By CAINE GARDNER
What do you get when you mix some of the most talented people working in the horror genre, directors and writers, give them an hour and a network? The result is the 13-episode run of NBC's Fear Itself, a superb four-disc collection that is sure to leave chills scurrying up your spine.
The set has its fluffy moments, but it also has a few episodes that are as good as anything to hit the big screen so far this year. With major players such as John Landis, Ronny Yu, Mary Harron, Sean Hood and Rupert Wainwright, Fear Itself is a treasure for any fan of horror.
One such episode is "The Family Man", starring Colin Ferguson (Eureka) and Clifton Collins Jr. (Star Trek, Capote). This is the standout of the 13 offerings and stands alone as one of the best short films I've seen from the genre. That's essentially what each episode is, a small movie.
Another question -- What would you do if you slipped into the dead zone and returned, only to find you are inhabiting someone else's body? Now for the kicker, the body you inhabit is that of serial killer that's behind bars. So, if you're there, who's picking up your kids from school?
Dennis Mahoney (Ferguson) is killed on the way to work in a car accident and after passing, slips into Richard's (Collins) body. Now he must do what he can to keep the killer happy and his family safe -- all from behind bars.
"The Family Man" runs a straight course, but as the end nears, the road becomes windy and the twists lead up to a perfectly executed ending. Relief and shock have never felt so good.
Three other episodes that were nice surprises were "Spooked" with Eric Roberts, "Eater" with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss and "The Sacrifice".
It's still a wonder to me that Roberts is an overlooked talent. Sometimes he's a little Movie of the Week maybe, but when the man hits it, boy does he knock it out of the park. What makes "Eater" such a creepy presence is the voice of lead actor Stephen R. Hart. The content is nice, but it would have been nothing but vanilla pudding without that rich, guttural growl of Hart.
Surprisingly, the weakest episode of the bunch was Landis' "In Sickness and In Health". Not exceptionally engaging, it lacked the emotional punch it needed to make the "Ah-Ha" moment work. The episode also gets off to a bad start as Landis focuses on a screaming little girl for way, way too long.
Each episode serves up a "Recipe for Fear", a making-of featurette with interviews for the cast and crew. In some instances, the recipe is better than the dish itself.
Final Cut: Although the series has its flaws, it still is enough to make you pull the covers tight and have the shadows play with your imagination. A nice collection of horror shorts.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Fear Itself (Four-disc set)
Running time: 559 minutes
Available now from Lionsgate