Studio: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Director: Drew Gabreski
Writer: Gerald Nott
Producer: P. James Keitel, Sam Curphey, Jay Lavely, Drew Gabreski
Stars: Brian Krause, Jaimi Paige, Louis Herthum, Jared Abrahamson, Michelle Hurd, Michael Leone, Noell Coet, Callie Thorne, Kevin Grevioux
A family uncovers a small town conspiracy connecting their sleep paralysis nightmares to a string of missing children.
Moving to the small town of Clarion, Pennsylvania hasn’t brought the Chambers family the fresh start they were hoping for. Not only is six-year-old son Nathan receiving nightly visits from a shadow man in a black hat, but his father John is inexplicably plagued by sleep paralysis nightmares of his own.
Four years earlier, another local man lost his daughter to the darkness, and his wife remains certain authorities are in on the secret. With adult son Ben and pregnant wife Heather digging up strange clues of their own, John Chambers now finds his family at the center of a supernatural conspiracy that haunts them by day as well as by night.
After being underwhelmed or outright disappointed by “Shadow People” (review here), “The Man in the Shadows” (review here), “The Nightmare” (review here), and “Dead Awake” (review here), I went into “Be Afraid” expecting to put the final nail in sleep paralysis’ coffin as a boring springboard for horror thrillers. Truth be told, “Be Afraid” has a flimsy connection to the real-world phenomenon that makes its sleep paralysis tie tenuous. Perhaps it’s better this way since the standard spooks supplementing stiff shadow people scares surprisingly make it a more entertaining movie than its aforementioned peers.
It’s a tough task finding adjectives fit to describe “Be Afraid” that don’t unintentionally double as passive-aggressive potshots. “Adequate, serviceable, not bad” and “fine” are the first terms springing to mind. Not exactly enthusiastic praise to be sure. But for a boilerplate fright flick tailored to suit a Tuesday TV timeslot, “Be Afraid” is a suitably average effort.
Gerald Nott’s straightforward screenplay is only as tight as it needs to be to get a basic job done. Any elements beyond surface details evidently were not thought all the way through.
For instance, John is a doctor, a fact both the script and the character seemingly forget in short order. Despite John’s M.D. status, it is the online Googling of elder son Ben that deduces the diagnosis of hypnagogia, and another doctor is required to divulge the condition’s medical details. John might as well be a mechanic or milkman for all the good he gets out of allegedly being a practicing physician.
“Be Afraid” also runs out of room to connect its threads of small town secrets, tragic pasts, and supernatural creatures to thicker ropes of fully fleshed fiction. Content with “good enough” as a way to resolve dangling subplots, and the main plot too for that matter, the movie is barely concerned with being creative once end credits are in sight and the 90-minute mark can be met. You’ll be lucky to come away with one answer for every five questions conjured while watching the film.
Why loft a fresh red tomato instead of hurling discolored green splatter? Middling mythology admittedly grabs at low-hanging horror fruit. But “Be Afraid” has quality where it counts in competent cinematography, capable editing, and desire to put A- effort into a D level story, even if an end product short on ambition averages out to a C+ at best.
That broader “but” is boosted by a few smaller ones as well. A number of thankless supporting roles clutter the character roster. But at least such parts are played by recognizable talent like Callie Thorne, presumably cancelling a favor debt owed to someone associated with the production. And liberties taken with the affliction may have sleep paralysis purists lobbing “that’s not right!” accusations of disapproval. But the tradeoff is “Be Afraid” comes out far slicker in its production value than those duller movies operating on similar premises.
“Be Afraid” isn’t a movie to see more than once. Nor is a physical copy going to work its way to the shelf of a horror fan’s permanent collection. It’s a textbook thriller built for one late night watch, for which it is perfectly fine, adequate, serviceable, and not bad. Those aren’t backhanded compliments. Those are approving nods for “Be Afraid” recognizing its limited role and meeting that mark as required.
Review Score: 60