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TV Review: Fear Itself (TV Series) (2008)

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This horror/suspense anthology series sparkles with talent — including renowned directors John Landis, Darren Lynn Bousman and Ronny Yu, as well as gifted actors Eric Roberts, Brandon Routh, Shiri Appleby and Cynthia Watros. Plotlines include a devoted family man who finds himself in the body of a serial killer, a bride who receives a chilling note about her husband-to-be on their wedding day, and a cattle herder possessed by a monster.

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Fear itself is a dynamic collection of 13 made for TV episodes comprised as a anthology horror and suspense series. tTo review it, is to understand a bit about it’s history and back ground. While the much more intense “Masters of Horror” series deemed to be pretty effective as a regular show time series and popular rental product, the networks were anxious to take some of that magic and present it on prime time Television. The original series aired Thursdays nights around the 9/10 slot with a season promising 13 episodes directed by top name directing talents (much like Masters of Horror). The show was put on hiatus in 2008 during the Summer Olympics. Afterwards the horror community was pretty much left in the dark on when the series would resume, if it would resume and where the final episodes had disappeared to.

In fact, July 31 featured the episode “Skin and Bones” (quite frankly, the best of the series and ending with a bang) directed by Larry Fessenden which ended up being the last aired episode. On March 13, 2009, the community received word that the show was canceled and wouldn’t be returning. Though even with the series being a hit or miss as far as content, the powers that be at least left us with a collective DVD set that not only features “all the episodes, but a few with director cuts. One look at the back cover ranking in over 593 minutes of horror time is a major plus for any fan of the genre.

I was excited when this set was announced and even more excited now to finally hold it in my hands. Before we get into the gist of it it should be noted that due to its plan to keep it airable and appropriate for TV (whatever that is these days) the series suffered highs and lows in content delivery and material that could keep the genre happy.

Each is produced with a well produced look and feel, the mistakes come in the form of content that at times was very weak for the genre to embrace to other moments that succeeded in fulfilling the need even at a much censors arrangement. Directors were facing frustrations as there materiel was toned down and in effect spoiling the broth so to speak. This aside, we still have some great material that should be embraced for what it is. If you are expecting the level of gore, violence and over the top moments as in “Masters of Horror” then you wont find it here.

Though you will find a nice batch of stories with a few even being scarier than most film productions. A few of the stories of the top of my head fit this bill perfectly. These include “Skin & Bones”, “Eater” and the debut vampire episode, “the Sacrifice”. Others like “Spooked”, “In sickness and in Health” and “Community” easily were the low points of the series which because of content censorship really missed the mark and even left plot holes that “felt” like sections were missing. Instead of the intended horror treatment they were reduced to suspense episodes without the flair that they needed to deliver.

The DVD set release comes at us with “Skin & Bones” director cut, “Chance”, Something with Bite, “Echoes – director cut”, “The Spirit Box” and the “Circle”. 5 of which were never aired. Add to that the extra “Recipe for Fear” and you’ve got yourself a pretty effective and impressive offering of a show that didn’t even complete its first season.

Additional episodes such as “Chance” and “spirit Box” feel like there own mini movies themselves with fully elaborate plots and surprise along the way. Still for horror fans the content might be a bit slower that expected but the episodes are still well done as a anthology series format. The competence of the directors involved help elevate the productions higher than they probably would have been produced from a stock team. Though what is evident is the difference in the approaches to suspense and drama from one to the other.

As horror fans we know the score….TV struggles with horror and many of the top guys in positions of power just don’t get it. What we end up with execs comparing numbers before the series is given a chance to really find its base. I don’t expect to ever see a season 2, though we can still cherish what bits an pieces were left for us. “Fear Itself” is dynamic,. well produced and a cherry on top of a sunday for fans to eat up. I’m gonna have to suggest that within these 593 minute there’s plenty here to celebrate and should find its way onto genre fans shelves.

Fear Itself – TV Series (2008)

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