2017’s IRRATIONAL FEARS is brought to us by Director/Writer Hunter Johnson and stars Baker Chase Powell, Jennifer Nangle, Cati Glidewell, Charles Chudabala, and Chad Moseley.

I will be frank. This was a cold-watch. I saw the cover and thought it looked interesting. If you go to IMDB, you’ll find a low rating. There are warnings from reviewers not to watch the film.

But, is it really warranted? Eh…well, let’s take a gander.

Trigger warning: Mental health and suicide.

The movie opens with a young woman plagued by the fear of others watching and judging her. Strangers appear on the grass of her balcony apartment to stare and laugh at her, obviously out of pig’s blood to pour on her at the prom. In the background, her mother keeps calling and leaving messages, asking if she’s been taking her pills and going to therapy. It all eventually becomes too overwhelming and she commits suicide…with a knitting needle to the head.

And I give props to using something different, but…they should have gone with metal needles. Like US15, major chunky monkey ones. The kind that almost got me kicked off an airplane. Metal needles can do some real damage and just look wicked. But I digress…

In the spreading pool of blood, we see an oozing, thick black mass bubbling forth from her pierced skull and that’s our set up into the mystery.

The film’s major plot is six patients going on a therapy camping trip to confront their irrational fears (cue the title card). Our Main Female (Leah Wiseman) is afraid to be touched and only decides to go after much cajoling by an old friend/Main Male (Chase Powell) who is under the tutelage/guidance of Dr. Sanders (Charles Chudabala), a psychology professor at their university. The other five patients have their own reasons and issues for being there, including another student (Mathias Blake), a beauty-obsessed woman (Nagel), a father/son duo (Tom McCarthy and Kaleb Shorey), and a court-ordered alcoholic (Glidewell).

Still from IRRATIONAL FEARS

However, just as they’re settling in and struggling to find group cohesion, strange things start happening and people begin to go missing. Maybe their fears aren’t so irrational and just might be completely justified after all…

This is a very indie movie. The budget and production is low (although I couldn’t find the numbers) and it shows in the product. It’s flawed. The acting is rough around the edges. One actor is at “baby smug pout-face” for most of the movie until he amps up to 120% emoting at the climax. The songs chosen throughout were grating (no offense to the bands, but they were). The camera is regularly very shaky and I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a boom mic hovering around the actors like an insecure child waiting to be held.

HOWEVER.

However, there is something here, something endearing. There’s a surprising twist before the anticipated twist (and the even more anticipated twist at the end), but it makes the climax much more refreshing and interesting. I actually felt connected to the characters. For all the roughness, there is some real talent in here. Cati Glidewell did a tremendous job, especially during her monologue (although they should have cut the “generic sad music” from the soundtrack), and I felt the writing was real and authentic.

I also want to point out that the score was fantastic (apart from the example above). As a very, very cool person who’s been with therapy and around the block, I can say the music was spot-on with anxiety and the rushing-heart sounds in your ears when at that level of pure panic. I connected instantly to it and I thought it was just perfect. ::Neurotic chef kiss:: Perfect.

The special effects weren’t huge, but were practical and effective. The blood had the right consistency and color, which can make a world of difference to me. The gore was minimal but well-used. I enjoyed especially the minimalism of the effects, but this didn’t detract from the story. For what little money they had, they made good use of it.

I’m curious about what Hunter Johnson has in store for us in the future, and look forward to any new projects. Just, word of advice, invest in a tripod or a camera-person who won’t twitch holding the camera. The execution is a bit raw, but the premise is good.

Bottomline: This won’t be a life-altering film, but there’s something special in there. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. Be forgiving of its flaws and don’t be afraid to give this movie a chance.

J.M. Brannyk
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J.M. Brannyk howls Tina Turner duets with Glorious Spouse on the cold, empty streets of Detroit. When not writing or collection dead people's paintings, J.M. is host of The ComboBox, a podcast at HauntedMTL.
Movie Reviews

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