Thursday, 19 September 2013



The most interesting thing about this 1980 Canadian thriller isn't how uninteresting it is: dull, bland, lifeless, bloodless and slow in the way that a film called Phobia really shouldn't be. Nor is the most interesting thing about it the fact that the big plot twist is given away in the poster tagline, a marketing facepalm the equivalent of crediting an actor as "The Murderer" at the start of an Agatha Christie adaptation. Nope: the most fascinating thing is that it plays like one of those countless TV-movies of the era yet it was directed by no less than John Huston! In terms of film/director mismatch it's like finding out that the DFS Winter Sale commercials were made by Terrence Malick.

Even on the level of a Sunday night potboiler, though, Phobia is absolutely terrible and while there may be a decent little thriller to be made about a murderer on the loose in a phobia therapy group, this certainly isn't it. One of the patients is afraid snakes, one of crowds, one of heights, and Doctor Paul Michael Glaser's technique basically consists of forcing them to confront their demons head-on, handling snakes, going out in public, watching films of high-rise buildings and so on. But then a bomb goes off in his apartment, killing one of his patients. Who's out to get him?

With the exception of one hugely problematic sequence in which Glaser forces a woman who's scared of being touched to watch prettily photographed film of a gang rape, Phobia is a tedious flatliner of a film: the murder scenes are discreet and very brief, and the eventual resolution of the killer's identity and rationale is thin to say the least. Everything about the film lacks impact or ooomph, it isn't even interesting to look at and there's no intellectual content to be had. Remember, this is a John Huston film and very probably the worst thing he ever did. It's bizarre that in the field of tatty psychopath thrillers from the early 1980s, a film by John Huston falls near the bottom of the list and is soundly thrashed by films as dodgy as Don't Go In The House, Happy Birthday To Me, Bloody Moon and Maniac. Small wonder it's fallen through the distribution cracks and there's no DVD available.


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