Phobias (USA, 2021)

Five people must confront their fears as they are all in connection in this horror anthology that doesn’t rely on gore, but more on the psyche of the mind.

Johnny is a man who has been taking care of his disabled father for a long time. He is really good with computers and has even built his own. When he is beaten up by a band of rednecks, who warn him never to show up by them again, he returns home. When Johnny receives a mysterious chat message one day, he learns the new “user” is just looking for a friend. The new “friend” offers to help Johnny get revenge on those who did him wrong.

However, when Johnny learns his father is next, he stops the malevolent force but is soon kidnapped. He is taken to Outpost 37, a secret governmental facility where Dr. Wright intends to create a weapon using fears. Johnny meets Sami, Emma, Alma, and Renee, all who have different fears, from cars and teenagers to weapons and imperfections. As Johnny hears each story, he soon discovers that they must band together to stop Dr. Wright’s crazed experiment before it’s too late.

Horror anthologies are quite fun to work with. With the recently released (and very fun) Scare Package, it’s clear these connected stories bring out some of the best in emotional content and shows the dedication these filmmakers have for the genre. This new anthology goes a bit of a different route. Where some horror anthologies rely on gore and bloodshed galore, this one is more about the psyche of various fears, or as the title indicates, phobias. Five different directors take charge of each phobia with Jess Varley leading the way in directing both one of the phobias and the interconnecting sequences of “Outpost 37”.

Joe Sill’s “Robophobia” features an excellent performance by Leonardo Nam as Johnny, a techie wizard whose constantly bullied until a new “friend” in a malevolent force helps him exact revenge. Maritte Go’s “Vehophobia” features Pitch Perfect’s Hana Mae Lee as a woman who tries to cope with an auto accident she was involved in. Chris von Hoffmann’s “Ephebiphobia” features Lauren Miller Rogen as a teacher who finds herself confronted by one of her students and her two brothers. “Hoplophobia” marks the directorial and screenwriting debut of actress Camilla Belle as we see a single mother and former SWAT team officer, played by Martina Garcia, cope with PTSD and her fear of weapons after a mission goes awry.  The final story, “Aletophobia”, has singer turned actor Macy Gray (who also serves as an executive producer) play an architect with severe issues involving imperfections.

Ross Patrridge gives off a creepy mad scientist vibe as Dr. Wright, the doctor who has taken these five protagonists together with only one intention. That is to create a gas based on fear. Sounds like something that came out of Batman Begins. And what’s interesting here is that some of these stories have some sort of reminiscence to other films. For instance, “Vehophobia” may bring Christine to mind while “Echebiphobia” will bring to mind films like Class of 1984 and even the B-movie Hell High as well. With the exception of “Aletophobia”, there is very minimal blood and gore with the film mainly being a psychological horror anthology where the final story does go to the extreme as it delves into body horror.

Phobias takes a fresh approach to the horror anthology with its more psychological aspect as we deal with the titular phobias. The five directors did a tremendous job on showcasing the emotional ranges of its cast with a nice yet creepy interconnection between the stories. There is no favorite segment here as all of them are quite good.

WFG RATING: A-

Vertical Entertainment and Telepool presents a Kodiak Pictures/Defiant Studios production. Directors: Joe Sill, Maritte Go, Chris von Hoffmann, Camilla Belle, and Jess Varley. Producers: Jess Varley, Maurice Fadida, and Eric B. Fleischman. Writers: Joe Sill, Maritte Go, Broderick Englehard, Chris von Hoffmann, Camilla Belle, and Jess Varley. Cinematography: Broderick Englehard and Nico Aguilar. Editing: Chad Sarahina.

Cast: Leonardo Nam, Hana Mae Lee, Lauren Miller Rogen, Martina Garcia, Macy Gray, Ross Patridge, Steve Park, Mackenzie Brooke Smith, Monique Coleman.

The film will be released On Demand and on Digital on March 19.

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