The found footage horror sub-genre has been very popular among independent filmmakers in recent years, and it's easy to see why. Found footage movies can be done at very little cost, and lighting problems, fuzzy sound and low quality video only add to the verisimilitude. Popular entries, like the progenitor The Blair Witch Project and its successors such as the V/H/S films hold out the hope that a plucky young production team could turn out a hit. Most of the recent examples are lackluster, and Fear Not, though it is competent and fairly well crafted, is in the good but not great category. And while there is traditionally shot movie footage here, at least half is of the hand held, first person variety, so it fits nicely into the category.
Jason Petal (Aaron Perilo) is a fervent young filmmaker, who is desperate for his big break. Luckily, his father is a big time developer, whose company has just bought an abandoned mansion at the edge of town to refurbish, which mansion was the scene of some pretty creepy stuff in the 1800's, and more recently was the location of a murder / disappearance in the seventies. Jason finds some super 8 footage taken by the murder victims, and is determined to incorporate it into a documentary about the mansion, under the cover of making a puff piece video for his dad.
To join him in an overnight visit, Jason pulls along his buddy Adam (Dustin Fitzsimons), his girlfriend Dani (Allison Paige), and her friend Erin (Jennifer Simmons), who Adam is a bit sweet on. Erin's jerky boyfriend Rod (Lucas Alifano) also shows up later. The idea is to explore the house and grounds, collect spooky footage, and possibly scare the girls with pranks. (This last is implied, but never fully fleshed out. One of many confusing points.)
Jason violates a cardinal rule of horror films when he performs what seems to be a voodoo or Santeria ritual (which involves spitting in a jar of kerosene and throwing it in a fire) to summon the spirit of a young boy who died in the house, apparently as a joke. Creepy stuff starts to happen pretty quickly, such as his car alarm going off for no reason. Jason doesn't have his keys (why is never really explained) and so Rod has to pull his battery to get it to turn off. Undeterred, the group splits up, each with a camera, to gather footage around the house, and things start to get really weird.
As one might be able to guess, this doesn't end well. The film itself is a mixed bag. In many ways, it's quite good: a real sense of dread and disquiet are present a lot of the time, there are several good jump scares, the effects are well executed, and the main cast turns in solid performances. But, on the other hand: most of the supporting cast gives awkward and stilted performances, there's a lot of confusion in the plot, and things left unexplained (Why does Dani change into that old timey dress?), the score is overbearing at times, and the climax doesn't pack the punch that it should.
On the whole, watching Fear Not is a positive experience. It's generally fun, often scary, and shows a lot of promise. It appears to be an early film for directors Nicolo Gullo (his first) and Jameel Saleem (his second feature, though he has more experience as an actor). Here's hoping they continue in this vein, and get better with each round. I'll certainly check out their next effort. As for Fear Not, rent it.