Phobias

Five individuals with different extreme phobias end up in a secret government facility. There, a deranged doctor forces them to relive their fears in a twisted attempt to weaponize their fear.

This delightfully disturbing horror anthology brings together different subgenres into one cohesive film. Phobias consists of five different tales of fear connected by an overarching story. The directors behind the anthology include Camilla Belle making her directorial debut, Maritte Go, Joe Sill (Stay), Jess Varley (Camping Safe), and Chris von Hoffmann (Monster Party). Each director also wrote the screenplays for their segments with Broderick Engelhard collaborating with Go on her segment. While every segment is very different, ranging from sci-fi thrillers to supernatural chillers and everything in between, they all look and feel like they belong in the same world. Surprisingly, each segment also focuses on the more serious, emotional side of fears and suspense rather than big scare or gore. Each segment gives the audience something new and exciting to consume.

Another great thing about Phobias is that it doesn’t focus on fears that you might expect. Viewers might go into the film expecting to see nyctophobia, claustrophobia, coulrophobia, and others popular fears. Instead, each filmmaker took the idea of a lesser known fear and crafted unsettling stories. The fears, which are also the different segment titles, include Robophobia (fear of robots or AI), Vehophobia (fear of driving), Hoplophobia (fear of guns), Ephebiphobia (fear of youth or teenagers), and Atelophobia (fear of being imperfect). These are fears most people, including myself, have likely never even heard of. The filmmakers do a fantastic job of taking the basic idea of each fear and turning it into a haunting and effective work of horror.

The leads of all five segments are all wonderful, yet a few of the performances in Phobias stand out a bit more than others. Leonardo Nam (The Perfect Score, Westworld) plays Johnny from the “Robophobia” segment. Johnny is a truly endearing character who is doing everything he can to take care of his ailing immigrant father. Nam gives a surprisingly emotional performance as he deals with some pretty poignant subject matter. Hana Mae Lee (Pitch Perfect, The Babysitter) plays Sami in the “Vehophobia” segment. Fans have seen Lee play some wonderfully outrageous characters before, but this time she delivers a more understated performance. In the “Hoplophobia” segment, Martina García (ABCs of Death 2, Narcos) plays Alma. García especially excels at conveying Alma’s obvious PTSD related to guns and the extreme consequences that go along with her fear. Other great performances come from Lauren Miller Rogen (50/50), Macy Gray (Domino), and Ross Partridge (Stranger Things).

Everything from the visuals to the music helps to make this an enjoyable film. Composer Jacques Brautbar (Ravage) created a beautiful musical score. For Phobias, Brautbar utilized synthesizers and strings to bring haunting sounds to each segment. The filmmakers decided to use both CGI and practical effects for the film. Despite using both methods, each technique is used in a very minimal way. This allows the effects to seamlessly integrate into each scene, enhancing the terror without taking away from the actors. Add wonderful cinematography and lots of green lighting, which I’m partial to, and you get a stunning work of film.

Phobias is a cohesive collection of fearful stories from a group of talented newer filmmakers. Most of the directors behind these tales either have no experience at all, have only done a few shorts, or have done some shorts and one or two features. One thing is for sure, these are filmmakers horror fans will want to pay attention to and see what they all do in the future. Phobias gives audiences multiple horror subgenres, incredibly strong performances, subtle yet effective visuals, and a powerful musical score to bring it all together. This is one horror anthology you won’t want to miss.

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10

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