Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Phobia – review

Director: Jon Keeyes

Release date: 2013

Contains spoilers

Vampirism and hypnotism are casual bedfellows. Of course the concept of the vampire’s eye mojo is well established but by hypnotism I am more referring to pendulum swinging mesmerism. We need look no further than Dracula. Famously Van Helsing hypnotises Mina so that he can use her connection to the Count to try and track him as he bolts back to his homeland. However the book also mention Charcot – a pioneer of hypnosis – and indeed the reference (and the fact that he is mentioned posthumously) is sometimes used to date the story. Charcot is a character in this film, played by Michael Crabtree.

Hypnotism is used in films such as Blood of Dracula and the Bloodthirsty Doll to create the vampire. In this it is used to try and cure phobias but one man fears that he is cursed to be a vampire…

Erica Leerhsen as Lesley
However the film starts with a murder. It is 1866, California, and a scream awakens a young girl, Lesley Parker (Presley Money). She walks through the darkened house and finds her mother (Susana Gibb, After Sundown) dead. Her father (Ian Sinclair, Vamps, Blood & Smoking Guns and the English dub of Rosario and Vampire, Capu 2) looms behind her, a knife in hand and gibbering about setting her free. She runs and he chases, only to fall down the stairs and stab himself in the chest.

by Freud's beard, that's fake
The film moves to France in 1885 and a woman (Erica Leerhsen), the now adult Doctor Lesley Parker, is dressing as a man (in a most unconvincing bob wig) so as to attend lectures by Dr Charcot. She has dressed as a man because she found herself not taken seriously in medical school due to her gender. Her disguise is seen straight through by fellow student Sigmund Freud (Matt Moore, Hallow’s End). This is not surprising, not because it was Freud but because he wore the most ridiculously fake beard himself (though I figure that was a costuming malfunction not part of the film!) Lesley’s reason for being there is because she wants to learn Charcot’s technique and use it (along with group therapy) to help cure phobias. She suffers from Nyctophobia herself, due to the events we saw earlier.

Chase Ryan Jeffery as Val
A friend of Freud, Val Drakul (Chase Ryan Jeffery), is attending Charcot as a patient – his fear is that he has inherited the family curse (being a descendent of Vlad Ţepeş) of vampirism. He has blank moments and a killer certainly stalks the Paris night, ripping out throats with his teeth. Charcot and Freud suggest that he is an ideal patient for Lesley and so it is off to California and some therapy that is all going to go wrong – whilst they develop feelings for each other (her gender revealed).

a victim
Putting the astoundingly fake beard behind us the costuming of this film was actually well done given its indie nature. However the story was a whodunit that relied on the supernatural (for yes there are supernatural vampires in this), and tried to pack so much exposition in that the plot didn’t have room to breathe. There is a full group in therapy and we explore all of their fears – yet they are hardly needed, there is the blossoming love story, a wandering detective (Matthew Tompkins) and a spectacularly effective séance (though the cgi perhaps looked a little out of place and a replication of some Victorian séance trickery might have worked better).

This was a brave movie. I can’t reveal the vampire as it will spoil the whodunit aspect of the film, but ultimately it struggled (unfortunately even more than I struggled to keep my face straight when faced with Freud’s beard). 5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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