Fear Clinic, 2015.
Directed by Robert Hall.
Starring Robert Englund, Fiona Dourif, Thomas Dekker, Corey Taylor, Cleopatra Coleman and Kevin Gage.
A brilliant scientist has found a way to cure people’s fears by inducing hallucinations but after the treatment several patients begin to experience bizarre flashbacks that feel much too real.
Based on the FEARnet.com web series that ran in 2009, Fear Clinic stars horror legend Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street/Hatchet) as Dr. Andover, a brilliant scientist who has unlocked the secret to controlling people’s fears by inventing a chamber that induces hallucinations in order for the patient to face their fear head on. However, after the survivors of a shooting in a restaurant receive treatment and one of them dies while under the control of the chamber, Dr. Andover becomes a recluse and his clinic closes. But a year later the rest of the survivors begin to have visions of the masked gunman and return to the clinic, forcing Andover to open the chamber once again to face what may be inside.
Whilst not a wholly original concept – in fact, the film shares a lot of thematic threads with, ironically, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors as well as Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond – Fear Clinic does aspire to be more than your average jump scare shocker with ideas of a more cerebral nature but unfortunately the ambition outweighs the execution, resulting in a film that feels like a vague collection of suggestions tenuously connected by a weighty and sometimes confusing script that never really takes off and isn’t very scary.
The basic idea and setting up of the Dr. Andover character is presented well at the beginning of the film so that when the fateful victim is in the chamber within the first few minutes we have a good idea of who is who and what is happening, but all too quickly we are introduced to several other characters who have problems that we never really connect to as the incident that drew them all together is never really explained or gone into. And as the shooting and who was there is only briefly shown with little or no context it’s very difficult to gauge any sort of sympathy for anybody involved.
And this is purely a script issue as the one thing that Fear Clinic does have in its favour is a strong cast. Robert Englund has been championing this Kickstarter-funded movie for some time so this is a passion project for him and the gravitas he brings anchors the whole thing, although his long-hair wig may seem a bit incongruous to the hairline he has when his hair is shorter in the movie’s flashback scenes. Fiona Dourif (Curse of Chucky), Thomas Dekker (A Nightmare on Elm Street – 2010) and Slipknot’s Corey Taylor provide excellent support and none of the secondary characters prove to be annoying or unlikeable, only succumbing to the contrived script and seemingly knowing what’s going on without being able to share it with the audience.
The horror element moves from the cerebral to the visual in the final 20 minutes of the film and the pacing shifts up a notch but it feels like too-little-too-late as the ability to piece everything together with any sense of clarity isn’t improved, leaving Fear Clinic as an interesting concept but an unfulfilling movie.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★