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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this horror anthology series delivers a big dose of gore. Many of the episodes are directed by well-known horror filmmakers, who translate to TV the violence and sadism that's so prevalent in the genre. The explicit carnage is toned down for the small screen, but only a bit, and many scenes seem to push the envelope of network standards. It's definitely too intense for kids -- or anyone else who doesn't have a taste for the extreme violence that's common in modern horror movies.
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What's the story?
Are vampires real? Or ghosts? What about other undead creatures? According to FEAR ITSELF -- an anthology series that features the writing and directing talents of some of today's top horror filmmakers -- the answer is a resounding yes. These self-contained, one-hour stories generally center on seemingly ordinary people thrust into terrifying situations, with a dash of the supernatural and a double dose of gore, and usually end with a Twilight Zone-style twist. In one episode, for example, four men must spend the night in an old fort, where they uncover a terrifying secret. In another, a private detective visits a haunted house. You get the idea.
Is it any good?
Don't expect anything as entertaining as The Twilight Zone, which depended on clever writing to create thought-provoking situations before delivering twists that hardly anybody ever saw coming. Fear Itself isn't as clever, and it's not at all subtle. The contributing directors -- including John Landis, Darren Bousman of the Saw series, and Re-Animator helmer Stuart Gordon -- rely on violence, gore, and sadism to keep viewers' attention. Though they have to turn the gruesome dial down several notches to make the jump to network television, there's still plenty of disturbing imagery.
Many modern horror films seem engaged in a graphic-violence arms race; how many new ways can you find to dismember a victim? While filmmakers once tried to gradually create terrifying situations that built to a climax, now it seems there's little need to explain why the villains need to torture and murder their victims. The fear now stems from the seemingly random nature of the acts -- anyone, at any time, might stumble into the wrong place, where they'll be beaten, battered, and bludgeoned beyond death. Fans of that kind of horror movie will enjoy Fear Itself, but anyone who has trouble appreciating the current state of the genre (and there are many) will find little to like about this series.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about horror films. How has the genre changed over the years? Films like Dracula and The Werewolf, which terrified audiences decades ago, seem quaint and amusing to today's audiences, while the graphic, sadistic violence that's common now would have been unthinkable in the past. Do you think this evolution was inevitable? Have today's filmmakers gone too far? If not, where can they go next? How much do you think the directors who worked on this series changed their style and content for TV? Why are TV standards different than movies?