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A Problem with Fear

01/03/2004. Contributed by Mark R. Leeper

Buy A Problem with Fear in the USA - or Buy A Problem with Fear in the UK

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Mark sits down for this latest SF movie and discovers a quirky science fiction film with some odd approaches, including a man-made 'fear storm'.

A PROBLEM WITH FEAR (film review by Mark R. Leeper): Rating: +1 (-4 to +4)

This is a quirky science fiction film with some odd approaches. The viewer never knows what is going on. Something is being done to the people in a major Canadian city.

We know who is responsible for the strange things we are seeing but not how they are doing it or even what it is they are doing. What is happening is a man-made "fear storm." People are letting their fears - any kind of fears - get the better of them.

There are strange incidents of bad luck and they become front-page news. The phobic Laurie Harding (played by Paulo Constanzo) is the center of this fear storm. Listing Laurie's fears could go on for a long time. He fears escalators, pasta with red sauces, elevators, just about everything.

He is the perfect customer for Global Security Corporation, a corporation that monitors their customers, predicts accidents, and dispatches police where needed. The system is called Early Warning System 2. It has made Global Security a powerful international corporation. The fear storm is not a chance event.

It is all a plot. Global Security is secretly producing the fear storm to boost sales. And Laurie is somehow the eye of the storm and we follow him and his insecure girlfriend Dot (Emily Hampshire), a sociology student, to whom he is afraid to commit.

Laurie is protected by his security system, but it seems to distribute bad luck to all those around him. And there is a strange man who seems to know Laurie is doing this and is chasing Laurie, trying to convince him to kill himself.

The city is paralyzed with strange fear and the stock market is crashing. Newspapers are taking freak accidents and turning them into banner headlines. When one high school girl get the hiccups, it becomes an epidemic of mass hysteria. So much is unexplained the film has aspects of both weird comedy and horror.

Certainly the acting and characterizations are in a tongue-in-cheek style to keep the nightmarish potential in check. So what is this all about? The director says it is about people dominated by fears. Perhaps it is making a statement about the post-9/11 United States, but the film's incoherence gets in its way.

It is more a set of strange off-the-wall sketches. Director Gary Burns shot a large part of the film in a shopping mall, much like his WAYDOWNTOWN.

This is a film with some interesting ideas but the film's elliptical approach limits its appeal. (Although this film supposedly is set in Canada, the local TV station is KPYT, call letters that would be assigned only to a station in the United States.)

Mark R. Leeper

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