It’s October, the perfect month to get scared. Halloween is just around the corner and scary movies are on every cable channel. But you’re probably looking to mix in some new selections in with those old favourites, to keep the kills fresh as it were. Thanks to Slasher Films, headed up by legendary guitarist Slash (who else), there’s just such a film now out on DVD and Blu-ray as well as various On-Demand platforms. But will it quench that horror/thriller thirst? It’s called Nothing Left to Fear. Taking inspiration from the legend of Stull, Kansas, the film harkens back to the horror films of the seventies. Slash said in recent interviews that his intention was to return horror movies to this more traditional style where the horror comes more from one’s imagination. A psychological scare based around actually caring for the characters. Instead of having a disposable cast quickly introduced then bumped off, you actually get to know the family at the heart of Nothing Left to Fear. While I did see some great character work on display and the style is reminiscent of some seventies horror classics, there still might be something left to fear when it comes to the plot of this film.
The film begins with a family moving to the small town of Stull. Pastor Dan and his wife Wendy (played by James Tupper and Anne Heche) along with their 3 kids, get welcomed into the community rather quickly by the retiring pastor Kingsman (Clancy Brown) and the local parishoners. They help them move into their new house and welcome them with glad tidings of baked goods. Their welcome ways continue at Sunday service where Dan officially meets his congregation. But all is not right as Dan and Wendy’s oldest daughter, Rebecca (Rebekah Brandes), is having intense nightmares about the inhabitants of the town. At the same time, Rebecca’s younger sister, Mary (Jennifer Stone), has taken ill after biting into a tooth-like artifact left in her food by one of the townspeople. It seems that all is not as it seems as the town has been cursed to sit upon a Hellmouth open to one of the Seven Gates of Hell. Things do not look good for Pastor Dan and his family.
The main driving force behind this film is character. For most of the film, the focus is on Rebecca and Noah (Ethan Peck), the young man she befriends once coming to town. Brandes does a servicable job giving a performance that makes her character likable. Ethan Peck also does a good job as the boy you’re not sure if you should like or trust. But although there is a great deal of time spent on them, attention is also given to developing a number other characters as well. Most of Mary’s moments on screen are attached to her physical transformation but we still get to know the girl inside for a good portion of the first half of the film. We also get a good bearing on Pastor Kingsman who’s progression from kind, gentle preacher to agent of evil is easily the strongest performance in the film. Not surprising with a veteran like Clancy Brown in the role. Even little brother Christopher and Father Dan are given enough screen time to develop a character for the audience to hold onto. The only real stinker performance wise is Heche as Wendy. This is not entirely her fault as compared to the other roles in the movie, hers is largely underwritten. There’s not much for her to do until the “horror” portion of the film kicks in.
I was a big fan of the slow build in the story and not bringing the horror to the forefront right away. The problem was that when the horror did finally come, it was a bit muddled in it’s execution. The fact that Stull is on top of a gateway to hell is not properly explained. It’s almost as if the filmmakers believe that everyone knows the legend of Stull, Kansas and decided to put their focus on other things instead of properly setting it up in the film. There’s also a number of references to the “Angel of Death” from the book of Exodus. In the story of Moses, the hebrew people smear lamb’s blood on their doors as a symbol to the Angel of Death to pass over their homes and leave them untouched when killing the first born children of every household. In this film, lamb’s blood is also used to mark the doors of the townspeople’s houses. Why? Well, I guess, this demon is suppose to be connected to the Angel of Death. There’s no straight up answer given in the film. This is made more confusing because the creature is not just trying to kill the first born. All we know is that if you put the mark on your door, your safe….I think. The way the demon rises and how the demon meets it’s end are not really explained either. There’s some occult symbolism flashed throughout the film and there’s some rhetoric about God abandoning them and they are slaves……etc., etc. Needless to say, the script takes a turn for the confusing in the middle of the second act and doesn’t show any signs of story logic until the very end. But the film will keep you watching to the end because it does successfully make you care about most of the characters, which was the goal in the first place.
This is in no way a slag on director Anthony Leonardi. He, like the cast, does a good job with what he is given. The film reeks of eeriness and the pacing is well played. It’s obvious that with a better screenplay, he could create something truly scary. There’s just a lack of clarity that I feel could’ve been fixed with a simple rewrite.
While I can’t say that this is a stellar horror film, Nothing Left to Fear is a solid first attempt from Slasher Films and I beleive that if Slash and Leonardi were to team up again with a better script, they could make a film worth watching again and again. If you’re a fan of retro horror or of Slash, you’ll probably want to get your hands on a copy for your collection. For everybody else, this is worth a rental.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!