Fear Itself is the feature length debut of Aaron Mirtes, budding independent director. Based off his award-winning horror short “The Clown Statue,” the film’s kickstarter page cites the plot as:
“Emma, a college student with a crippling fear of clowns, must come face to face with her worst fear when a clown that has been terrorizing the town promises to kill her. This clown gives a balloon to each his victims with the exact time and date he’s going to kill them written on it. After receiving one herself, Emma realizes that she has two days left to live, and must fight against the clock to find a way to survive.”
With a trailer already up on the page, one’s sure to ask why they need money at all? As with many productions, anything can go wrong. A large fire forced one of their locations to be unaccessible, which means everyone had to pack up and go home. In order to go back and finish the remaining 10% and add in new scenes, the Fear Itself crew needs your help.
So why, of all indy films asking for money, am I spotlighting this film? Why, of all indy films, should you fund this one? Besides the fact I think we need more killer clown movies, Aaron is an acquaintance of mine. At school together, he demonstrated a certain vision and intelligence when it came to filmmaking I’ve yet to see in someone I’ve worked with since. Listening to the interview I did with him for Cinema Cynique, you can pick up on this as well. With The Babadook and It Follows ushering in a new era of putting the art back in horror, it’s not hard to see Aaron Mirtes and Fear Itself fitting comfortably into the new generation of horror films and filmmakers.
I’ve gone on record several times condemning the horror genre and its filmmakers for recycling and regurgitating the same stories, tropes, and characters. To me, it’s a no brainer to support an original and fresh project. To invest in Fear Itself is not just to invest in the film, but in the future career of Mirtes and all the interesting and entertaining films he is sure to bring us.
The debate over violence created by media has been a long and arduous one. It’s been fought in schools, churches, congress, and apparently little indy films such as A Thousand Cuts. Unfortunately, A Thousand Cuts isn’t a commentary on the state of the mentally ill in this country or the over-simplification of issues created by politicians, lobbyists and the news. Instead this is a hateful little film that wants to be a hell of a lot more clever than it ultimately ends up being thanks to the poorly thought-out writing.
A Thousand Cuts follows around narcissistic horror director Lance, played by Michael Newcomer, doing his best Ewan McGregor impression. The film opens on an overly long party scene where Lance drinks, harasses women, and brags about how much money his “A Thousand Cuts” franchise has made. The party is interrupted by a blackout, during which a sparkler with a picture of Lance’s dead mother appears. Lance is understandably angry, but not enough to let the party stop, that is, until another blackout turns out to somehow be the last straw. After all the attendees clear out, the only two people left are Lance and the electrician Frank (Michael O’Keefe). Lance invites Frank in for a drink and as the two talk, Lance slowly realizes that Frank may be up to something. He tries to leave, but Frank pulls a gun on him and explains Lance needs to be punished for causing the death of Frank’s daughter: Susan.
Thus begins the action for the next hour of the film: these two talking. Frank threatens that Melanie, Lance’s sister who Frank has locked away, will run out of oxygen before the cops could find out where she is. Stuck in a standoff, the two slowly exposit their backgrounds and debate whether Lance is at fault for Susan’s death. Susan was murdered by a serial killer inspired by Lance’s films and although Lance followed the trial, he never publicly apologized or stopped making films.
This is the argument that the film is very obviously making. Hollywood doesn’t give a shit about the consequences of its actions and while they are most certainly not to blame for the crimes of serial killers like the one in the film, that doesn’t mean they’re not assholes about it. The idea of making stupid movies for a general audience is also a major theme as during the party scene there are continual references to how you either make movies that sell or get critical acclaim. This angst against the state of film indicates that the filmmakers here are fresh out of college. On top of that, this film is amateur in how it’s made, written, acted, etc… and there are many lines of dialogue that make mention of snooty graduate students or how USC is the biggest school in California. Lance even got his idea for “A Thousand Cuts” from an artistic short film he made that clearly was too pretentious for modern audiences.
The film climaxes with a timid screenwriter (who had previously shown up to give Lance his script) returning to give him the correct draft. He unties Lance and Lance quickly finds out that all of Frank’s plans turned out to be fake. Melanie was in the other room, gagged up and he hadn’t done anything to her. In desperation, Frank tries to kill Melanie, forcing Lance to shoot him. When asked “Why?”, Frank replies “I wanted you to feel what it’s like to actually kill someone,” before expiring. This is completely inconsistent with the actions of the character up to this point, making this idiotic ending the bow on top of a poorly written, paced, and thought-out script.
I make it a point to never hate films, as they’re are made with passion and love by the filmmakers, no matter how bad they are. That is, except for films that have some kind of palpable disdain for someone or something. I hated Chain Letter because it hated technology and my generation, and I hate A Thousand Cuts because it hates Hollywood with all of the passion that it claims that Hollywood has towards the critical audience. Not only is it insulting to say that the masses will consume any garbage you put in front of them, but it’s idiotic to spread hatred against the people you’re pissed at for hating you. An actual criticism of Hollywood or commentary on the violence in our society “caused” by media would make for an interesting movie, but A Thousand Cuts does nothing but regurgitate the same arguments we’ve heard about violent movies before and re-portray the Hollywood assholes that have existed in film for decades. I’ll admit that it sticks to its morals by having little violence in it, but all that makes for is a boring and anti-climactic film that isn’t worth anybody’s time.