Tuesday, April 5, 2011


'Fear X' is part of a group of films that I consider to be "misunderstood masterpieces". Not to be
confused with underrated.  Others include; 'Trouble Everyday', Steven Soderbergh's 'Solaris' remake, 'Claire Dolan' (wow @ Vincent D'noffrio's performance in that) and 'Ghost Dog'. These are films directed by great directors that received either bad or mixed reviews upon their initial release, but are finally starting to getting the recognition they deserve now. Nicolas Refn is an interesting director. The John Cassavetes-style 'Pusher' and the Tarkovsky-esque 'Valhalla Rising' are probably his best films. Even his movies that I think are a bit problematic like 'Bronson' or the 2nd & 3rd 'Pusher' movies still have somee redeeming qualities. They cant just be totally written off as "bad". And to be honest, my opinion of 'Bronson' seems to be in the minority. Most people like that movie. It rightfully draws (some) comparison to Kubrick, specifically Clockwork Orange so its understandable why 'Bronson' is slowly turning in to one of the new cult-ish movies of this era.
'Fear X' is Nicholas Refn's most peculiar film. People who have seen this movie look at me like I'm crazy when i tell them how much i love it. After hitting the festival circuit in 2003 and ultimately going straight to DVD, this movie pretty much fell in to obscurity. False advertising played a huge part in people's disliking of it. Ads for it were ran in fangoria magazine (which makes no fucking sense), so people were expecting some kind of a horror/thriller movie. 'Fear X' does fall in to the 'thriller' category, but its not your typical thriller. Another thing about this movie was that it was the first and only screenplay written by 'Requiem for a Dream' author; Hubert Shelby Jr, so naturally people assumed 'Fear X' would be similar (lol, they couldn't have been more wrong).
The movie still sparked a few people's interest due to John Turturro being in it and Brian Eno working on the soundtrack. But even those two elements couldn't save 'Fear X'. I first discovered this movie working at a video store in 2004. I don't think any of the 3 people who rented it had one nice thing to say upon returning. Even today, with more people who are starting to come to terms with the fact that this movie isn't as bad as people make it out to be, many people still haven't come around. LOL just look at some of the comments this movie gets on crackle.com where you can watch it for free... (i realize this doesn't help my case, but i found it to be very funny)
If you're a fan of neo-noir, i really don't understand how you cant like this movie (no matter how "slow" it may be). Its one of the best films to come out of that genre in recent years. I consider 'Fear X' to be on par with other great recent noir films like; 'Memento' and 'Irreversible'. And John Turturro's performance is just as powerful as Guy Pierce or Vincent Cassell. Coincidentally, all three actors play similar characters with the same motivation: an ordinary man trying to find the person responsible for hurting or killing their wife. Actually, 'Fear X' and Andrea Arnold's 'Red Road' (another movie i always speak highly of, but no one ever seems to realize its true brilliance except me) share a lot similarities now that i think about it. With the exception of the genders being reversed, both movies involve characters working as a security guard trying to find the person who killed their spouse by investigating old security tapes where they believe the crime was captured. Both movies are extremely atmospheric, have similar music and are shot with minimal light in many scenes. A big difference between the two films however is that 'Red Road' got a lot more praise than 'Fear X'. And on a side note, anyone who's a fan of Andrea Arnold's most recent feature; 'Fish Tank' (which came out on criterion 2 months ago), should really check out 'Red Road'. Its a much better movie as far as I'm concerned.



Acting is another unique element about this movie. I already mentioned John Turturro's performance, but the supporting cast does an excellent job as well. In 'Fear X', the actors create a real paranoid vibe. All of the other characters in the movie look suspicious, creepy or like they have something to hide. This is good for a noir film, because it adds to the mystery and makes everyone a suspect. A lot of the performances in the actors are delivered through the expressions on their faces. Almost anyone that John Turturro comes in contact with in the movie has this strange, almost unspoken aggression. They all have a stone face. I'm not even sure anyone smiles in the movie. One scene in particular where Turturro is being questioned by the police highlights this well. Almost at the drop of a hat, the policeman questioning him start to act a bit mysterious and a little off. Of all the supporting characters, James Remar, the man we're eventually lead to believe is the person who killed Turturro's wife, gives the best performance. You can tell he knows something and is a suspicious person (once again, he delivers a lot of the performance on his face), but you get that he's not the "villain" that we're used to in most conventional movies. In fact, James Remars character makes me wish the movie was a lot longer, because i think they should have delved in to him a little more. It may take a few views to realize how well the acting is, but if you watch it enough times, you'll get it. The performances are "cold". Some may mistake the acting as "flat", but that's an incorrect label.

If you don't like slow movies or open endings, which is somewhat understandable, this movie may not be for you. Although as far as I'm concerned, the mystery of 'Fear X' is not so open ended as people make it out to be. I think the movie is clearly solved as the credits role (similar to Michael Haneke's masterpiece; 'Cache'). You just have to pay attention. If you like any of the movies i mentioned earlier (irreversible, memento or red road), or even David Lynch's noir stuff like; 'Lost Highway', 'Mulholland Drive' or 'Twin Peaks', you'll dig 'Fear X'.


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