Fear Town, USA (2014) review

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“It’s a St. Blevin’s Day party. It’s when girls at at their horniest. With the possible exception of f#ck week.”

I recently watched Brandon Bassham’s 2015 comedy horror, The Slashening, and found it mostly hilarious, the jokes punctuated with some great kills that play off horror cliche. I expected Fear Town, USA, to be the rougher, less ambitious cousin to that film, given it was an earlier work. What a surprise, then, that Fear Town is not only more ambitious – there’s more characters, and more stories running concurrently – but also, in my opinion, funnier.

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The setup is, of course, typically threadbare – this is ostensibly a slasher, after all; there’s a party on a particular holiday, and thus, people must die. In Bassham’s words, “On St. Blevins Day (the most debauched of regional holidays), four boys looking to lose their virginity, a girl haunted by a dark secret, a lonely teenager, and an escaped mental patient all meet at a party in the woods. They were looking for fun but what they found… was TERROR!” So far, so slasher. What separates Fear Town from the bloody chaff is the focus on comedy, specifically of the sketch comedy style. There are a number of stories running parallel – there’s the over-educated Dungeons and Dragons virgins and their quest to get laid, the nerds who weren’t invited to the St. Blevin’s party, the cool kids who were (including a descendant of St. Blevin), the couple and the psychic and the devil himself and a bunch more I’m sure I’m forgetting.  Each of these stories plays out in sketches that develop until they eventually collide with other stories.

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While the film often proudly bares it’s limited budget in the dodgy lighting and obviously cheap cameras, what makes it work is the writing is sharp and frequently hilarious, and all the actors deliver. Everyone is really invested in their performances, and the comedic timing and chemistry is seriously top notch. There were times when the sketches reminded me of watching some of my favorite sketch comedy shows, it’s just that good. Shame about the filming, then.  While nothing looks terrible, the director and acting talent here deserves better cameras, more time, and better lighting. But, if that’s all sacrificed for the often-offensive, tasteless, hilarious, and clearly joyful comedic expression on display, I’ll take it.

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Don’t go into Fear Town, USA expecting to be scared. Expect an experience akin to watching SNL or Key and Peele or any number of other great sketch comedy shows when they’re delivering. While I’m not going to spoil it, the ending is truly one of the most awkward, over the top, flat- out tasteless that I’ve ever seen.

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Fear Town, USA is funny, creative, and comes highly recommended for the right audience – you know who you are.

8/10

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