16 March 2011 | Bloodwank
Interesting, low key and offbeat little thriller
Fear X proceeds on two levels that are of interest to me. The troubled Harry Caine searches for the killer of his wife but more importantly the reason for her death, the basic thrust of the film therefore is the penetration of a mystery. But at its core it's a film about obsession, about a man meticulously constructing meaning where there may be none, with methodology that may work on strict rationale but to the outside observer comes across as less than sane. I enjoy puzzles and obsessive minds, especially those that approach a task with rigour, so parts of Fear X were fascinating to me, Harry watching security tapes from the mall in which he works security (his wife was killed in the car park), Harry taking photograph screen captures from said tapes and using them for his wall of information (a wall that we never get too much of a look at) bits and pieces like this. The splashes of light upon the mystery are of interest as well, they come as odd and unheralded jolts rather than as part of a traditional unveiling, there's a sense of arbitrariness and lack of control that works rather well. As far as plotting goes this goes left-field even of the realms of gialli where whodunnit set ups were at times almost an irrelevance. Of course, none of this would work without a quality actor to anchor things and the film has John Tuturro as Harry, giving a fine performance. He grips with low key intensity, his face a rarely troubled mask that nonetheless seems to hide deep feeling, a terrific creepily convincing turn. Solid support comes from Stephen McIntyre, a quietly emotive Deborah Kara Unger and particularly noble but conflicted James Remar, buts its Tuturro's show all the way. It could almost be excellent as well, nicely winding its intrigue for just about the entire first two thirds before things start to go wrong. Essentially, everything ends up rather pat, I've read plenty of reviews claiming the end doesn't explain things well enough but really the problem is that the ending is partly too conventional and partly just not that well handled. I won't spoil details, but I craved something a bit more outlandish or oblique in the explanation department and the film switches from lightly sprinkled hallucinatory sequences that work well to a climatic colourful freak out that doesn't. This said, the ending still has nearly as much to appreciate as the rest of the film owing to the performances and particularly cinematography. Moody lighting and hot claustrophobia make for much tension, even if plot-wise things are slipping away. Still, overall I rather enjoyed this one and I suspect it will lend itself nicely to rewatches. Not so good if you don't enjoy using your imagination and require everything spelled out, but worth a watch for fans of the offbeat and low key.