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Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Review: Phobias

Director: Camilla Belle, Maritte Lee Go, Joe Sill, Jess Varley, and Chis von Hoffman

Screenplay: Camilla Belle, Broderick Engelhard, Maritte Lee Go, Joe Sill, Jess Varley, and Chis von Hoffman

Year: 2021

"Phobias" is a horror anthology composed of five short films, each one based on a different phobia. Robophobia, vehophobia, ephebiphobia, hoplophobia, and atelophobia are the short films’ topics, each directed by a different director.

Robophobia is the first short film, directed by Joe Sill (“Stray”), which functions as a conducting thread for the rest. This short film explores the fear of artificial intelligence, where we see a coder who is constantly being bullied by a group of men who accuse him of being one of the ones responsible for them losing their jobs at the hands of the computers. However, with technology in his hands, the coder manages to retaliate. 

After getting his revenge, the coder is taken to what seems to be a psychiatric ward, but it is really a facility where a scientist studies phobias, and he is looking for a way to weaponize fear. Through the rest of the patients’ stories, we have access to the rest of the short films, each one based on the phobia that terrorizes each patient.

The following short films explore the fear of driving, fear of teenagers, fear of weapons, and the fear of not being enough. Instead of exploring the phobias themselves, each short shows the situations that triggered the patients’ phobias, or at least in some of them. In other short films, instead of exploring the phobia or what triggers it on the patient, it just shows a situation related to the topic, but nothing that can be considered a phobia in its definitions. This is particularly striking in the first and last story, where it never seems like the situation causes the protagonist any sort of paralyzing fear, as one would expect.

In general, the stories are interesting and create enough tension, with the short focusing on hoplophobia (fear of weapons) as the outstanding one, and the one that more closely resembles what a phobia is, although it also falls far from achieving it. The acting is fairly good in all, and the fact different directors direct them all gives each a fresh perspective.

“Phobias” is a horror anthology based on phobias, but it never manages to portray them convincingly. Instead of focusing on the phobia, it does so on the event that triggered the condition but doesn’t go beyond that. Mildly entertaining for those who enjoy thrillers and topics concerning psychological illnesses, but nothing special.

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