When I first read the synopsis for the Hunter Johnson (Virus of the Dead) directed and co-written horror film, Irrational Fear it gave me a nostalgic feeling that I could not place at the time. It was only while watching it that that feeling clicked. From the title all the way down to the content this felt to me like a Point Horror book come to life (a collection of horror books geared towards teens). That may sound like a slight, yet there was something nicely uncomplicated about the story told here.
Doctor Sanders (Charles Chudabala - Ugly Sweater Party) is a psychologist who has arranged a weekend outing for six people who all suffer from irrational fears. These include Taylor (Leah Wiseman - Dismembering Christmas) who suffers from a fear of being touched, Kelly (Jennifer Nangle - Ugly Sweater Party also) with a fear of drowning, Jake who has a fear of germs, his father who has a fear of dentists, a woman who is afraid of looking ugly, a guy afraid of choking (Hunter Johnson), and Sanders' assistant, and former best friend of Taylor, Zach (Baker Chase Powell - Little Dead Rotting Hood) who used to have a fear of ghosts. The weekend session takes place at a remote cabin by a lake, initially it appears things are going to go well. It is not long however before people start to go missing. It seems that someone, or something is forcing the phobics to confront their fears, with a high penalty for failure...
First up with the acting. There are some people here who are much better actors than others, thankfully most of these are relegated to bit parts. With the style of this film though great acting isn't specifically required. Characters are not really designed to be layered, fully dimensional beings, instead they play into their roles well, their phobias making up a lot of their outward personality. I would say the only real exception is Kelly who does transform over the course of the picture. To begin with she just seemed downright nasty, yet as the film goes on she becomes a lot more likeable. The best character was Doctor Sanders, and this is down to Chudabala's extremely spirited performance as a somewhat manic person. Get past the fact that he is meant to be an established Dr, yet looks like the youngest person in the film and you have someone who comes across as desperately earnest, suspiciously so in fact. He reminded me a bit of Hugo Strange from Gotham, I love what they did with this memorable character, and the pure energy that Chudabala brought to the role.
The horror is constant and on occasion the effects look good, but often the limitations of the budget means scenes can feel like they end a bit abruptly. I can see this was done to create a feeling of mystery as to characters fates, but it also was slightly frustrating on occasion not to see the resolution. Irrational Fear is never long in between these moments of horror, and starts off with a nice prologue showing a seemingly random girl stab a knitting needle through her ear! There's a respectable distance from this to the next moment of horror, with the films first act being the set up for the plot to happen. From the second act onwards though there is always something new happening just around the corner. Sometimes the effects sell the vision, and there is lots of black goo that unifies all the random scenes of horror, at other times the set-up doesn't quite work. A case in point is the ending that for me came across as silly rather than shocking.
The story is simple at its core, your assumptions about characters usually turn out to be true. I appreciated how abstract the explanation for everything was, with characters talking around things rather than implicitly stating what has happened. The Point Horror similarities came to me due to the simplicity of the story, it does exactly what the title would suggest, and characters are as shallow on the whole as ones found in those books. This helped make the film feel fun though, this isn't a film which will make you go away and think hard about its themes and content, but it is a film which will keep your attention, a decent bit of escapism. Irrational Fear came to digital platforms on 24th July, the digital roll-out will expand over the next few months and include Tubi TV, Amazon Prime, Roku, Watch Movies Now, Google Play, Kings of Horror, YouTube and more, all thanks to Terror Films.