Visually we are placed in the snowy mountainous regions, muted colours, and gentle lighting. We meet Ethan and Josh, amidst the snow creating a dream-like haze, they have a father and son lesson in defending themselves from the infected. The more interesting elements of the back-story start straight away where they reveal that the infected are attracted to heat. The infected themselves look understated but are very effective, with minimal make-up or special effects. This first scene results in the first series of events, Ethan gets bitten.
In between the main storyline they provide flashbacks of their lives before the virus took hold. The first flashback scene was one of my favourite scenes of the film. It set up Joe and Ethan’s relationship in an effective and clever way, which provided the initial empathy towards their current dynamic, which after Ethan is bitten is very distant and cold.
The way Tobias and Reisner built-up character development, ended up overshadowing the storyline of how the virus got out. Mostly because the long conversations seemed less important than the action sequences. Meanwhile also in combination with that, trying to foreshadow scenarios that just fell short and were too generic for a well-established genre.
The realism of this world works well and compliments the focus of the story, which is essentially the relationships between the family members. Josh, the son, is by far the most interesting character. He is quite optimistic and realistic when interacting with his parents, who tend to be sombre and corny at times.
This is interesting when Ethan and Joe are trying to teach Josh how to survive when they quite clearly have no idea what they are doing. Josh steps up to the responsibility when needed and is the unsung hero of the film. He even has his own bad-ass weapon, a slingshot. Which is surprisingly effective but again under-utilised. These elements made it feel like Josh is the one that needed redemption, but it is obvious that Ethan and Joe were meant to be the main focus.
F.E.A.R is more of a drama than an action-orientated horror which misses the story beats that could have elevated it to a great film. The overarching story got lost in character development which caused the ‘build and release’ scenarios to be less impactful. It is instead, a technically successful film with great visual appeal and brilliant acting. While it reminds me of a modern-day version of Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, it could have (but doesn’t) brought something new to the zombie genre.