Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Ominous October - Phobias (2021)

Streaming Service: Hulu
Movie Name/Year: Phobias (2021)
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Length: 85 minutes
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Defiant Studios, Kodiak Pictures, Vertical Entertainment
Director: Camilla Belle, Maritte Lee Go, Joe Sill, Jess Varley, Chris von Hoffmann
Writer: Joe Sill, Maritte Lee Go, Broderick Engelhard, Chris von Hoffmann, Camilla Belle, Jess Varley
Actors: Leonardo Nam, Macy Gray, Martina Garcia, Hana Mae Lee, Ross Partridge, Lauren Miller Rogen, Rushi Kota, Monique Coleman, Alexis Knapp, Charlotte McKinney, Steve Park, Christine Little, Sisa Grey, Katia Gomez
Blurb from IMDb: Five dangerous patients, suffering from extreme phobias at a government testing facility, are put to the ultimate test under the supervision of a crazed doctor and his quest to weaponize fear.

Selina’s Point of View:
I went into Phobias knowing it was an anthology. Not a problem, I enjoy a good anthology. After all, we just saw V/H/S/94 (2021) earlier this month and that was pretty damn good. I also enjoy learning about fears. I wrote a series of short stories, and poems, when I was in college, that went into various lesser-known phobias. It’s how I learned about hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia – which is my favorite word in the English language. (It’s the fear of long words. Psychologists are savage.)
Long story short, Phobias should have been right up my alley.
Each segment did have some decent aspects to it. You find out the back story for the characters one-by-one. I thought they made for interesting short stories. The problem was that they edited everything together in a strangely jarring way.
The movie starts off with, what I’d describe as, a prologue. I’d find that acceptable if it came before the opening credits, but it didn’t. Instead, it opened that way and then went straight into the framing device with no warning.

I think it was done that way on purpose. The creators wanted us to be confused and disoriented as we started the meat of the story… but I don’t think it worked the way they intended. Instead of slowly catching up as the framing device continued, I had to pause for a moment and collect my thoughts. You never want to see that.
The rest of it was structured fine, however, and I enjoyed the end twist. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only issue.
One of the characters that we learn about makes the ending feel bleaker that it was meant to. I can’t really say more without spoilers, but trust me when I say that it irked me quite a bit.
If anything, I’d like to see a full-length film on the main character. No other stories, just his. If they made a sequel and dropped the anthology aspect, I think it would have the potential to be golden.

Cat’s Point of View:
Here we are, just days before Halloween. You would think that at this point in our Ominous October it would be the perfect time for some phobias. You wouldn’t be wrong – just… not Phobias the movie.
I have always tried to find something positive to say about the films that we review – especially when I wasn’t as entertained as I hoped I’d be. For that reason, I’ll start with the plus side.
When we first saw the trailer for Phobias, what stood out to me was the cast. I’m always interested in seeing Macy Gray (Percentage, November Rule, Dutch) step out of her comfort zone as a musician and throw her hat into the acting ring. Added to that was the draw of recognizing Leonardo Nam (Cat Run 2, Sneaky Pete, Westworld) as well as Steve Park (Snowpiercer, Kajillionaire, Warrior) and the combo of Hana Mae Lee (Unleashed, Patriot, Love Beats Rhymes) and Alexis Knapp (Cavenmen, The Anomaly, Urge) from the Pitch Perfect (2012) trilogy. (Sadly, they didn’t have any scenes together.) I guess you could say another mark in the plus column was that the cast performances were fine.
Anthologies are tricky things. The most successful ones tend to have a cohesive framework around the individual short films. Without that, you might as well be watching a short film playlist on YouTube or the like rather than a full-fledged cinematic production. Phobias employed a successful concept to connect the short film segments together. That being said, so did the much-lamented The ABCs of Death (2012). The tie that binds is not always strong enough on its own to keep the wheels from falling off the bus, so to speak.

Beyond the narrative that connected the shorts together in Phobias, everything else didn’t quite jive. There were a few jump scare moments that got me only because I startle easily. I just didn’t feel any real sense of dread from the overall experience. Everything just fell a little flat and left me with an overall ‘meh’ feeling.
I can’t fault a production for having a shoestring budget. It’s what they do with it that counts. Phobias tried to offer some snazzy effects, but they came across a little too over-the-top more often than not. Subtler effects in some places would have been more effective than the flashy nonsense they attempted. Visual effects are supposed to immerse you in the story and draw you in so that you forget it’s not real. Nearly every moment I was painfully aware that this was wasting my time.
The idea behind weaponizing fear and a collective of shorts highlighting various phobias was interesting – but the execution failed to meet expectations mostly because the stories within the shorts didn’t always reflect the fear they were supposed to focus on in a clear way. There were at least 2 that didn’t seem to be reflecting a phobia at all. Ok, to be fair, one of those clearly had an issue but it didn’t match with the story presented. 
I wanted to like Phobias. Alas, this is one of those experiences that I likely wouldn’t recommend to others – unless I wanted them to share the feeling so I could rant about it without spoilers. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 57%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 43%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 3.6/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 3/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating2/5
Movie Trailer: