Studio: Anchor Bay
Director: Anthony Leonardi III
Writer: Jonathan W.C. Mills
Producer: Alison Palmer, Todd Dagres, Michael Williams, Rob Eric, Slash
Stars: Anne Heche, James Tupper, Ethan Peck, Rebekah Brandes, Carter Cabassa, Wayne Pere, Jennifer Stone, Clancy Brown
A pastor unknowingly moves his family to a small Kansas town where the residents secretly guard a gateway to Hell.
A location can handle its notoriety in one of two ways. Prohibitively or profitably. Somewhere along the line, Roswell, New Mexico realized that UFO enthusiasts would always be drawn to their sleepy hamlet like alien metals to a powerful magnet. So they turned a magnet of their own on visitors’ pocketbooks and created a cottage industry around a supposed weather balloon crash from 1947. On the other side of the country, the owners of Lizzie Borden’s former Massachusetts home remodeled the residence into a profitable bed and breakfast. Gawkers wishing to step inside that macabre moment from history would have to pay for the privilege, but they would be able to sleep in the very room where Lizzie’s mother took an axe in her skull.
Meanwhile, Amityville has yet to wise up to the cash being left on the table by chasing away tourists instead of turning the infamous Ocean Avenue home into a Halloween haunt or some other sort of lucrative attraction. Residents there are more focused on angry yells and loud car horns that do more to introduce noise into the neighborhood than they do to distract flash bulbs and lookie-loos.
Like its Long Island counterpart, the tiny Kansas town of Stull wears a grimace while shaking its head at the urban legends that transform an otherwise innocuous area into a hotspot for paranormal thrillseekers. Tracing the true origin of Stull’s folklore and separating it from factual events will probably forever remain an impossible task. No matter which of the legends, lies, or rumors are taken into account at any given time, Stull is genuinely cursed by a possibly undeserved reputation for being one of the darkest corners of the planet.
Whether it was initially an out of control practical joke or a deeply sinister secret, the cemetery in Stull became noteworthy for supposedly being one of seven earthly gateways leading to Hell. As if that was not already enough evil to spark the imagination, word also spread that Satan himself would ascend the stairway from fire to make a personal appearance on Halloween night. When he failed to do so, teenagers fueled by cheap beer and disappointment resorted to vandalism of headstones and the dilapidated church nearby for their substitute kicks. Given these true events that actually end up going on in the reportedly cursed cemetery, it is little wonder that Stull wants nothing to do with its haunted reputation.
Those same residents will no doubt be disappointed to learn that “Nothing Left to Fear” seeks to capitalize on the legend with its fictional tale of a pastor who moves to Stull only to discover that the people guarding Hell’s gateway want his family to be sacrificed to The Pit. While the movie may only perpetuate the grim whispers about Stull, its true-life townspeople should be more disappointed in the fact that “Nothing Left to Fear” is only an average horror thriller.
In defense of the filmmakers, “Nothing Left to Fear” does not overly exploit the association with Stull. While following the moving van on the road into town, Pastor Bramford’s family never passes a sign proclaiming “Welcome to Stull” and the town’s name is only spoken once or twice. The true identity of the location may whizz right by less attentive viewers.
The movie also does not exploit its association with famed musician turned movie producer Slash, which is a good thing. Press releases for “Nothing Left to Fear” tout the connection to the former Guns N’ Roses guitarist, but there are no misplaced hard rock songs stuffed into the soundtrack or rockstar stylings forced upon the design. His contributions to the score are subtle and in line with the tone. If Slash’s name were not in the credits, no one would know he had a hand in the production.
In actuality, the most notable element of the film is its sluggish tempo. 100 minutes is not a terribly lengthy runtime for a movie by any means, but it is longer than “Nothing Left to Fear” needs to be. Overextended scenes of ambling and drawn out moments of dark clouds consuming victims slow the momentum in a way that leaves little room for heightened tension. Possession sequences in particular have a tendency to crawl onward after the buildup has peaked, which only results in a deflated climax.
Church parking lot carnivals are never known for their grandeur, but the restricted set design in “Nothing Left to Fear” includes midway games where a player throws something at an object he can just as easily reach out and touch. Unconvincing staging like this is a little detail indeed, but little details are often what elevate a mediocre movie to one with far less unnecessary distractions.
Anne Heche is a good addition as the loving mother, although she is top billed by bankable name only, since her character is ultimately the most purposeless of the bunch. Yet with the other end of the film being solidly anchored by Clancy Brown, the two of them prove that reliable actors offer more than just names by adding a bit of heat to a lukewarm tale of terror.
The plot in “Nothing Left to Fear” is basically “The Lottery” peppered with a flavor of demonic seasoning. There is a slightly interesting twist in that the townspeople are doing evil in order to protect the greater good, but the tale is really a predictable yarn that owes as much to the Biblical story of Passover as it does to Shirley Jackson. “Nothing Left to Fear” dances around some creepy atmosphere until leaving the audience as high and as dry as drunk college kids in a graveyard expecting a visage of Lucifer to sear their eyeballs when nothing of the sort has any chance of ever being that exciting.
Review Score: 60