The Fear Inside
Agoraphobia, the fear of open spaces, would seem to be an ideal subject for a horror film, assuming you can skirt the moral quagmire of using mental illness in the pursuit of thrills (hey, it worked for Psycho, Repulsion and The Babadook, to name but three). The Nesting (1981) had an agoraphobic writer trapped in a house with the ghosts of dead prostitutes, while The Fear Inside (1992), Confine (2013), The Torment of Laurie Ann Cullom (2014) and Shut-In (aka Intruders, 2015) all featured an agoraphobic female terrorised by fears either real or imagined, while serial killer thriller Copycat (1995) worked an agoraphobic psychologist into its storyline to considerable effect – although the subgenre’s sine qua non is almost certainly the 11 minute short Him Indoors (2012), starring Reece Shearsmith and Pollyanna McIntosh, which you can watch here.
Now there’s the bluntly-named Agoraphobia, in which agoraphobic Faye (Cassandra Scerbo) moves back into her vacant childhood home on the advice of her psychiatrist, Dr. Murphy (genre veteran Tony Todd), only to be plagued with terrifying visions that threaten her already fragile mental stability. Are the visions evidence that something terrible happened there? Is the house Faye once shared with her father trying to tell her something? With her husband (Adam Brudnicki) away on business, Faye reaches out to a local detective (Roberto Escobar), who reveals details about her father that serve to deepen the mystery surrounding his death. Dr. Murphy assures her that paranoid delusions may be part of her illness’s pathology, or a side effect of her medication, but Faye is convinced there is something real – or supernatural – behind the mysterious goings-on.
Writer-producer-director Lou Simon (2013’s HazMat and the upcoming All Girls Weekend) constructs an intriguing mystery using familiar scaffolding, although she is demonstrably more confident working with creepy atmospherics and jump scares than directing actors. (Word to the wise: a well-acted 80 minutes is better than 85 minutes with 5 minutes of dodgy dialogue delivery.) That said, genre veterans Todd and Maria Olsen are on good form, and Aniela McGuinness is terrific in a supporting role. (On a side note, Aniela’s cancer survival story – detailed here – is inspirational, and her upcoming documentary worth funding).
Agoraphobia may not have the retro kookiness of The Nesting, and is unlikely to win any prizes for originality, but it’s a cut above most straight-to-DVD horrors – even if the BBFC’s 18 rating and “strong gore” warnings, presumably due to the gory pre-title sequence, suggest a gorier film than the psychological thriller Ms. Simon actually made.
AGORAPHOBIA is on UK DVD from February 1