Monday, November 30, 2020

The Only Thing to Fear Is Midwest America


Yes, I'm still that person who gets physical DVDs from Netflix. My queue is over 200 movies and counting, made up mostly of random cult films or the kind that are not nearly cool enough to make it past any millennial programming the streaming choices on digital platforms. 

The problem with a queue amassed over 10 years is that sometimes, a disk will show up in the mail that I have no memory of adding. Such is the case with today's straight-to-DVD horror flick, a film notable only, as far as I can see, for being produced and having its music done by Slash.

Then again, it does star one of my ultimate film crushes...

Quick Plot: Pastor Dan is moving his wife and three kids to Stull, a rural Kansas town where he has been appointed to take over minister duties being vacated by Pastor Kingsman, played by the always perfect Clancy Brown. The townspeople are excited to welcome a new family, helping them unload their moving truck and baking a gloriously decorative cake for their enjoyment. 

Eldest teen daughter Becca begins a quick flirtation with local farmboy orphan Noah, while middle child Mary decides to have herself a slice while her folks are unpacking, only to discover she's bitten right into a mysteriously marked giant tooth. Noah dismisses it as a product of the nonagenarian baker, but clearly, there's more to the icing.

As Noah and Becca continue their romance, the family heads to the town's summer festival, where Mary becomes mysteriously ill from some spiked lemonade and awakens to discover herself tied up to be a sacrifice to the devil. 

Being the new kid in town is a tough gig.

Turns out, Stull, KA, has a long tradition of turning their new citizens into portals for Satan. Mary becomes a vessel for a veiny CGI demon who slaughters anyone not protected by some biblical Stull rituals.
Like I said: I know nothing about Nothing Left to Fear regarding why I ever found it interesting enough to order in DVD format. It's the sole directing credit of Anthony Leonardi III, who primarily works as a storyboard artist on a grander scale with Game of Thrones and some big budget films. The Kansas setting is a little more interesting to look at than most of this genre's backgrounds, but there's not quite enough done with change in scenery to really make much of it as a backdrop. 

No, I likely added this movie because of my love for Clancy Brown.
Here's the thing about Brown: like my other character actor crush of the same generation who never gets enough respect, he might choose less-than-stellar projects, but he is never, and I really do mean never, not amazing in them. Like Michael Ironside, Clancy Brown gives his work his all, even if the material doesn't necessarily warrant it. 

Overall, Nothing Left to Fear is fine. Its loose Shirley Jackson's The Lottery vibes could have been used to much more interesting effect, but it does tell a fairly fresh story in a genre that so often feels stale. You could certainly do worse, but considering some of this film's strong elements--an attractively sprawling setting, twists on traditional religious horror concepts, Slash scoring, and, you know, Clancy Brown--it just also feels like this movie should have been more memorable. 

High Points
I love a well-done circular ending, and Nothing Left to Fear makes good use of that here

Low Points
Hey, I know a limited budget when I see one (even if it could afford Anne Heche is a fairly wasted role), but in 2013, cheap CGI didn't have to look this much like cheap CGI

Lessons Learned
Nothing turns a preacher's daughter on faster than sheep's blood

First dates are always better when done montage style

There are reasons people don't up and move their family to small towns in Kansas, and perhaps you should consider them before up and moving your family to a small town in Kansas

Well, I had to rent Nothing Left to Fear on DVD for SOME reason I'll never remember in my past, but unless you're a mark for rural or religion-based horror relying on CGI, it's probably not worth hunting down. Should it pop into a streaming site I'd recommend giving it your eyeballs with measured expectations.


  1. Your commitment not just to this blog but to the horror genre overall is truly amazing -- renting DVD's online in 2020? Unheard of! Very cool. My hat is off. How long do you have before you have to return it? Do you still have to actually return it? It seems like it would save them money to have you cover the cost of throwing the DVD out since likely no one else will ever rent it from them. This is all so fascinating.

    1. Ha! Netflix DVD system still works the exact same way it did 10 years ago. They send you the disc, you hold onto it as long as you want (though you're paying $8 a month, so you want to try to milk that), then drop it back into a mail slot. The classics still work!

  2. Bless your heart! You aren't the only one out there with a multi-hundred DVD rental list. At least half of mine is on the Saved List; otherwise known as where DVD requests go to die. I have a list of ~20 obscure movies that I check with the streamers every month (sometimes they do slip in for limited times, on Amazon Prime in particular). I am currently waiting impatiently for The Vampire (with English subtitles) DVD; it has a very long wait label, so I hope no one decided to keep it.

    1. Same! My Saved queue will one day be bigger than my actual queue. Amazon Prime does indeed prove to be the occasional dumping ground, mostly because they seem to not have the same standards when it comes to good prints! If you have a good library near you, that's the other saving grace. They can hold onto out of print films for as long as they want!

    2. I'm dying to know so this question is for both of you: why do you still rent DVD's? Can't you find these flicks on youtube or pirate them off a torrent site? Or do you love DVD's like a lot of people love vinyl records, is the look and feel of the medium that you enjoy?

      I personally still adore the quality of VHS movies. That is my version of a vinyl record, big time. So warm, grainy, nostalgic. Even horror flicks I don't love are suddenly watchable when they have those familiar analog imperfections and tracking lines.

    3. I did a lot of torrenting in my younger days (especially when I lived abroad), but I don't like to do it now. I want to watch movies on my big TV, and I don't have a great laptop-to-TV-screen system that would let me do that with anything not available through a real streaming site.

      My Netflix queue is entirely movies that are not readily streaming. A lot of that is older or more obscure stuff that's never found a streaming home, then there are the random '90s comedy or new film that's only readily available by rental. The $8 a month for renting what usually turns out to be 6 movies feels like it makes more sense than the constant $2-4 to rent something as a stream.