Studio: Gravitas Ventures
Director: Michael Chase Gordon
Writer: Tina Sen, Michael Chase Gordon
Producer: Tina Sen, Michael Chase Gordon, Frank Torres, Ben Bray
Stars: Zack Gold, Frankie Torres, Lindsay Anne, Hugghins, Angelica Santos, Wesley Stiller, Adelyne Liu, Lance Holt, Paul Darrigo, Audi Resendez
The ghost of a young boy haunts five friends when they become mysteriously stranded in the woods.
Michael and his fiancée Lindsey prepare for an afternoon of hiking with their friends Gisela and Tina. They almost make it on the road before Alex, the goofy hanger-on everyone would rather avoid, happens by and invites himself along. Their ranks filled with the requisite diversity of ethnicities and stereotyped personalities, the quintet sets off for the great outdoors.
As the others eagerly bound ahead for the trail, Alex stays behind momentarily and meets a spooky little boy who gives him a toy soldier with the claim that it will protect Alex from death. The boy disappears as mysteriously as he appeared and is not seen again until Alex and his friends find themselves trapped in the wilderness. Because after the sun sets and a misread map leads to a wrong turn, everyone discovers that they are lost and stranded in a car that inexplicably dies. Also suffering a sudden fatality is the direction of the storyline.
The five friends at the story’s center are decent enough. The cast tries harder than the script to take their work seriously and give their best efforts, even if the best descriptions for their characters are tough Latina, nerdy Asian girl, slightly obnoxious goofup, and uninteresting couple. Their personalities are not breaking any molds, though a few of them manage to eke out some modicum of likability, particularly the well intentioned yet misunderstood Alex.
Stranded in the woods to be picked off one at a time is about as routine as horror film plots come. So are creepy ghost children. “Fear Lives Here” forgets that simply showing a little boy standing still after appearing from nowhere is not quite creepy enough. Never mind for a moment that the boy does not at all look to be from the 1950’s. He does not even look like a ghost. Sans anything remotely resembling a ghastly appearance, little Johnnie Williams looks like he just walked out of an average elementary school in Anytown, USA.
The friends uncover an old scrapbook proving Johnnie died more than 50 years earlier. Less clear is how he is involved in the rash of disappearances in the surrounding area or why people are disappearing to begin with. Alex has the toy soldier in his pocket that supposedly protects him and his friends, but the dark of night keeps pulling them away anyhow. Alex ditches the toy soldier and the same things continue happening. So, what is little Johnnie’s game all about then?
“Fear Lives Here” abandons consistency in its storyline and in its characterization. While various plot elements fail to agree on a cohesive narrative about what is happening and why, the five friends work a teeter-totter of odd behavior that alternates between surprisingly smart and infuriatingly dumb.
After the first person takes a post-nightfall trip to the trees for a bathroom break and does not return, the foursome remaining makes a call rarely seen in the genre. Instead of traipsing off into the dark or splitting up to expand their search, they collectively agree to camp in the car and wait until dawn to do their sleuthing at first light. At this point, they do not yet have a reason to suspect a supernatural danger, making their decision even more levelheaded and rational.
That demonstration of reasonable intelligence is short lived. When the sun does rise, the remaining friends spend the entire day searching the woods in vain only for night to fall once again. Where in the world are these people? They started the day before at mid-morning and drove to the hiking spot by the afternoon. Now they spend 12 hours walking through the woods without coming upon a single other person or sign of civilization? And not one of them thought to go back towards where the main road might be and look for help?
Once things come to this point, the script stops caring, and so does the audience. The majority of action occurs offscreen as invisible forces pull everyone into shadows. Whatever idea drives the plot never comes to light. What is left over is a game of five little Indians played in a fashion that has been seen dozens of times over. “Fear Lives Here” ping pongs between “okay I guess” and connect-the-dots conventions while depicting an exceptional example of what makes a horror movie mediocre. The overall film may not completely sink to the bottom, but it certainly does not rise to the top, either.
Review Score: 50