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Feature: Primetime

Fear Itself

Fear Itself

After the success of Masters of Horror and Masters of Science Fiction, a cadre of acclaimed directors return for a third anthology of creepy tales…

Masters of HORROR has been a successful anthology series on cable TV, and now its producers, Keith Addis and Andrew Deane, are bringing a similar franchise, Fear Itself, to network television, which begs the question, how are they going to get away with the explicit gore and violence that’s acceptable on cable? “As filmmakers we work with absolute freedom on Masters of Horror when it comes to the content,” acknowledges Addis. “But we were incredibly surprised when we discovered how many of the filmmakers we had worked with before, and how many of the filmmakers we had wanted to work with but hadn’t had the chance to, really embraced the idea that the very graphic, gruesome, violence was no longer available to them. I think the notion of being much more imaginative about how they would entertain and terrify audiences in this medium turned out to be a great thing for the show.”

The 13-episode series has attracted the cream of the genre crop, including award-winning directors, John Landis (An American Werewolf in London), Darren Bousman (Saw II) and Ronny Yu (Bride of Chucky); writers Steve Niles (30 Days of Night) and Dan Knauf (Carnivàle and Supernatural) and actors, Brandon Routh (Superman Returns), Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men), Cynthia Watros (Lost) and Eric Roberts (Heroes).

Brandon Routh, who stars in an episode entitled Community, concurs with Addis’s remarks about the tone of the show. “In my episode, instead of being able to rely on the gore or sexual gratuity, it is more imaginative and that’s the kind of stuff I like to see. Community deals with the dark side of humanity. My character Bobby and his wife, played by Shiri Appleby, want to have a family, so we need to find a house. We go to a planned community, and it turns out [the neighbours] have their own plans.”

Community is directed by Mary Harron, who helmed the cult classic, American Psycho. “It was a great honor working with Mary,” says Routh. “I was a big fan of American Psycho after my second viewing. The first time, I didn’t quite get it. But after growing up and being in movies, I have a new and great feeling for that movie. So when they said that she was directing the episode, I was like, ‘I have to do it.’ Mary wanted to bring out the Human elements of the script and not play on the horror aspect. The relationship between the characters is what makes it all that more powerful. The more you care about the characters, and the more you are invested in them emotionally, the bigger the pay-off or thrill it is.”

In tying the stories together, Addis says that the underlying “pervasive theme is how all of us have a primal fear of being in life-or-death circumstances over which we have no control. The other issue is the very thin membrane between sanity and insanity. I think those are the themes that weave themselves through the episodes unintentionally; and hopefully they’re all scary.”

by Judy Sloane

Read the full feature in
TV Zone #229

Photo ©NBC Universal, Inc.
Feature © Visual Imagination 2008. Not for reproduction

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TV Zone #229
June 2008
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