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Phobias (2021) Movie Review

I've been a movie enthusiast my whole life and been writing movie reviews for over 156 years.

phobias-2021-movie-review

MPAA Rating

R

Running Time

85 minutes

Directors

Camilla Belle, Maritte Lee Go, Joe Sill, Jess Varley, and Chris von Hoffmann

Writers

Camilla Belle, Broderick Engelhard, Maritte Lee Go, Joe Sill, Jess Varley, Chris von Hoffmann

The new horror anthology Phobias dares to ask the question, “What Are you Afraid Of, Lance?” If you’re name isn’t Lance please substitute your name into the hypothetical question if it makes you feel special.

I think you’re talking about the needle scene from Pulp Fiction.

That’s an excellent segue. Anyway, the films asks you about your fears. And by the time you finish watching Phobias, one of your fears will be, “Definitely not this movie.”

As you would expect from any anthology, it’s going to be hit and miss. What I hope for is at least half of the stories being worth my time. With Phobias, I’m afraid(!) your needs won’t be met.

Be afraid…

That you won’t be afraid…

Still Pulp Fiction.

Nope. Still Pulp Fiction.

In fact, if you have immediate access to it and don’t feel like completely wasting a digital rental, then do your self a favor and see Pulp Fiction again, see almost anything before subjecting yourself to Phobias.

Synopsis Full of Fears and Syllables

Story 1 “Robophobia”- which means “Fear of Robos”.

Phobias opens with an Asian guy named Johnny (Leonardo Lam). He’s at a convenience store getting food for him and his wheelchair-bound daddy (also Asian).

As he’s leaving the store, he gets picked on by some racist white guys.

Because we haven’t quite had enough scenes of racist white guys picking on Asian people in real life. Anyway, before Johnny can get a massage at a spa, the racist white guys beat him up and dismantle his keyboard. They tell him never to come back to this part of town again.

Johnny finally makes it home. Dad asks what happens. Johnny says nothing.

Johnny works on his computer. It isn’t long before he starts hearing a voice coming from his computer. It’s not Scarlett Johansson’s voice in Her, but one more machinelike.

It wants to know what’s wrong with Johnny. Johnny has nothing to lose, so he tells him, um, it. It’s not long before machine voice hears what Johnny says.

It’s not long before machine voice decides it’s going to do help Johnny, any bloody way it can.

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We transition into what looks like the not-too-distant-future. It’s dusty and looks like an underground facility.

We see Johnny again and we meet Dr. Wright (Ross “The Boss” Partridge). We’ve been looking into Johnny’ deepest and darkest fears because Dr. Wright wants to contain these fears into a gas and weaponize them.

The movie then tells separate vignettes about random characters and their fears. Each one less scary than the last, except for one or two of them. Maybe.

“Vehophobia”- which means “terrified of Vehos”.. Lesbi-honest, Vehos are f*cking scary.

Yes, because Vehophobia stars Pitch Perfect’s Hana Mae Lee as Sami.

Her tale opens as her boyfriend freaks out and leaves her. What’s the big deal?

The big deal is that Sami thinks she’s seeing people over her shoulder or in her backseat when they’re really not there. Or are they?

Maybe, because Sami is remembering the other night, when she thought it would be a good idea to rob an old man. We can guess it’s not, in more ways than Sami can bloody count because if she’s not careful, there’s going to be a body count.

“Ephebiphobia”- which means “fear or loathing of teenagers”.

Emma (Lauren Miller Rogen) is a happily married high school or middle school teacher. We’re not sure which or I just wasn’t paying attention. Her husband calls her to tell her he’s not going to make it home tonight but he’ll be there in the morning.

Emma tells husband she’ll miss him. Emma calls up another man and says she’s free for the night.

Maybe Emma really isn’t all that happy in her marriage.

While she waits for her random d*ck to arrive, other visitors are coming for Emma tonight, though you can guarantee it won’t be as fun.

“Hoplophobia” means fear of giant bunnies, as shown on the 1972 giant bunny classic Night of the Lepus.

And giant bunnies. And/or giant bunnies with firearms. Either way, it’s scary.

Alma (Martina Garcia) is a good cop who had a bad day when she accidentally shot a kid. To be fair, the kid was white so she actually got in trouble. Now Alma seems to be suffering from PTSD as she’s terrified of anything that could possibly be a threat. Whether it’s guns or things that look like guns or giant bunnies, Alma is not in a good place.

For her sake, and the sake of her son, we hope Alma isn’t the most dangerous weapon walking around.

“Alelophobia” which means “Fear of pantaloons or the fear of imperfection”.

phobias-2021-movie-review

Renee (Macy Gray, from that one song you couldn’t stop singing back in 2001) runs her own architecture firm. She employs more women than all the other firms in the area. She’s interviewing a young man because he’s qualified and the firm could use some new, um, blood.

But something’s gone wrong with one of Renee’s main accounts. Somebody f*cked up and if it takes the entire night, it will be fixed. Renee does not like mistakes

Renee makes the entire firm, including new guy, come over to her house.

These mistakes will be fixed because Renee is not happy. When Renee is not happy, everyone pays.

phobias-2021-movie-review

What Works With Phobias

  • Of the five vignettes only Chris Von Hoffman’s “Ephebiphobia” genuinely surprises you for the most part. It has an ending, you more or less can’t see coming, and is the only story the contains a genuine scare. Maybe two if you’re feeling jumpy.
  • Ross “Sorry For Your Loss” Partridge gives the only performance worth remembering as the douchey Dr. Wright. He’s a villain you love to hate as every time he shows up onscreen you just want to punch him in his WASP-y face.

What Doesn’t Work With Phobias

  • Four out of the five stories are generically, sometimes criminally (as in “Vehophobia”) predictable. As you watch, you’ll say to yourself, “This is the part when ______ (insert obvious plot twist here)”, and unless you’ve never seen a movie before, you’ll be right 98% of the time, unless you have a fear of being right, then we all feel bad for you.
  • If you decide to actually see and finish Phobias, you’ll see so many missed opportunities for genuine scares. Sure, you can predict almost everything that’s going to happen, but the movie is rarely boring as all five directors have some concept of how to tell a story. It’s just that very few of the stories go anywhere new.
phobias-2021-movie-review

Overall.

A solid, promising premise sunken by lackluster execution and lazy storytelling. It’s not a terrible movie, but if you have a phobia of 2.5 star movies, stay far away from Phobias.

Really 2.5

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