To start off, let me say that my only experience with "Masters of Horror" was John Carpenter's "Cigarette Burns". I enjoyed it, although I didn't think it was anything spectacular. A lot of fans have told me that was the best episode of all two seasons, which to me wasn't very encouraging for "Fear Itself". The key advantage that having the show on Showtime affords you, is that even the bad episodes can throw in some gore and a boob or two and up the enjoyment level considerably. So, how did NBC fare without that leisure? In my opinion, not very good.
I was very excited for this show. I think it was just the idea of horror being on national television again, as well as the fact that the series is running during the summer that just seemed right to me. This first episode, "Sacrifice", basically deals with a group of thieves who have to hole up in a remote commune (during winter?) inhabited by three sexy sisters. Of course, the sisters end up being eeeeeevil, and we discover about half way through that they're hiding some sort of secret.
I'll let the other guys describe what they thought about specifics of the episode, but let me just give you my general problem with the way this is being done. For me, the main draw is the fact that you have (in theory) good horror directors behind each episode. So, one could assume that each episode should have a distinct look and feel. This unfortunately, is not true. Presumably because of time and money constraints, this episode (and presumably, the rest) ended up looking like a generic cop drama with some horror thrown in. The restraints on the directors really drain any chance they have of infusing their personality, which to me is the entire point. Remember those old "Tales From the Darkside" episodes from the 80's? They were usually directed by Joe Nobody, but give the camera a soft focus and some low lighting and that will go a long way towards creating atmosphere. This is glossy, uninspired stuff at best.
I guess I enjoyed it, slightly. It was tough to really get into it when there were commercials every 5 minutes. That said, this is a perfect example of where the lack of censorship over at Showtime might have helped save a dull story. They did manage to actually cram more blood in than you'll see in "Prom Night" though, so I've got to give them credit for that. The creature design on the "Vampire" was also decent, although suspiciously we never see the thing on screen for more than a split second (damn shaky cam).
So, overall I give this a poor rating. I'm thinking that next time I'll have to down a few beers before the show... I'm guessing that will help. And I will keep watching, at least for the time being, if for no other reason than I'm interested to see how this experiment turns out. However, one would think that they would choose to lead with their best episode straight out of the gate. If that's the case, we're in trouble.
For the premier of a new series, and the relaunch of a on old, I give it a resounding 'eh, not bad'.
Pacing was slow over all, but managed to stay coherent and keep you guessing throughout. It was actually a plot I wasn't able to guess straight away so I give it props for that. Sadly, it could have been better if it didn't turn out to be such an over done plot device. I was so hoping for "Ginger Snaps: The Redux"; instead it was "Nosferatu: Part Deux". It's pretty hard to give a shit about vampires these days.
At least it was the ugly animal kind and not the foo-foo Tom Cruise kind. All of us have said that we liked the animal qualities of the "30 Days of Night" vamps, and this is what we got. In the short shaky glimpses we got of him, there was no question that this critter was not 'normal'.
I found the plot of these criminals a bit hard to follow; we're thrown into them making a get away and one of them shot. We never really find out what they were doing or why. I found this overall distracting because I spent the entire hour wondering just what the hell they've been up to. All we get is a hint with a duffel bag full of guns and Mr. head bad guy dual wielding Uzi's. (With no kickback, natch.)
The kickoff of "Fear Itself" is not a total failure by any means, it was just sort of...limp. It was nice to see Rachel Miner thrown in there as she has a budding scream cream career in the works and brings a slight bit of credibility to the project. ("Penny Dreadful", "Tooth and Nail") The rest of the cast was pretty lackluster, all though I did get a kick out of the dopey Lemmon. I do feel kind of sorry for the dude that was shot because his big acting break was laying around and moaning a lot.
I'm ready for Episode 2 and see how it turns out. I'm biased though because I love me some cheesy Eric Roberts acting and the previews look like it will be chock full!
In a more perfect world, "The Sacrifice" would have been called "Bunch of Random Horror Cliches with Two-Fisted Uzi Guy." I wonder why they didn't go with that title instead?
Honestly though, the Fear Itself launch was about 40% better than I expected. It required epic levels of disbelief suspension, but otherwise there was plenty to enjoy. You had the hot sisters dressed in 18th century clothes (awesome). There was the vaguely Nosferatu-looking vampire thing (cool-ish). And there were even a handful of creepy or at least interesting shots (I'd list the lip-sewing and the hanging-upside-down blood dripping). "The Sacrifice" certainly ranked above some of the "Masters of Horror" episodes, but in reality, this thing would have been much more watchable had it been shot for Showtime instead of network.
Probably my favorite moment of toned-down violence came in the penultimate scene where the two remaining survivors used kerosene to kill the vampire. The "money shot"—which in any half-way decent, STV release would have been gory as all get out or at least have a flaming dude running around—featured, and I wish I was lying, a door that had been set on fire. Now, clearly "Fear Itself" is not designed for the hardcore horror junkies, but even regular folks who were expecting a "Law and Order" at 10pm and got this instead would have thought that was pretty wussy. I'm interested to hear what other folks thought. For right now, I'll say that I'm ready to give episode two a chance.
Feel free to tell us what you thought in the comments!