Some of my favorite explorations of mental illness has been done through the use of the horror genre. Films such as The Babadook, Hereditary, Psycho and many others have used horror as a backdrop in discussing mental illness; unfortunately, sometimes this has only perpetuated the stigma surrounding mental illness. In FEAR OF RAIN, director Castille Landon gives us a YA thriller that may not reinvent the horror wheel but instead gives us an emotional story of what it’s like to live with schizophrenia and the horrors that come with not being heard.
In FEAR OF RAIN, teenager Rain Burroughs (Madison Iseman), who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, finds herself struggling every day as she tries to figure out which of the disturbing images, harrowing voices, and traumatic feelings she experiences are real and which are all in her mind. However, when Rain insists against her parents’ (Katherine Heigl and Harry Connick, Jr.) advice that the shadows and cries from her neighbor’s attic are hiding a dark secret, she enlists help from Caleb (Israel Broussard), the charmingly awkward new boy at school – who himself may not be real.
Madison Iseman and Israel Broussard are no stranger to the horror film scene, having been in such films such as Annabelle Comes Home and Happy Death Day, respectively. Iseman really shows her chops in this film as she portrays a rollercoaster of emotions that come with living with a mental illness. Broussard has a good thing going in portraying characters that are warm, who have that boy-next-door look to them, but you’re never quite sure what they’re about – or, in the case of Caleb, if they are even real.
It was a welcome surprise to see both Katherine Heigl and Harry Connick Jr., as Rain’s loving parents who have their own struggles to contend with. Though there is a coldness to their relationship, it’s clear that no matter what, they love their daughter; however, it’s Connick’s own story of coming to terms with who his daughter is that really shines. Lastly, my favorite performance goes to Eugenie Bondurant, who plays Dani McConnell, Rain’s mysterious neighbor and one of her high school teachers. From the moment she graced the screen I was mesmerized, she never quite lets us know what her deal is and there’s something truly unsettling about that. She’s sweet enough where you should feel safe around her but you never really do.
In terms of the presentation of mental illness, specifically schizophrenia, I found it to be rather believable. Full disclosure, I don’t have schizophrenia but it’s a mental illness that has run in my family. That said, the film gives the viewer an inside look into the mindset of someone with schizophrenia. In this film, Rain’s schizophrenia presents itself as hallucinations, which Landon uses with the backdrop of horror to make the viewer think that Rain is an unreliable narrator. And I’m sure some of you may think that isn’t fair to put upon Rain, but many of us who deal with mental illnesses are familiar with that stigma and, in a way, it was satisfying to see how that ultimately played out.
The real horror of the film lies in not knowing if you can trust your mind or not and not being heard when it really matters. We are seeing everything from Rain’s perspective and how that is presented is quite unnerving – both in the visual aspects that Landon creates but also in Iseman’s performance which is filled with anguish. These might not be your typical jump scares, but they are no less scary. That said, the story does include enough twists and turns to keep the viewer entertained while they begin to unwrap the mystery at hand.
In all, FEAR OF RAIN hits the mark as a YA thriller that features great performances, a twisting story, and insight into a mental illness not usually portrayed on screen. It also furthers the broader conversation about the importance of mental health and how damaging the stigma around it can be.
FEAR OF RAIN Is now on Digital, On-Demand and in limited theaters. It will be available on Blu-ray and DVD February 16, 2021.