitely went out on a high note.

Would you like to see Fear Itself return for a second season?
No12 (4.7%)
Yes, but as a summer series76 (29.8%)
Hell, put it on in the fall or winter seasons (it's better than a lot of crap on NBC)167 (65.5%)

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Donna

wow, i LOVE "Fear itself", please bring it back!!! PLEASE!!!

September 27 2008 at 10:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Donna

i LOE fear itself, it awoke me from my hum=drum tv viewing season, please bring it back!!!!

September 27 2008 at 10:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Will

I, too, really enjoyed this episode though the ending could have been better. I'd love to see this get another season, between the glut of reality & game shows on, I end up just watching reruns of scripted shows. I wouldn't watch "America's Got Talent" if you paid me. (I use that as an example, Deal or No Deal & Million Dollar Password also bug me. ) Some reality/game show's are well done ( I think I'm in the minority as I'm enjoying The Mole this summer.) At least with it you have to think a little. But back to the point,yes, bring back Fear. I didn't realize it would be off for the Olympics, too bad, I'll miss it.

August 02 2008 at 5:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
james

I really enjoyed this episode but the Acting was not perfect. The sons were both really bad actors. "Uncle said that we could never take his truck!"

August 01 2008 at 9:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jenny J

This episode was oh-so creepy, but the ending was lame. I was expecting a big, creepier yet type twist.

August 01 2008 at 8:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tucker

I really like this show, and no matter what I want it to stick around - but I think I'd like it better in the fall/winter. For some reason I just don't feel geared to watching horror as much in the summer... Summer is more of a comedy/action feel for me. Oh well, like I said though, I just want Fear Itself to stick around one way or another.

August 01 2008 at 2:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
George

Lest we forget that Doug Jones was the lead Gentleman on Buffy!

August 01 2008 at 2:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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