Main cast: Marci Miller (Josephine Allister), Jason Tobias (Ethan Allister), Danny Ruiz (Josh Allister), Cere Kelly (Mia Allister), Susan Moore Harmon (Desiree Morrow), Justin Dray (Lincoln Morrow), Denver Isaac (Avery Dennison), Ivana Rojas (Mary Costa), and Ray Fonseca (Clint Mayer)
Directors: Geoff Reisner and Jason Tobias
Thanks to evil industrialists and their no-good polluting ways, a deadly pathogen is released into the rural wilderness of who knows where, turning humans in the nearby small town into raving cannibals. The government decides that the best way to deal with this problem is to wall off the affected area, leaving whatever and whoever inside to deal with one another. As winter rolls in, the Allister family try to survive, but because this movie doesn’t have that much money to spend on zombie make-up or CGIs, the bulk of the movie deals with a more mundane kind of threat: their fellow humans.
F.E.A.R., as the movie poster points out, is short for “forget everything and run”. Fortunately, I don’t feel this intense desire to do just that while watching this low-to-middling budget zombie flick. That’s not saying that it is anything great. It’s just that this one is far better than it has the right to do. At the same time, it isn’t great either, as it falls into the same trip as way too many movies of this sort: it is basically a non-stop marathon of characters behaving like idiots and bringing trouble and even death on themselves. Oh look, they are wasting ammunition shooting at nothing, again, and when the sound draws the zombies close, oops, they have no way to defend themselves. Oh, watch them waste time and energy finding and tiring one another out, all the better for the zombies to show up and tear them apart. Look at the useless kid once again being a liability and forcing the adults to save him and even sacrifice themselves in the process. On and on these people will do, making the whole act resemble a morality lesson in which you do stupid things, you get a stupid death.
While Josephine Allister is appropriate bad-ass because every lead woman in a horror film is one these days, the rest of the cast of characters range from serviceable to dire. Ethan is the most cringe-inducing dumb-dumb ever, while Josh, the kid… oh my god. He appears in the first scene of this movie, screwing up and nearly getting his father killed trying to save him, and this is a common pattern when it comes to that kid and the adults around him. Now, I know he’s just a boy, but there is a limit to my patience and empathy before I start thinking that life is too precious during a zombie apocalypse to be wasted on this walking calamity; one is better off tossing that useless waste of flesh into a horde of zombies as a distraction or something. It also doesn’t help that Danny Ruiz is terrible here. His constant blank expression only amplifies how irritating his character’s constant mess-up is, and every scene this character is in can be an effective way to raise my blood pressure.
At the end of the day, one’s appreciation of F.E.A.R. hinges on their tolerance level for rampant stupidity. As I’ve mentioned, this movie isn’t awful from a technical standpoint, as it’s decently shot and the effects don’t look too bad. However, the movie focuses tad too much on stupid human characters behaving like boors and imbeciles, and the kid character is going to be really polarizing. I’m not compelled to forget this movie and run the other direction, but at the same time. I’m pretty sure that there are more interesting zombie movies with far smarter characters out there.