Review: “FEAR ITSELF” – THE SACRIFICE

Posted by Peter Hall - June 8th 2008 @ 10:29 pm

Directed by Breck Eisner, 2008
Written by Mick Garris from a Del Howison short story

I am all about serialized, non-contiguous horror. I dig standalone storytelling and the familiar face bit casting, so I feel the ageless form always has a place on television. If we are judging from a first episode basis, however, that place is not on NBC. As we all know “FEAR ITSELF” is a reborn “MASTERS OF HORROR”, though now having waited for the fated premiere day, that is akin to claiming dumpster babies are reborn and not abandoned. Some times the magic just isn’t there.

If you’ve read any of the early press reviews for the peacock’s post-prime time grant of a second chance, it is likely you’ve read that of the three episodes provided to press, the show doesn’t work until episode three. Perhaps NBC is better prepared to stand by the show than I thought, perhaps knowing that they have DOA eps on their hand, it was their intention to withhold the only lively one in the hope that reviewers would drive home the promise of increased quality. It worked. Hell, they have people like me relaying that information second hand, so, well done PR department. AND not only relaying it, but leading with it, baiting that promise like the orangest of carrots.

If we, the non-press viewers, were to go by this first aired ep – a never interesting vampire derivative called THE SACRIFICE – alone, the show would be donezo. If the only evidence I had was this Breck Eisner adapted failure, I’d beg that the show’s owners be merciful and put “FEAR ITSELF” down like Eight Belles. There is no reason to watch this limp horse struggle to round each bend.

The show is already so deep in the red with me that it is going to take a serious reversal of fortune to get even close to the black. To be honest, I’m not even sure why I’m so hostile towards the MOH reboot. It’s not like MASTERS was all that good to begin with. Mayhaps it was the flacid no-thrust of THE SACRIFICE. Yes, mayhaps it was. Or, more than likely, mayhaps it was because I simply cannot look at a television screen with a straight face while an advertisement logo for NASHVILLE STAR stares back at me for almost the entire time, pleading for me to hate its whoring soul. There is a reason MOH fit well on Showtime. And it wasn’t because the network would allow cursing, or gore, or nipples, it was because it would allow for a full hour of your attention. No logos, no erupting animated ads, no 10 minute spaced commercial breaks, just serialized, non-contiguous storytelling.

I’m not even sure how Breck Eisner got the gig (of course his father’s last name certainly helped). His only genre credits to date are the failed pilot of the Sci-Fi channel’s “THE INVISIBLE MAN”, an episode of the decisively mediocre “TAKEN” and he was an executive producer on A SOUND OF THUNDER, which is the limpest Hollywood piece of science fiction in decades. SAHARA put him on the map and he leveraged that towards directing the announced, but presently theoretical, remakes of CREATURE FORM THE BLACK LAGOON and THE CRAZIES. So, I fail to see why anyone ever thought of his name in the first place. His product has no identity, nothing to it that screams, “this is what I was going for!” Cold, impartial filmmaking done for a paycheck. Please note that I have no contention with someone making a movie for a paycheck, but if you’re going to put in the hours, put in the heart. Fake it if you have to, I don’t give a fuck. Just please, please, please do more than show up.

And that is all THE SACRIFICE does. It shows up. But filmmaking isn’t first grade and you don’t get a gold star for attendance. You’ve got to participate and there was clearly no such participation by anyone on the set. This includes Mick Garris, the man behind every Stephen King movie of the week ever made. I don’t understand how the guy maintains any serious credibility in the writing department. Nearly every writing credit of his has been dreck. I just do not get it. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe Hollywood does give you a gold star for showing up.

The acting is run of the mill. The front runners, Jeffrey Pierce and Rachel Miner, ride sidecar to their secondary counterparts, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS’ Jesse Plemons and Mircea Monroe (who needs to be on TV more often; if only they hadn’t canceled “DRIVE“!), even the former is annoying and the later is under utilized. The gore is, of course, minimal and yet still better in single shots than in the whole of PROM NIGHT. The story is clumsy twist on the ‘ole vampire tale that, in all actuality, has no twist to it at all. It is just there, like every other element in this production, but I will concede that the vamp does look great.

I hold hope for the series. I always hold hope for the genre. My belief in it is woven in the very title of this website. But this whole “FEAR ITSELF” endeavor so far is just gormless.


rss 4 comments
  1. R.J. Sayer
    June 9th, 2008 | 4:23 pm | #1

    Del (owner of Dark Delicacies, and writer of the original short story this episode was based on) had this party-ish thing at a sports bar in Burbank for the premiere. He called it “Fear and Beer” and at first i was pretty upset that i couldn’t go.

    after watching the episode (thanks, TiVO), however, i’m pretty fucking glad i had to work instead. i don’t know what i would’ve said to the guy about what they did to his work. i also found it pretty goddamn despicable that they didn’t credit him until the end crawl. if anybody ever needed more proof that writers get dumped on in this town, there it fucking is.

    the episode wasn’t TERRIBLE. just mediocre. PAINFULLY mediocre. and bland as an unsalted saltine. with nothing in sight to dip it in.

    and yeah, what is Garris’ deal? a buddy of mine and i concocted an analogy a while back. he’s the rich kid that all the cool kids hung out with in high school. he’s not funny or charming and doesn’t really have any talent, but all the people who ARE bursting with personality sure do love partying on his dad’s boat.

    oh, and can we please come together and put a fucking END to that awful opening credit theme song? is that Serj Tankian or some shit doing that awful caterwaul over the MoH-ripped-off-by-way-of-5th-grade-beginner-symphony garbage? and the images in the montage? so fucking awful. i didn’t know where to stab first, my pupils or my tympanic membrane.

    but, like the Barnum-level Sucker i am… i’ll watch every episode of this shit.

    and when ABC drops it and it moves to Fox Family Channel as “Bumps in the Night” or some shit… i’ll keep watching it. jesus we’re predictable.

  2. Sean
    June 10th, 2008 | 12:28 am | #2

    Speaking of TV horror (parodies) have you guys seen
    “Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace”?

    It’s the first “horror” show I’ve watched since Are You Afraid of the Dark.

    Because tv horror hasnt been good for awhile now.

  3. June 10th, 2008 | 4:12 pm | #3

    Sean, I have and I love it. I could watch the intro to that show on a loop and never grow tired of it.

  4. Sean
    June 10th, 2008 | 9:26 pm | #4

    Maggots? Maggots. Maggots, maggots, maggots.

    ….Maggots.

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