This is a strange and compelling film. The director, Charlie Lyne, has selected clips from horror films from the last 100 years and put them together with a female voice over (Amy E Watson) in order to explore the nature of the fear we experience through cinema.
The chosen clips don’t give us the iconic dramatic scenes we might perhaps expect, but concentrate instead on the moments before the shock is revealed, when the tension is building. The narrator – we don’t get to know her name – wants to pinpoint exactly when and how the anxiety beings to take hold.
She has suffered a traumatic accident, and says she feels lost. When she can’t sleep, which is often, she spends her time watching horror films, and she feels manipulated because she can’t help responding exactly as the film-maker intends. Although she feels that constant exposure to such films should inure her to their effects, this doesn’t happen – she can’t anticipate when the fear will strike.
It starts with “a barely perceptible signal that all is not right with the world”.
” A flicker in the distance, or a whisper through the trees – these things tell us barely anything, but they count for a lot when you don’t have much to go on. They make you wonder what else is out there, just beyond your grasp, by giving you just enough sound to hear the silence, and just enough light to realise how dark it really is. I mean, silence and darkness – they’re just names for the times when our eyes and ears let us down. If I look out into the night and can’t see anything, it doesn’t mean there’s nothing there, just nothing you can make out.”
If that’s not a very precise – and very creepy – description of how an uncanny experience might begin to make itself felt, I don’t know what is!
Fear Itself was released on 18 October 2015, exclusively on BBC iPlayer. It’s only available there for 9 months, so catch it while you can.