13th Sep2019

‘Urban Fears’ Review

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Shawn C. Phillips, Nicholas Michael Jacobs, Alexis Beacher, Gianna Jacobs, Christian Jacobs, Brian Jacobs, Jayla Jacobs, Erisa Pikuli | Written and Directed by Nicholas Michael Jacobs

urban-fears-poster

Urban Fears is a horror anthology film from director Nicholas Michael Jacobs (Night), and gives us three stories that are tied together by a prologue and epilogue. The anthology has these links that keep it all similarly toned and gives it a flow, which I do like, and it’s something I get a kick out of when it comes to anthology films.

So, Urban Fears is a micro-budget flick, and the stories we witness are different enough to be interesting but have these little things that lock them together, like I mentioned. Jacob didn’t do a bad job with this concept, and it’s the strongest idea that Urban Fears has going for it. It’s suburban horror, and promoted as such, bringing stories based in areas that are familiar to us all. Should work then, really. There’s nothing scarier in horror, much of the time, than something that you imagine yourself in the middle of.

After the short prologue, we get the first of the segments which features a dude named James who breaks into an apartment building, alone, and finds himself terrorised by a masked man. It’s not a bad concept for an opening segment, but you can immediately see the budget issues come into play. The performances, from the get-go, are what I expected too. They’re amateurish and mumbly, and, much-like the film itself, suffer from a lack of polish or shine. One of the opening scenes, with James rifling through items he wants to steal, is actually difficult to watch. It resembles a YouTube video from ten years ago where the vlogger has only just started using their camera. It’s a first-person perspective element and it’s done pretty badly, to the point where my issues with it stood out to me a lot. I also struggled to even understand what James, played by Brian Jacobs, was even saying half the time. With a repetitive score overlapping the low-volume dialogue, this first segment fell flat for me completely. With the simple idea, this could have been decent enough, but it wasn’t executed well at all. Not a good start.

The second of the segments see’s Alexis Beacher’s character, Annie, looking after a house and she becomes curious about what’s in the basement after being told not to go down there. It isn’t long before she finds herself running away from a murderous doll. This was better than the first segment, with Beacher’s performance easier to understand. I’m a fan of killer-doll films, and while conceptually, again, this was alright, it wasn’t the most entertaining or well-done thing. The scenes of violence and gore were tepid and flat, shot without much thought. This could, for sure, have been the shining beacon of hope in Urban Fears, but sadly just happened.

The third segment introduces us to Max, the boyfriend of Annie, the character from segment-two, who finds a chain email (that appears in the films prologue) and is terrorised by the ghostly apparition of Violet (Gianna Jacobs), a girl who was killed in a car accident involving texting. This segment see’s us finally meet Shawn Phillips’s character Ted Morris, who has had an overlapping story in which he speaks to the characters in each segment over the phone. He’s a character with mysterious motives. The performance from Phillips is the best in the film, though it is, at times, pretty damn wooden. Really, though, it’s the poorly written dialogue that pulls Phillips’ performance, and the performances of most of the other actors, down. It tends to feel like the lines are being read from the paper script and seldom feels organic, and for a movie that only lasts 70 minutes, it managed to drag. A shame, really, because I expected to get more enjoyment out of this than I ended up getting. The epilogue to Urban Fears see’s a climax of terror (or at attempt at one) with the villains from each segment battling it out against one another.

Urban Fears does have a very small budget going for it, but I’m not unfamiliar with no-budget or low-budget horror, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed many in my time. This, though, didn’t do anything for me. There were some ideas here that, while on the elementary side, could have worked it the performances were better, the dialogue was spoken clearer, the gore was a little better, the musical score wasn’t so brash and the camera work had been better. It may seem like I’m being harsh, and I suppose I am a little bit. I love an anthology film and I’m a horror nut, but I found very little to enjoy with this movie. I’ve seen Shawn Phillips in a whole bunch of low-budget US horror titles now, he pops up plenty of times in the genre, and he doesn’t seem to show improvement as an actor, making it a rough job to dig a film where he has more than a fleeting part. Still, I hope director Jacobs grows from here and continues to create, because that’s a great thing, and while this wasn’t for me, it doesn’t mean another low-budget horror fan won’t find something to like about it.

* 1/5

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