What is original and what is fuel for immersion into a deeper level of horror experience? These questions funneled through my mind as I watched the intense horror comedy FEAR, INC. For me, this film stuck an ice pick in my rawest nerve, only to leave me satisfied with the balance of pain and pleasure by time the final credits rolled. Filled with decades of horror movie references against the beautiful and very spooky background with the stylish high end of California, we witness the collaboration of those committed to the horror movie making nightmare in debut feature writer Luke Barnett and director Vincent Masciale. Working off their experiences within the different circles of entertainment including acting, writing, editing and producing, Barnett and Masciate cultivate a horror film that beats you over the head with the same old classic rehashed like FRIDAY THE 13TH, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, SAW and more but in the end make you understand why we go mad for these films and the ideas spawned from them.

Focusing the story around a young and rich couple in Joe (Lucas Neff) and Lindsey (Caitlin Stasey) who have just moved into a beautiful house and have a bright future ahead. Joe is a horror movie maniac and a slacker who just wants to enjoy the high life. Lindsey works and loves his boyfriend Joe for who knows why? Going on a date in late October, they end up in Hollywood at a haunted house dealing with the typical scares and haunted house visuals. They are approached by Tom (Patrick Renna) who offers them the most immersive horror experience ever in FEAR, INC. Considering the idea, they are visited by Joe’s longtime friend Ben (Chris Marquette) and his wife Ashleigh (Stephanie Drake) who enjoy the weekend with them in the new house. Breaking all the rules of horror films and Joe not listening to his girlfriend, he reaches out FEAR, INC. looking for that next level of reality horror roleplay and experience.

Over one night, we learn that FEAR, INC. is anything but fake and legit as the blossoming blood red flower of horror fully opens to see bodies drop, paranoia and tension grows, trust is shaken and the reality of surviving the horror films that they have watched, revered and lived vicariously through confront each couple one bloody stab at a time. How committed OR INSANE are the minds at FEAR, INC? Will Joe, Lindsey, Ben and Ashleigh figure out what is real and what is acting? Is this all-in Joe’s head or maybe the line of improv, acting and madness is so blurred that we are not sure what that sight, sound or action is? With each breath, each step and each move, we fall deeper into the tailored living horror of FEAR, INC., care to play?

Honestly, I wanted to shut this film off after the first 35 or so minutes. My lord, this homage film just made me shake my head on what typical and unoriginal horror gets green lit and what suffers because they will not follow the same old stuff we see a million times as well as the standard troupes that make you want to cut your achilles. I am glad I did not and I am glad I was proven wrong based on a sea of mediocracy. Barnett and Masciale truly made a fun, smart and tense horror film over the remaining two acts of FEAR, INC. Think of it like this, they took the same old puzzle pieces and created a new macabre expression that enjoy and feel like you are connected. True, it still is not original by any means pulling from so many films including the main root of this immersive madness in the thriller THE GAME. However, that is the charm of FEAR, INC., it is such a love letter to horror films, fans and the deep-rooted insanity that has entertained and engrossed fans for generations.

FEAR INC., strength stems from the performances, the love of horror with in the writing and effective atmosphere created by legit set design, lighting, reaction and the ability by the team behind the film to blur that line with timing that settles in like a fog around you. Who can be trusted? What is the line before enough is enough? How encompassing is FEAR, INC.? Again, these questions run through your mind as you wonder like they do what could be next. With each level of the experience, Barnett, Masciale and the crew amp up the horror homage drawing from famous scenes, lines and of course kills that work together to not only entertain but offer a visual palate. This is all triggered by RAISING HOPE actor Lucas Neff’s brilliant, comedic, jerky and in the end, emotional portrayal of Joe who wants you to hate him for his white privilege but between the silliness that evolves into seriousness surrounding each step of FEAR, INC., you come to connect with him overall. There were some well-crafted scenes throughout but one in particular scene truly embodied the journey of this film for me. Not only from a set design perspective but the equation of heart wrenching score, impactful performance and understanding framing revolves around the scene when Lindsey and Joe are captured. Lindsey is abducted and much worse right in front of Joe while he wears a sack on his head. After such a traumatic sequence, you wait in anticipation to what will be next for Joe after FEAR, INC. leave and you find a broken and scared Joe laying there sobbing after the only thing he loved in Lindsey maybe is dead and he is alone in the desert with nothing left.

If you can survive that annoying and goofy reuniting of friend’s comedic story of the first act, the payoff is worth it as we see some very passionate and smart performances that cultivate horror visually, story wise and executing the twists that both shock and satisfy. This film succeeds with fitting gore and practical FX that take respectful execution, influence and homage from the works of a past master of horror Wes Craven among others. That paired with a uncertain film score that is so crucial in getting the overall film and certain scenes to that next level of emotion, scares and impact. Oh, do not forget the costumes and set design that connect us all as fans of horror and haunts. In the end, FEAR, INC. is all we could want and more from the same old horror puzzle pieces reshuffled and mutated for fans within this horror comedy! It is an honest and smart reflection of ourselves as horror fans. Also, how deep and disturbing horror love can be especially with the changing climate of fans wanting more and those wanting to give them all they can handle.