PHOBIA (1980) Reviews and overview

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‘Murder put an end to their fears.’

Phobia is a 1980 Canadian-American horror thriller feature film about a group of criminal patients undergoing therapy being murdered one by one.

The movie was directed by John Huston (The Maltese Falcon; The African Queen; The Treasure of the Sierra Madre) from a screenplay written by Lew Lehman (The Pit), Jimmy Sangster (Curse of Frankenstein), Peter Bellwood, Gladys Hill, Dan O’Bannon (Alien) and Larry Spiegel, based on a storyline by Gary Sherman (Death Line) and Ronald Shusett (Dead & Buried). The Borough Park Productions film stars Paul Michael Glaser, Susan Hogan, John Colicos, David Bolt and Patricia Collins.

New release:

Phobia will be released on Blu-ray and DVD, newly mastered in 4K by Kino Lorber Studio Classics on October 22, 2019. Special features:

  • Audio commentary by Paul Corupe of and film historian Jason Pichonsky
  • Interview with actress Susan Hogan
  • Interview with actress Lisa Langlois
  • Theatrical trailer


A psychiatrist involved in a radical new therapy comes under suspicion when his patients are murdered, each according to their individual phobias…


“While the script could’ve been the basis of a crass and mindless slasher-esque suspenser, Huston seems to treat it as a dialogue about the idea of confronting fears directly, and the relationship between psychiatrist and patient. Unfortunately, this “dialogue” is built upon this shitty thriller script foundation.” Cinema Gonzo

Phobia is a classic case of missed opportunities, and you find yourself constantly disinterested in that you wouldn’t think possible given its semi-promising storyline because it hasn’t been thought through and realized cinematically. You neither get anything out of it while watching nor take anything with you after leaving the theatre. It’s stagnant and inexpressive…” eFilm-Critic

“Huston’s direction is so laconic and uninvolved, that it doesn’t surprise me that this was his only horror film, he was far better adept at dramas. There is a scene when Glaser reaches out to stop a patient from jumping, Huston just keeps the shoot wide the whole time…” Every John Huston Movie

“Was Huston desperate or just drunk? Either way, the misbegotten, near-worthless Phobia embodies one character’s line of disdainful dialogue: “This whole thing smells to high heaven!” Flick Attack

“Glaser’s listlessness seems to have been infectious, too – the rest of the cast often look bored – and the whole wet squib is, suitably, choreographed by a depressingly pedestrian score. Huston, it seems is unable – or can’t be bothered – to even to begin to craft even the most rudimentary of suspense scenes.” Hysteria Lives

” …beset by a languid dreariness that does little to spur the action, Phobia never gets off the ground. Despite its solid cast and a mildly intriguing storyline, none of the murder sequences provide any thrill and the revelation of the killer’s identity is largely ho-hum.” The Terror Trap

“Regrettably, the whole affair is extremely contrived, with a solution even a simpleton could decipher after the credits sequence. Though Huston attempts to spice up things by juggling the narrative in a fairly creative manner, the film is crippled by its unsatisfying conclusion and Glaser’s distinctly weak performance.” TV Guide

“Attempts to make the characters slightly more dimensional than contemporary horror films of the time are never followed through, resulting in a bunch of people we don’t really understand, much less care about. Phobia is one of those above-its-station efforts that thinks its not a slasher film and so contains less blood than your average pebble.” Vegan Voorhees

Cast and characters:

  • Paul Michael Glaser … Doctor Peter Ross
  • Susan Hogan … Jenny St Clair
  • John Colicos … Barnes
  • David Bolt … Henry Owen
  • Patricia Collins … Doctor Alice Toland
  • David Eisner … Johnny Venuti
  • Lisa Langlois … Laura Adams
  • Robert O’Ree … Bubba King
  • Alexandra Stewart … Barbara Grey
  • Neil Vipond … Doctor Clegg
  • Marian Waldman … Mrs Casey
  • Kenneth Welsh … Sergeant Wheeler
  • Gwen Thomas … Doctor Clemens
  • Paddy Campanaro … Newswoman #1
  • Gerry Salsberg … Newsman #1
  • Peter Hicks … Newsman #2
  • Joan Fowler … Head Nurse
  • John Stoneham Sr. … Security Guard (as John Stoneham)
  • Terry Martin … Policeman #1
  • Ken Anderson … Policeman #2
  • Janine Cole … Child
  • Karen Pike … Girl #1
  • Wendy Jewell … Girl #2
  • Colleen Embree … Girl #3 (as Coleen Embree)
  • Lorne Stepak … Teammate
  • Lynette Louise … Dead Girlfriend
  • Diane Lasko … Hostage (uncredited)

Technical details:

94 minutes


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