Movie review

Fear X
John Turturro, Deborah
Kara Unger, James Remar

Director : Nicolas Winding Refn

Fear XLosing a loved one is bad enough, but losing them for no reason is far worse. This is the premise of Nicolas Winding Refn's first English language film, following on from the excellent Pusher and Bleeder. Starring the brilliant John Turturro and co-written by Refn and Hubert Selby Jr (Last Exit To Brooklyn and Requiem For A Dream) it's a tale of an average shopping mall security guard (Harry) investigating his wife's accidental shooting, and trying to find her apparent killer. A simple plot, but like the recent Memento, the film plays with our perceptions and turns the story into something more surreal, twisted and eerie.

Tuturro plays haunted souls very well and the audience can identify with his search for his wife's killer played out through his endless analysis of the mall's CCTV footage before and after the killing. The police seem to be no help, and as a viewer you are expertly only shown what you need to see, resulting in a rare thing – a thriller in which it is virtually impossible to guess the ending. This for me was extremely satisfying, as I generally manage to guess films' endings long before they finish - The Blair Witch Project and Sixth Sense being two recent examples. But in Fear X the audience is placed on the journey with Tuturro's character, never truly seeing the whole picture and having to think throughout the film instead of being spoon fed the story.
    Think David Lynch and the Coen Brothers' cinematic worlds and you are close to Refn's creation here. The mall is eerie and the locations empty and under-populated. Harry's house is sparse, with his gear for pulling suspect from the CCTV tapes the only new things there. There is almost a 1950s American feel to Fear X, imbuing it with an out of world feel that adds to the tension and suspense of the film. The other characters like Harry's friend Phil, played by Stephen McIntyre, and the policemen involved in the apparent investigation are well acted, helping to pull the viewer into the film and into the nightmare scenario of Tuturro's tortured security guard.
    The soundtrack also helps to create atmosphere, with a minimalist score from Brian Eno that seeps into your mind and shocks you when you least expect it.

Refn's direction is skilled and represents a consummate professional who watches other directors and learns from them without aping them. Recent films like Cabin Fever and House Of 1000 Corpses wanted to take horror back to the 1970s and genuinely shock people again, but those two films were only cheap carbon copies of great genre outings like Night Of The Living Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, where the new directors blatantly ripped of the old directors and even openly admitted it in the press.
    In Fear X, Nicolas Winding Refn has successfully crafted a true horror film, one that stays with you long after its astonishing climax, and one that you will be talking about for years to come.

:: Mark Cappuccio

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