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Producing fear alongside the kitsch and directed by rising talent Charlie Lyne, Fear Itself is a nod, with a sharpened knife, to 1970’s horror.
Fear Itself is presented with deliberately unnerving narration. Save a few moments, the entire film is composed of clips from alternately classic and not so well known shockers, as well as key sequences from hand-picked, suspense-laden dramas. In the hands of a less skilled auteur, this format would be a death sentence. However, what we see is dense, fear-laden exposure to what horror feels like.
British filmmaker and The Film Programme presenter Charlie Lyne, having broken out with Beyond Clueless in 2014, has turned his sights away from teen cinema onto a similarly-staged think-piece, unpacking the cultural mythology behind everything from Poltergeist and Pyscho to 8MM and the more recent thriller, It Follows.
Inter-splicing the on-screen gore and restlessness with a few choice nerve-rackers (à la Enduring Love), Lyne’s effort in parts is as much a welcome study of the machinations of anticipation and dread as it is an elucidation on our collective fascination with the bleak and supernatural – fans of which will not be disappointed by the motley assemblage of well-loved horror fare. More a collection of thoughts and free-flowing information that a consistent, academic-style study, Fear Itself’s feature-length greatest hits catalogue may irk those not already enamoured with the horror genre and too spoil a few films with which the casual viewer may not be overly familiar.
Striving to be a horror film in and of itself, Lyne’s staging and choice cuts bear their own eerie, unsettling quality; a jump between a 70’s low-budget slasher and a more obscure cult phenomenon, often signalling an equally nerve-ridden response from unsuspecting audience members. Delving into the consuming terror of horror that typically forces viewers, this author included, to rationalise or reason wherein in a bid to stave off fright (only one element of scare-fare consummately unpacked by Lyne), in explaining our instinctual responses so clearly, the filmmaker in effect disarms us of the barriers we naturally put up when confronted with the oncoming jitters, leaving us exposed to some genuinely frightening moments for which the documentary is that much more powerful.
Like a good magician, Lyne tells us what he’s going to do, does it, and still leaves us feeling shocked and taken aback; his visual essay on the unknown and unfathomable likewise worthy of intrigue and applause.
Fear Itself is screening as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival.