Eye For Film >> Movies >> Be Afraid (2017) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
I've written before, at Eye For Film, about the perils of moving house in a horror film - especially when the new place is old, rambling, and has been empty for some time. The Chambers family are not the kind of people to heed such warnings, however. Not only do they move house, but they move to a small town where the locals act suspiciously, they move into the vicinity of a big dark abandoned tunnel, they have a baby on the way, and when they start to experience weird dreams they quickly dismiss them. Perhaps they simply have a high fear threshhold, one might say, but Heather (Jaimi Paige) gets nervous at the thought of their little boy playing in the woods at all, and the John (Brian Krause) panics when he sees said boy being spoken to by a black man.
Curiously uptight and paranoid in a way not adequately explained by their one apparent source of stress, Heather's history of miscarriage, the family are initially difficult to like, but Michael Leone's very natural performance as the boy goes some way to humanising them, and when Jared Abrahamson turns up as John's teenage son Ben, who has dropped out of college, his nattural chemistry with Krause helps provide a way in for the audience. All the actors are invested in their roles and there are great supporting turns from Michelle Hurd and the always reliable Louis Herthum. Though not exactly friendly, the local people make room for the newcomers and it doesn't take Ben long to attract the interest of local girl Nikki (Noell Coet). But Ben and his father have something in common with some of the townspeople - they see dead people, and something else besides.
Be Afraid is billed as a film about sleep paralysis, a frequently terrifying experience thought to affect around 8% of the population, but there are only a few brief scenes featuring this and they don't make much of it - in one case the sufferer interprets the approach of a threatening creature as a dream, and in another the victim doesn't really seem aware of what's happening at all. This feels like a missed opportunity, especially as what develops is otherwise quite a run of the mill plot, but the film is much better than this makes it sound. The sound work is impressive and combines with judicious editing to create tension. Although we ultimately see too much of the creatures at the heart of the story and they look like rubbery Doctor Who monsters, early scenes in which we glimpse them only partially are much stronger, creating a proper sense of dread.
The solid performances and good technical work combine to raise this film above similar genre fare. It's a shame that it has nothing more original to say, but it's strong on atmosphere and the tropes it employs are audience favourites for a reason. Whilst it would have been nice to see it focus more on characters, where it's strong, instead of trying to pack in as much horror plot as possible, it's impressive for a first cinematic feature and greater, overall, than the sum of its parts.Reviewed on: 31 May 2017