Stars: Clancy Brown, Anne Heche, Rebekah Brandes, Ethan Peck, James Tupper, Jennifer Stone | Written by Jonathan W.C. Mills | Directed by Anthony Leonardi III
Nothing Left to Fear is the first terrific terror tale from Slasher Films (founded by Guns N’ Roses rock legend/horror nut Slash), directed by Gore Verbinski’s visionary protégé Anthony Leonardi III. The film stars James Tupper and Anne Heche as the new pastor and his wife who arrive in Stull, Kansas, with their three kids hoping for an idyllic country life. At first the town and its people look like being the answer to their prayers, but then the supposedly retiring pastor Clancy Brown puts into motion an ancient ritual that unleashes a demonic fury. For Stull is one of the seven gateways to Hell and its inhabitants must quell the Beast who rises to walk the Earth at all bloody costs.
Nothing Left to Fear has a lot in common with the recent horrors that preceded it, in particular the brand of genre film that has emerged from Blumhouse Productions such as Insidious, Sinister, Dark Skies, and The Purge – glossy, well-budgeted movies featuring a mix of actors old and new, that take familiar horror tropes and craft a new, and usually terrifying, genre tale. In the case of this film, Slasher Films and writer Jonathan W.C. Mills have, in essence, remade The Wicker Man for a modern US audience. An unofficial “remake” I should add, that is better than the actual official Nicolas Cage-starring remake! Yes, if you haven’t worked it out yet, we’re in “big city slickers meet small town hicks” religious cult territory here folks…
Whilst it abandons most of the urban legend which inspired it (the town of Stull is said to possess a gateway to Hell and the Devil haunts the Stull graveyard on Halloween to visit his lost love), which has also been referenced in the fantastic CW series Supernatural, Nothing Left to Fear does actually go a long way to create its own mythos based incredibly loosely around the original legend. There is a gateway in the town and their is the appearance of a supernatural entity – only this evil being possesses one of the pastors children, Mary, as the other, Rebecca, has visions of town folk possessed by a strange black tar-like fluid.
The tar-like “evil spirit” is particularly effective and the scenes in which it pours forth the faces of the possessed are quite spooky (see image above) that, along with Mary’s change into the embodiment of evil, are enough to keep audiences captivated even when the script descends into stupidity. And descend it does. The final third as Rebecca and her newfound love interest, Noah, merrily abandon Rebecca’s younger brother and drive off, Rebecca and her younger brother abandon Noah and drive off, etc etc ad infinitum… It’s a complete waste of all the effort the filmmakers had put into the slow burning story. Yes the pace hots up but sadly logic is thrown out the window!
But for the most part Nothing Left to Fear is a great fear flick with some great performances – of course it goes without saying (although I’m saying it now) Clancy Brown steals the show as the former pastor with something to hide, whilst Rebekah Brandes, who horror fans may recognise from Midnight Movie, does a cracking job as the haunted Rebecca – and her final scene is remarkably chilling. Mention must also go to the score by Nicholas O’Toole and producer/guitarist Slash which really complements director Anthony Leonardi III haunting visuals.
In the end you have to respect Nothing Left to Fear for trying something different to the current horror status quo of jump scares and/or over the top gore. Opting for a slow, methodically paced film (with a handful of well timed scare-spots) works very well, as do the effects, its just a shame the story and script can’t keep up for the entire of the films running time…