Written by Aaron Drane
Directed by Robert Hall
Dr. Andover...Robert Englund
Nurse Owens...Lisa Wilcox
Ajax...John F. Beach
Five pretty young people--yes, they're all pretty and young; this is a web series, but it is still for all intents and purposes TV--visit a psychiatric hospital and misguidedly put their trust into Dr. Andover, a mad-scientist type whose specialty is the treatment of phobias. Each of these patients have an irrational fear of one thing or another, although each fear is grounded in some trauma from their past. In each episode, one of the patients undergoes an experimental therapy (which includes psychotropic drugs and a casket-type device known as the Fear Chamber), in which their fear manifests itself as gruesome hallucinations. In order to conquer their fear, they must face these hallucinations head-on...and survive to tell the tale.
But what if the hallucinations aren't really hallucinations at all...?
Episode 1: Hydrophobia
In the pilot episode, we meet Brett, who is afraid of water. His hallucinations take the form of his waterlogged mother, as she tries to drown him in the bathtub. There are a few creepy moments, as his mother's form glides across the surface of the floor, leaving behind a slimy, fleshy residue. The ending comes abruptly, though, a problem that plagues all five episodes of the series.
Episode 2: Scotophobia
In this episode, Susan's fear of the dark materializes as hoardes of demons who are relegated to the shadows. There's a tense (but perhaps too-brief) scene as she attempts to reach safety, forced to stick to a narrow beam of light which permeates the center of the room she is in, monsters grasping for her on both the left and right side. I guess she was being honest when she said, "It's not the dark that scares me. It's what lives inside it"
Episode 3: Entomophobia
Jackie, who is terrified of bugs, has an emotional breakdown. Villatoro injects her with a sedative, but she's fully convinced that he injected her full of spider eggs, and that the newborn arachnids are crawling around beneath the surface of her skin. Her desire to rid herself of the critters makes this the most stomach-churning episode of the series.
Episode 4: Misophobia
Ajax has a paralyzing fear of germs, so much so that he even wears a bottle of hand sanitizer around his neck like a charm. He hallucinates that he has become infected with some sort of flesh-eating virus, culminating in a finale that didn't honestly make a whole lot of sense to me. The weakest episode in the series.
Episode 5: Claustrophobia
Jonte is claustrophobic, and he finds himself simultaneously being buried alive and confronted by zombie gang members that he once knew. The zombies wield handguns made out of bones and sinew, perhaps a last minute effort to appeal to the "Urban Audience" that theoretically flocks to movies like Zombiez and Vampiyaz in droves. The final moments leave the series open to a second season, which would hopefully take less of an anthology approach and instead continue to explore the themes already set in place.
Overall, a pretty enjoyable series, although more episodes would have been helpful as it feels as if I've just watched the first third of a movie before the projector died. It's nice to see some genre vets together, even if it is on the small screen, and it was a thrill to see Englund and Hodder facing off against each other sans makeup. With Englund in the role of the not-so-good Doctor, it's nearly impossible not to make comparisons to Nightmare on Elm Street, so imagine the hospital setting of Dream Warriors with the rationale of The Dream Child, and you've pretty much got it.
Each episode averages about 7 minutes or so, so you don't have to have a lot of time to invest. Just perfect for the ADD-riddled masses!
You can view the episodes for free at Fearnet.com.