Fear (2023) tries its hand at the long-established trope of fear being psychologically exploited in horror films. There is nothing that is unique about the film and its use of horror tropes. However, given its axial fear stemming from a pandemic, the film can be considered a tawdry specimen of a cluster of films that might be grouped under the larger headline of the ‘COVID-19 Horror’.

*Spoiler alert*

Fear (2023) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:

The film opens with a TV interview with the best-selling author Rom Jennings. Rom, still basking in the success of his previous work, hints at the work he currently has in his pipeline. Mythology in America, with its ground set in fear, is his research focus. Rom says his interest lies in a particular place in Northern California that permeates fear, perhaps anticipating his weekend destination. The next we know, Rom is off to a remote place surrounded by forest with his girlfriend, Bianca.

The radio in the car is tuned to a local news channel that starts giving out the recent developments of a case concerning a missing girl named Angel. Angel went missing from the Tahoe area, the area where the couple is headed.

The mention of the COVID-19 pandemic, although not direct, is implicative enough. Rom and Bianca have got out of the house after a long time. Rom blindfolds Bianca and drives her to a lodge named Strawberry Lodge for a surprise. He takes her out of the car and reaches out to his pocket for something, perhaps a ring. However, he fails to conjure up enough courage to propose. Bianca gets surprised by her friends instead, who have already driven down to the lodge for her birthday.

Once inside the lodge, Russ and Lou, Rom’s friends, give him an earful for not going forward with the proposal. The group is visited by Miss Winrich, who welcomes them following a traditional photo session. She also offers them a bottle of wine before leaving the keys to the entire lodge with them for the weekend.

At night, the group gathers around the fire in the forest, and Rom starts narrating the history of Strawberry, California. The California Gold Rush brought in many belligerent miners who ransacked the native villages. The miners held the women of the villages captive. The women made a pact that resulted in the formation of ‘Las Brujas.’ They aimed to target the minds of the miners and debilitate them by playing on their fears and making them hallucinate. The miners, under the spell of fear, would take their own lives.

Soon the session on American history changes its course to the exchanging of the personal fears of the group members. From claustrophobia to losing one’s faith, fear of every capacity makes itself heard. Abnormal events, too, start becoming too apparent. For instance, Rom’s nose starts bleeding, Michael finds himself coming back to the same point in the corridor, and the wine gifted by Miss Winrich tastes distinctly disgusting.

How does the group get trapped?

The first night is enormously uncomfortable for Bianca and the rest, who see and hear strange things around them. What adds more to the discomfort is the feeling of getting trapped in the lodge indefinitely. A TV report claims that a new virus strain, airborne in nature and much deadlier, is the cause of concern for scientists. The CDC news reiterates the deadly nature of the virus and stresses the consequences of exposure to outside. What is more interesting is the way the newsreader creates paranoia by plainly stating that all of the viewers are definitely in contact with someone who is infected. The news reporter reads hallucination as one of the symptoms of this new virus.

This leads to everyone, except Rom, suspecting that Lou might be the one who is infected. Tension starts escalating over the health of Lou, and others, perceiving him as a threat, suggest he be shown the doors of the lodge to make an exit. Amidst the fight, Kim decides to leave as she is worried about her son. In between all this, Bianca reveals to the other girls that she is pregnant.

How does the group deal with Lou?

Fear 2023
A still from Fear (2023)

Michael, Russ, and Benny are out to explore the lodge when they find a room in the basement with no ventilation. They decide to lock Lou in the room and get him food and water from time to time. They plan to bring Lou to the basement by duping him into believing that Rom has hurt himself while moving things in the basement. When Lou starts climbing down the stairs of the basement, the three hold him tight and push him to the room. However, Lou plunges a knife into Russ’ shoulders.

Rom finds out what the three have done to Lou. He shouts at them for their behavior. Meanwhile, Lou is surrounded by a voice that whispers that his friends do not trust him. The voice finally forces Lou to take up a knife and slit through his own throat. Michael leads Rom to the basement, where Lou is locked. But when they open the room, they find that Lou has taken his life.

How do others in the group die?

One by one, the friends start becoming victims of a ghostly entity that plays on their own fears. In his room, Benny shovels through information on the internet to find the history of Strawberry Lodge. Bianca tries to establish contact with the others outside Strawberry, but the poor network does not permit it. Meg, while cleaning up Russ’ wound, goes to the bathroom and finds her own reflection staring back at her. The ghost reminds her of her past trauma pertaining to the fear of water.

For Meg, this ends horribly as she dies by drowning in the bathtub. Russ, on the other hand, is horrified at the sight of the bloody wound. Mike arrives and sees Russ pointing him towards the witch hanging in the ceiling, which only Russ can see. The witch breaks Russ’ neck, and he dies. The witch then grabs Mike. Mike gets the impression that he is trapped in an undefined time and space when he is actually in the bathroom hallucinating. He bangs his head against the basin and dies.

Fear (2023) Movie Ending Explained:

Was the news of the virus false?

Rom explains to Bianca that the witches are using the fears of everyone and killing them. They plan to leave, and Benny and Serena join them. A painting that is frequently observed by more or less everyone in the group gives strange signals. Benny mentions the presence of “41:9 Nolite Timere” written on the painting. Bianca reveals that it is actually the Latin for “Do not be afraid.” It references chapter 41, verse 9 of the Book of Isaiah. Rom asks everyone to keep calm as everything around them is nothing more than manifestations of their fear that has little to do with the real world.

However, only Bianca manages to get out alive as the witches completely take possession of Serena and Benny. Benny, in a trance, even kills Rom. Rom, fully aware that he will not be able to escape this lodge, asks Bianca to beat the invincible powers of the witches mentally and run away from the lodge. The witches try hard to hold her captive through her fear, but Bianca manages to escape as she reiterates the verse. She runs and finds herself back amongst the civilization. She also receives Kim’s messages where Kim had written that the news of the virus being airborne was entirely false.

Read More: The 10 Best Horror Movies of 2022

Trailer:

Fear (2023) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia
Fear (2023) Movie Cast: Joseph Sikora, Andrew Bachelor, Annie Ilonzeh, Ruby Modine, Iddo Goldberg, Terrence Jenkins, Jessica Allain, Tip “T.I.” Harris
Fear (2023) Movie Genre:  Horror/Mystery & thriller, Runtime: 1h 25m
Where to watch Fear

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