If the only thing to fear, as the old adage goes, is fear itself, then A Taste of Phobia should have been the scariest anthology movie of all time. Boasting 14 directors each helming a short piece about their own personal terrors, this is a film chock-full of phobias. There’s another old saying though – the one about good intentions, and the road to hell.
The first cook, however, delivers the base for a tasty broth. With Lorenzo Zanoni and Alessandro Sisti's Chaetophobia, this anthology comes storming out of the gates hard, with its best entry, about a man and his love of razors and hot wax. Sadly, it’s all downhill from there. Anthology movies have a reputation for being wildly unpredictable in their quality, but this is one of the most consistent ever made – sadly, it’s consistently average, and consistently ugly, its terrors evoking more shrugs than shudders. It even manages to render a phobia of pooping uninteresting, through bad special effects and a barely coherent story.
That this should be released at the same time as the ghoulishly nasty German Angst makes it doubly disappointing, all 14 paling in comparison next to the work of Jorg Buttgereit, Andreas Marschall and Goran Mimica. They’d be a hard act to follow at the best of times, but A Taste of Phobia does nobody any favours. Out of 14 filmmakers, not even one comes close here. Most of them wouldn’t even make the cut in an ABCs of Death movie.
That’s a shame, as the phobias catalogued here are a diverse, promising lot, and could have been the basis for something truly horrifying. Unfortunately, the majority of its directors simply don’t have the ability to pass their phobias on to their audience; nobody watching Partenophobia, for example, is going to come away with a newfound fear of virgins. Were it not for the title cards preceding every vignette, most of the time you'd have trouble guessing what many of them are even supposed to be about. How do you render a fear of the dark unscary? Nyctophobia manages it. One could try to blame the low budget, but this isn't exactly high-concept filmmaking – there's better stuff out there on YouTube, if you look hard enough.
A Taste of Phobia has all of the right ingredients, but rather than being delightfully tasteless, it’s instead disappointingly rather bland.
A TASTE OF PHOBIA / DIRECTORS: DOMIZIANO CRISTOPHARO, JASON IMPEY, SUNNY KING, SAM MASON-BELL, TONY NEWTON, ALESSANDRO SISTI, ROB ULITSKI, JACKSON BATCHELOR, SOPHIA CACCIOLA, MICHAEL J. EPSTEIN, DUSTIN FERGUSON, ALESSANDRO GIORDANI, CHRIS MILEWSKI, DAVIDE PESCA, ALESSANDRO REDAELLI, LORENZO ZANONI / SCREENPLAY: SOPHIA CACCIOLA, ANDREA CAVALETTO, MICHAEL J. EPSTEIN, ALESSANDRO GIORDANI, RUGGERO MELIS, CHRIS MILEWSKI, TONY NEWTON, ALESSANDRO REDAELLI / STARRING: ROBERTA GEMMA, LIANNE O'SHEA, MARTIN W. PAYNE, MICHAEL J. EPSTEIN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (US), TBC (UK)