Saturday, 31 October 2015

Trick or Treat: Fear Itself (2015)

Back when I was a college student doing my AS-level in art, I managed to freak myself and my mother out a bit too much after intensive studies into the macabre. In short, one day in particular managed to make me fear everything, seeing dark omens in even the slightest of things, and culminating in a what appeared to be a suicide note written in the back of Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams, of which I'd borrowed out of the library. That was the point my mother told me to stop researching and maybe study something a bit lighter. Ever since then, though, I've been trying to understand why I managed to get myself in such a state. How did everything suddenly turn eerie? And why was I drawn to it? Needless to say, much of what I'd learnt the world considered disturbing had come from horror films.

Following on from the success of Adam Curtis' Bitter Lake, the BBC have decided that the iPlayer is the perfect platform for experimental documentaries. Fear Itself, directed, written and edited by Charlie Lyne, splices together footage from many horror films, and many non-horror films, to look at the effect that these films have on us, and is narrated by a softly spoken girl (Amy E. Watson), who has been in some kind of accident by the sounds of it.

The narrator's thoughts are free flowing. While there is no in depth analysis, this is just the interpretations of one person, the points raised are more there to question our own assumptions. There are numerous quotes you can draw from this, such as "maybe when we indulge the things that scare us, we stop being the innocent victim and start becoming co-conspirators", and the effect is more that of prose than lecture.

Much horror movie footage is shown, resulting in something like a supercut of the genre, but some of the most effective images used are from non-horror films. The ending of Terry Gilliam's Brazil is used to point out the futile desire for happy endings, and Gus Van Sant's Elephant questions how much we allow ourselves to be influenced by films. The connection between The Exorcist III, Jeffrey Dharmer and the medical examiner on his case is also poignant.

Ultimately, Fear Itself concludes that it is not the fantastical beings we should be worried about, but "maybe its ordinary people you really have to worry about; ordinary people capable of ordinary horrors". We allow ourselves to be scared by these films, and what really does that say about us?

There is no psychological breakdown of these feelings, aside from the narrators musings, so if you are looking for definite reasons you'll be disappointed. If anything, Fear Itself just confirms how much of our fears are learnt and not in fact innate. If nothing else, it will give you a whole list of movies you need to watch.



Fear Itself is available to watch on the BBC iPlayer for the next 11 months.

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