Fear No Evil

Director: Frank LaLoggia
Stefan Arngrim, Elizabeth Hoffman, Kathleen Rowe McAllen

While I was growing up, I was jealous at the freedom and knowledge that seemingly all adults around me had. You can bet that whenever I had a chance to get a lesson from an adult as to what they knew that made them able to have the power that they had, I would be listening very carefully. Certainly, what I learned from them helped me today to be as smart and independent as they were all those years ago. But I have to admit that some of what I got from them not only didn't make sense to me at the time, it still doesn't make all that sense to me today. One of those things that puzzles me to this very day was their opinion of teenager life. From more than one adult, I heard that the teen years were supposedly the greatest years of a person's life. Really? Back then, and looking back as an adult on my younger years, it certainly seemed at times that there were nothing but problems for a teenager, at least in my case. Most of these problems surrounded where I spent most of my time, in high school. Among other things, there were rotten teachers who didn't give a darn if they humiliated students, and there were bullies who would mock non-conformists like me. Stuff like that was bad enough for me at the time, but looking at today, I see that teenagers in many ways have it a lot worse in school than what I experienced. Bullying has now gotten much worse than mere name-calling, but with cyber-bullying. Violence has increased in schools as well, with many schools needing security guards and metal detectors. And while all of that is happening, you need to get better grades than ever if you want to go to college after high school.

Some might say that school today is a kind of hell on earth. Though from what I have picked up from the Bible and various religious writers over the years, the real hell, if it does exist, has to be a lot worse than high school. Not wanting to experience a worse hell than high school, I have thought long and hard about hell and how to possibly avoid it. After so much thought on the subject, though, I have to conclude that the supposed claims of hell and its occupants don't make a lot of sense. For example, take the boss of hell, Satan. It is claimed that he was a former angel named Lucifer who tried to take over heaven with his angel friends, but was defeated by God and banished to hell. Why would God make angels that would rebel against him in the first place? Then there is the environment that Satan and his demons have made, hell. They have made hell into, well, a hellish environment, a place where they torment those who haven't followed the word of God. Common sense dictates that Satan would get a lot more people to follow him if he made hell into a nice place. I would certainly like to have followers who adored me instead of fearing and hating me. But despite this logic, Satan all the same is out there scheming against mankind. Which brings up another question: Why is he bothering to do so? He has to have read the Bible, God's word, and from the Bible he should know that God has promised that Satan will be put away by God not long after the Rapture. So with this in mind, why is Satan all the same determined to fulfil his futile plans to destroy mankind?

Despite all these thoughts, I have to admit that I can't totally dismiss the theory that there is a hell and Satan... but I do think that if there is a hell and Satan, it has to follow a logic that is not in the Bible. Anyway, whether or not you are a believer, you have to admit that the subject matter Fear No Evilof demonic forces can make the subject for some interesting movies. That's one reason why Fear No Evil interested me when I stumbled upon a copy of it, but I was also interested in it because its characters were mainly teenagers in a high school environment.  There aren't a terrible amount of movies involving teenagers battling Satan and his cronies. And most high school set horror movies have been slashers, so the demonic theme gave the movie a little freshness. Fear No Evil starts several decades in the past, where we learn that Lucifer himself has been trying for some time to bring the End Of Days upon mankind. Eventually, he uses his powers from beyond to influence the birth of a baby named Andrew. Eighteen years later, Andrew (now played by Stefan Arngrim of the TV series Land Of The Giants) has grown to be a senior in his local high school with a straight-A average, but is feared by his parents and thought of to be somewhat of a freak by his classmates. There's a reason for both points of view - all these people don't know that Lucifer has used his powers to make Andrew the Antichrist - and Andrew eventually starts using his powers to bring various horrific ends to those he feels have wronged him in some way or another. But as the body count rises and Andrew starts getting closer to fully claiming his destiny, Margaret (Elizabeth Hoffman, Sisters) an angel in human form that knows all about Andrew, joins up with Andrew's classmate Julie (played by Kathleen Rowe McAllen), another angel in human form, to attempt to stop Andrew.

