The problem is that I keep watching NBC’s “Fear Itself” hoping that it will get better, hoping I not only be disappointed. Yet I end up practically livid at what network thinks horror is.
Last night’s episode, “Skin and Bones” was about a man, Grady, who disappears into the mountains and returns a carnivorous Wendigo. Which means there’s a Indian in this story. Which means, in lieu of a Black person, he won’t make it to the 24-minute mark.
Now the last time I watched anything with a Wendigo as a character, it was Larry Fessenden’s crapfest, surprisingly enough called Wendigo. It was a painfully long, drawn-out family-in-crisis-let’s-head-to-the-middle-of-nowhere-to-work-this-out-where-no-one-can-hear-us-scream bowl of suck. Not scary, not tense, not inducing dread in any sense except checking to see how much longer the movie had before I could return it, only to discover you’re not half-way through it. Fessenden also wrote The Habit, which was probably the driest, most unsexy vampire pic I have ever seen.
Had I been smart, I would have spent last night reading.
I don’t care if you haven’t watch it yet – this is what sucked about it:
Grady has been in the frozen woods for ten days. When he stumbles out, he looks like death – frostbitten ears, black fingertips, and he’s starving. He’s also the only one to return from a hunting party of an undisclosed number. To attend to him on acres of land out in what looks a lot like Canada, are his wife, his brother, two sons, and an Indian. Because this is horror, a hospital is clearly out of the question so the local hack doctor tells the man’s loving wife, Elena he should recuperate at home. She then decides he needs to be fed warm soup to get his strength back.
Because when you’ve been in the middle of nowhere with nothing to eat but your friends, soup always does the trick.
It takes no time at all before Grady tries to kill her and fails. He flees to the other side of the room! This is apparently key because there is no way his brother can shoot him from way over there. The Indian (“Eddie Bear”, of course!) senses an evil presence and leaves his trailer to investigate. I don’t know what the writers or Larry were trying to prove, but the cliche “put the Indian in a dinky trailer on the vast property of the White Man” gets old real damn quick. Could Eddie Bear have talked about the Wendigo to, I dunno – anyone? No. That complicates the story with plot, and no one wants that. A medicine bag and knife, don’t make the grade against Grady, but surely the knife plunged deeply into his chest would have killed him. No. Eddie Bear sidesteps the opportunity to eid the family of a killer for fear he might go to jail, because he’s an Indian and that’s what Indians are accused of all the time. So Eddie decides on an axe, I guess because an axe is grounds for an automatic acquittal. Eddie loses in any case. The brother, Rowdy, goes after him with a shotgun, but again fails to shoot – guilt, brotherly love – the stricken look on his face says that he wants to shoot but the script won’t let him. Grady kills brother. Two down, three to go.
The kids as characters seemed to be more in the way as opposed to actually adding to the story. The arguments they had about their “dad” and whether or not to flee seemed to have been added just to give them dialogue. I got the distinct impression that had they been left in that rambling house alone with a fully stocked cupboard, they would have still manage to starve to death, probably dirty and naked, too. They seemed that helpless.
Out in the barn, instead of getting into a car and driving away, mother and sons are paralyzed with stupidity. Wendigo Man finds his frisky wife (insert lame side-story about wife and brother having an affair) and while she could have shot him, love (or the script) stays her hand. Here, I want everyone dead. We’re at the 39-minute mark and this isn’t sucking any less. Grady drags her inside so she can cook her lover and he switches gears from Timeless Cannibal to a really poor Jack Nickolson’s Jack Torrence. The “humor” here is awful. It’s not funny, it feels forced, and it’s stupid. Lover boils in the stew pot and Grady and Elena have a heart to heart about the boys belonging to her dead lover, Rowdy. I don’t know how we’re supposed to feel other than “really, you want to discuss this *now*?”
Here I ask, who fucking cares? This story is laden with details and side stories that are introduced and then left to drown in pools of superfluous blood. The sons lack anything close to survival skills, unless those count curling up into a fetal position and crying. Can’t load a shotgun, can’t shoot, can’t take Uncle’s truck to escape because he told them not to – even though he’s dead, but still, no one wants to get into trouble.
For an ancient spirit, I have to say, this Wendigo was of the short bus variety. He also didn’t kill when he had the chance, also didn’t escape when he had the chance, and it took him a few times of being shot to realize he was supposed to die.
Yes, and then there’s the open end – since Elena ate part of her lover (as a very lame distraction), she may become Wendigo too. That’s the curse, you see. One you eat human flesh, you get possessed by the Wendigo. Or not. The Indian didn’t have time to explain it too well, before he was axed to death. The subtlety with which the actress played the emotion could have either pre-Wendigo or the casual look of one actress to fellow actors announcing the murder of their respective agents. *yawn*
As the credits rolled I hopped onto my phone to look up who was responsible for this awful offal, and saw with chagrin it was indeed Fessenden and two writers, Drew McWeeny and Scott Swan. I was sure McWeeny was a made up name, like Alan Smithee for directors, but again, this is an actual person best known for working on Masters Of Horror (another hit or miss) disappointment. He’s also staff for the website AICN, which of course plugged this probably believing one of their own wouldn’t let them down.
I’ll say this, Doug Jones looked awesome and some of the shots were creepy enough to make me smile in a good way. If he looked familiar in that makeup, he played one of the Gentlemen in the Buffy The Vampire Slayer episode, “Hush“. He’s also excellent as the Faun and The Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth. Dude has some range as far as creepy creatures go. It’s a shame he got wrapped up in this. I won’t hold it against him.
I’ve seen complaints how this series could be better if the show was longer, but an hour is far too long for material as contrived as this. The writers or directors seem to feel the need to pad the story with information and exposition that ultimately has no bearing on the story. It wasn’t even interesting. Every episode seems to be like this. An idea isn’t a story, no matter how many details you throw at it.
What really disturbs me is how many comments there on various sites from people saying that this episode is the best ever. Really? I can understand not having similar interests and a difference of opinion, but has Horror as a genre sunk so low that stuff like this gets rave reviews? Don’t bother registering your complaint with NBC’s official Fear Itself comment section. There are so few negative comments, you’d miss them.
Maybe I’m just case-hardened and it takes something more that trite storytelling, a few buckets of blood, and someone’s pet passion. This show is going on hiatus until after the Olympics. If we’re lucky, something better will replace it in the line-up.
It’s inspiration to write, that’s for sure.