‘Making a killing. One client at a time.’
Fear, Inc. is a 2016 American dark comedy horror feature film directed by Vincent Masciale (The Walking Fred) from a screenplay by Luke Barnett. It is a feature length version of their 2014 short of the same title.
The movie stars Lucas Neff, Caitlin Stasey, Chris Marquette, Stephanie Drake, Mark Moses, Abigail Breslin, Richard Riehle, Patrick Renna, Naomi Grossman, Eric Lange, Ronnie Gene Blevins, David Ury, Ashlynn Yennie, Marlon Young.
When it comes to horror movies, Joe Foster has seen it all; jaded and bored by the common fair, he’s looking for something with a little more edge and a tad more bite; unluckily for him and his friends, he’s about to be pranked in a very unpleasant way.
In Fear, Inc., Halloween just doesn’t cut it anymore for Joe Foster, played by Lucas Neff, an all-things horror zealot on the lookout for scary thrills. He’s seen every horror film, and he’s been to every haunted attraction under the blood-drenched moon; as a result, he’s a bit world-weary when it comes to goosebumps. This Halloween, nothing’s capturing the creeps he originally felt back in the day when he first saw Jason wield his mighty machete at Camp Crystal Lake, witnessed Freddy oil his razor-sharp ticklers on sleeping teenage beauties, and gawked at Jigsaw piecing together his deconstructing puzzles. Nothing’s getting the old blood pumping like it used to, not even the annoying pranks he’s playing on his girlfriend, Lindsey (Caitlin Stacey), and their best friends, Ben (Chris Marquette) and Ashleigh (Stephanie Drake).
Joe’s boredom, however, is about to die out; after attending another predictable, humdrum haunted house with Lindsey, an odd little man named Tom (Patrick Renna) over-hears him grumbling about the lack of scares in the attraction; agreeing with Joe, Tom hands over a business card, telling Joe, if he wants some real terror, he should call the number on the card. Both Joe and Lindsey pass it off as a bit of Halloween kookiness from a disgruntled loser who was hired by the attraction to scare little kids. After mentioning the encounter to Ben and Ashleigh back at the house, Ben jumps in and tells everyone he’s heard of Fear, Inc. before, and that the company isn’t legit; the people running it are crazy, and he warns Joe not to call them. Of course, Joe can’t pass it up, and he makes the call which necessarily leads to all kinds of regrettable mayhem.
The acting in this fluffy little homage to 80’s slasher movies, torture gorefests from the 2000’s, and a very particular Michael Douglas thriller from the 90’s (which shall go unnamed) is at times adequate and at other times embarrassing. Lucas Neff’s obnoxious portrayal of Joe is appropriately insufferable yet emanating a certain low level of slacker charm; unfortunately, his conviction waivers throughout, presenting Joe realistically at times and cartoonishly unbelievable at others. Caitlin Stacey’s depiction of Lindsey is a bit off-putting due to her odd accent; although a native Australian, her inflections seem to be of some undefined middle-European origin, which creates distraction rather than believability, making her performance unconvincing. Chris Marquette as Ben and Stephanie Drake as Ashleigh put in noble efforts, but for the most part, the script only allows them an over-wrought energy and artificial delivery.
Luke Barnett’s script feels as though it’s struggling with itself; it seems as though it can’t commit to its premises, either as a horror film, a comedy film or a horror comedy film. Having come from, and having been heavily influenced by, Will Ferrell’s desultory Funny or Die website, Luke has written a movie that’s highly suggestive of an aimless SNL skit that thinks it’s being smart but is really doing nothing more than going off the rails and not realising it. His effort seems extremely shallow in comparison to better made meta-trope referencing horror movies like Wes Craven’s Scream or his less-affective New Nightmare; and it does no service to the previously mentioned Michael Douglas movie, of which it tries so desperately to attach itself.
At times, Fear, Inc. does manage a few uncomfortable experiences and a couple of genuine moments of tension, but those positive elements are offset by flaccid follow-through in other areas and an erratic sense of direction throughout. The movie repeatedly drops the ball in terms of solid, consistent scares, instead relying on a monotonous dum-dum-dum-dum rhythm in its narrative structure, rather than a dum-dum-DUM-dum rhythm which would accentuate the mounting pressure leading to the required release in more tense scenes; this only diminishes the effectiveness of the movie, both as a parody and a horror film. It could have all been dealt with by editors Shane O’Connor and Brent Shafer, yet it appears no one in charge had a real sense of tempo. This one’s only for the diehard horror junkies and those who mistakenly think Saturday Night Live is astute.
Ben Spurling, MOV!ES and MAN!A
” …the movie nails the contradictory mindset of the horror viewer, while hilariously double-, triple- and quadruple-bluffing the reality effects that lovers of scary movies crave to give their horror ‘edge’.” Anton Bitel, Sight & Sound
“Self-awareness isn’t a friend to Fear, Inc. It’s far more effective as a sly offering of ghoulish encounters, packing in all the gore and dread it can handle. Masciale and Barnett treat it as more of a goof, watering down scares and blowing a perfectly fertile premise about a potentially eventful, twisted Halloween night.” Brian Orndorf, Blu-ray.com
“Director Vincent Masciale attempts to out-meta heavyweights such as Cabin In The Woods, but his self-serving plea to genre lovers comes across as more desperate than inspirational.” Matt Donato, We Got This Covered
“Director Vincent Masciale clearly scored one great location (the fancy house), and uses it to its maximum potential, which is the dream of all budding auteurs. Yet he fails to make it look all that interesting. The best visual flair comes in the masks the Fear, Inc. stalkers wear…” Luke Y. Thompson, Nerdist
“By my count, the film manages at least five ties to wrench the audience from one false sense of certainty to another, but by number three, you just don’t care anymore. In this case, familiarity just breeds tedium.” Piers Marchant, Pop Matters
“The film is in on its own joke enough for us to go with the goofy hijinks. The kills are all based on other movies, many of which were referenced in Scream. While Scream settled for showing its characters watching Halloween, Fear, Inc is actually referencing the movies that the movie that referenced the movies references and recreating those classic scenes.” Fred Topel, We Live Film