As I was preparing to sit down to watch Fear No Evil, with pre-viewing knowledge of what the basic plot and characters of the film were from the back of the DVD case and from film books in my personal library, I felt that the movie had a somewhat formidable challenge ahead of it. It not only concerned someone who was the Antichrist - and portraying someone convincingly as being pure evil is always a great challenge to pull off - but that this particular Antichrist was in the guise of a teenager, which does seem a little silly when you think about it a little. All the same, I gave the movie a chance to prove itself with its antagonist, though I was quite let down even before the movie got to the inevitable apocalyptic climax. I will say that actor Arngrim does give his character a little creepiness during the movie's quieter moments with his mysterious brooding and occasional strange smile. But while there's evidence like this that Arngrim is trying, his efforts are ultimately defeated by the fact that his Antichrist character is poorly written. The movie can't make up its mind with defining this character's powers or personality. When we first meet the eighteen year-old Andrew, we quickly learn that his parents fear him, asking him, "Who are you?" at one point. This would seem to suggest that Andrew is fully in control of his powers and his ultimate plans. But on the other hand, there are some scenes that strongly suggest that Andrew does not have full control of his powers or destiny, such as in the scene taking place in the high school gym shower room, or a later scene taking place during a dodge ball game. There are other inconsistencies, like how this Antichrist occasionally shows kindness to someone when he doesn't have to. This character more or less changes from scene to scene, and because of this I didn't know what to make of him. I certainly wasn't scared or creeped out by him, because he just seemed to do whatever the script dictated at the time.

But it's not just the character of Andrew in Fear No Evil that is poorly written, but the other characters in the movie. You might think that Andrew's parents would play some big role in the movie, but as it turns out, the movie quickly runs out of things for them to do, and forgets about them for a long time before bringing them back for a couple of quick back-to-back scenes that fail to satisfy the audience's desire to know their fate. The character of Julie is also quite poorly written, the main fault with this character being that she has so little screen time in the first half of the movie, it becomes a real abrupt surprise when this character is recruited out of the blue by Margaret. Speaking of Margaret, a considerable amount of time is spent with this angel in human form who has an idea of what's going on, and while actress Hoffman also gives a valiant effort, her efforts are for nothing as well. Scene after scene goes by with this character making no real progress in tracking down Andrew or her angel friends, so much so that this character becomes both annoying and boring to view. In fact, "boring" is the appropriate word to describe much of Fear No Evil. If I hadn't done pre-viewing research on the movie before watching it, I would have been at a loss to describe what was going on by the time the movie reached the first half hour of its running time. The movie makes its first stumble in the first minute of the movie, with narration that's supposed to set everything up but instead is next to incomprehensible. After that inauspicious opening, the movie moves at a very slow pace with almost nothing for a long time to clue the audience as to what is brewing, or even to mildly entertain us with a brief aside.

I said "almost nothing", because along the way there are some horror sequences. At least writer and director Frank LaLoggia (Lady In White) didn't forget to do that. But the horror sequences that do happen in the movie are far from satisfying. Some of the horror sequences seem really out of place. While the majority of the movie is treated with dead seriousness, there are some goofy touches of horror, like with one victim killed by a ball during that aforementioned dodge ball sequence, or when one male teen suddenly grows a pair of female breasts. Most of the other horror sequences are thankfully not that silly, but they suffer from the fact that they come across as... ordinary. You might think that a dozen or so zombies rising from the dead would be creepy, but for some reason this scene had a "been there, done that" kind of feeling. The same feeling can be found in the other horror moments, even during the climactic bout with the Antichrist himself. The best I can say for LaLoggia's attempts to put horror into the movie is with the movie's backdrop. There is a little atmosphere generated with some well chosen locations, particularly the scenes shot at Boldt Castle in the state of New York. This location, plus several others in the movie, are also expertly lit and photographed, especially during night sequences, and as a result the backdrops become atmospheric and eye catching. But eye candy only goes so far in a horror movie, and after removing that, what we are left with is a slow and boring story with thin characters we don't care about one way or another. I fear that there is no evil to be found in Fear No Evil.

(Posted November 1, 2018)

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See also: The Devil's Rain, Route 666, Slaughter High