Tuesday, October 10, 2017

1980 Week: Phobia

Often cited as the worst movie John Huston ever made, Phobia isn’t one of those failed pictures that viewers can enjoy ironically, marveling at logic bumps and technical errors. Instead, it’s excruciatingly boring. The concept for this would-be shocker is simple. When his patients start dying in horrible ways that are related to their phobias, police identify Dr. Peter Ross (Paul Michael Glaser) as a suspect, then discover he’s involved with a daring experiment in immersion therapy. Using images and sounds projected on theater-style equipment, as well as props and real-life situations, Dr. Ross forces patients to face their fears. As in, he makes a woman who’s afraid of being molested watch gang-rape scenes, he makes a dude who’s fearful of snakes handle a giant snake, and so on. Phobia is so lazy and stupid in its conception that it’s as if the filmmakers either forgot or simply neglected to create any mystery or suspense, because the truth of what’s happening is evident from the very first scenes. Every creative decision compounds the problem. Huston’s camerawork, often a hallmark of his skillful approach, fails the project completely, because he clearly elected to shoot the minimum amount of coverage for every scene, the better to wrap production days early and move on to more interesting activities. The picture cuts together, but there’s no life in the editing, suggesting there weren’t any options for generating vitality. And speaking of vitality, that’s exactly what Glaser, best known as the costar of TV’s Starsky & Hutch, lacks here. He’s so lethargic it seems like Huston never bothered to tell Glaser when the camera started running.

Phobia: LAME

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