FEAR ITSELF: IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH (2008)

Editor’s Note: This was originally published for FANGORIA on June 26, 2008, and we’re proud to share it as part of The Gingold Files.


I should admit at the outset that I didn’t share many viewers’ enthusiasm for John Landis’ Masters of Horror entries Deer Woman and Family; to these eyes, they let the viewer know too much too early, leaving nothing to watch but the protagonists trying to catch up. That isn’t entirely the case with In Sickness and In Health, Landis’ installment of the Masters follow-up series Fear Itself—which is not to say it offers any surprises, or much else to compensate.

Maggie Lawson and James Roday of TV’s Psych star as young bride-to-be Sam and her groom Carlos, whom her friends think she’s about to marry too soon. Sam, on the other hand, insists she’s making the right decision, that this relationship will have a happier ending than those she’s had in the past. But just before she’s about to walk down the aisle, Sam is handed a note by one of her pals who was given it by the officiating priest, who in turn received it from an unidentified woman in a red bandanna. Written on it are nine little words: “The person you are marrying is a serial killer.”

Needless to say, Sam is startled to say the least, and one might expect her to start mentally tracing back through her relationship with Carlos, trying to recall any clues that might point to his guilt. Instead, the one-dimensional script by Victor Salva simply propels her through a domestic drama that sends her from the wedding to the reception and back to the church, keeping the note a secret from everyone and having facile confrontations with her new hubby, all the while wondering whether the missive might be a joke or the product of someone’s jealousy. For an episode of a show called Fear Itself, there isn’t very much scary stuff going on, just occasional false jumps and occasional quick shots of that red-bandanna’d woman skulking around. As if to compensate, a couple of genre veterans appear in supporting roles: William B. Davis, The X Files’ Cigarette Smoking Man, is the man of the cloth (a role that plays like it was written for Angus Scrimm), while Marshall Bell (Total Recall) portrays not one but two twin relatives of the groom, for no apparent reason other than to save on actors’ salaries.

The staging of one crucial scene in a confessional is a clever enough touch, but in the absence of many other opportunities to create tension, Landis repeatedly throws in meaningless and ultimately redundant close-ups of religious iconography (a distraction that also plagued Fear Itself’s previous Family Man). Once the story reaches its resolution, it leaves behind more questions than answers—but the real failing of the ending is that any remotely observant viewer will have it figured out long before it arrives. It also leads one to wonder if Fear Itself, which got off to an atmospheric start with The Sacrifice, can get back on its horrific feet after two episodes that have played like serial-killer soap operas. Onward, with crossed fingers, to Stuart Gordon’s Eater

Similar Posts