DVD Review: Nothing Left to Fear (2014)

Nothing Left to Fear DVD CoverDistributor: Anchor Bay

BBFC Classification: 15

Director: Anthony Leonardi III

Starring: Anne Heche, James Tupper, Ethan Peck, Rebekah Brandes, Clancy Brown

Is it possible that were it not for the fact that rock legend Slash’s name is all over this film – producer and composer, no less – that maybe it wouldn’t have had the exposure that it has, as the trailer seems to have been around for a while now? Maybe, but a little bit of star power doesn’t hurt and let’s be honest, with a name like Slash it was inevitable that he’d get round to using the name Slasher Films sooner or later. Everyone loves a pun, right?

Dan Bramford (James Tupper – Mr. Popper’s Penguins) has taken a job as pastor in the small town of Stull and moves his family – wife Wendy (Anne Heche – Donnie Brasco), daughters Rebecca (Rebekah Brandes – Bellflower) and Mary (Jennifer Stone – Mean Girls 2) and young son Christopher (Carter Cabassa – Flight) – across the country to begin a new life in what appears to be an idyllic rural setting. The locals – including the retiring Pastor Kingsman (Clancy Brown – The Shawshank Redemption) – all greet the family and make them feel welcome but it isn’t long before Rebecca starts to have weird dreams about deformed sheep and Mary cuts her mouth on a sharp tooth that was baked into a cake given to the family by one of the townsfolk. And that’s when you know things aren’t going to go well for the Bramfords.

But they start well, and if nothing else Nothing Left to Fear does manage to create a creeping sense of unease during its first half as the innocent Bramford family begin their new life. Naturally, they get lost on their way to their new house and have to stop at an isolated farm to ask for directions from one of the locals, and we can tick horror movie cliché number one off the list straight away, but after that we’re introduced to Pastor Kingsman and for the next forty-five minutes the film manages to set the scene for bad things to happen in a way that not many films do so well these days. If you can, imagine the first act of The Wicker Man but less from Edward Woodward’s perspective and more from Christopher Lee’s and that’s the kind of atmosphere that’s being created, as we get glimpses of Kingsman doing and saying some very odd things in the name of Stull’s Christian beliefs.

The performances during this time are generally pretty good. There seems to be a genuine connection between the three actors playing the Bramford children, which really sets things up for one specific part of the final act when our sympathies are played with (“I’ll never leave you” is emphasised a little too much because we all know what’ll happen), and the scenes with Rebecca getting friendly with farm worker Noah (Ethan “Grandson of Gregory” Peck) work nicely, although Peck comes off the weaker of the supporting cast, possibly due in part to his character being too underwritten but also probably due to his limited range. Dan and Wendy don’t really have much to do as characters and don’t actually appear that much (even though Anne Heche is top of the bill) but the focus is really on Rebecca, Mary, Noah and Kingsman. Mention must also be given to the score, composed by Nicholas O’Toole and Slash, which manages to convey the sense of dread that the film is going for and helps sustain the mood.

However, things take a turn for the worse at around the fifty-minute mark and Nothing Left to Fear undoes all of the good that it did during the first part, and this is mainly down to two things. The first, and most glaringly obvious thing to anyone who hasn’t been paying attention to the plot, is the use of ghastly CGI effects that pretty much smother the screen for the whole of the final act, and they’re not ghastly in the way the filmmakers intended. For some reason there is CGI black stuff that creeps around the town in a similarly pointless and unexplained way to the CGI black stuff in The Last Exorcism Part II and the film tries to mix up the demon effects from Evil Dead with some early 2000s long-hair-in-front-of-the-face-and-croaking-noises J-Horror imagery which seems totally out of place and, if truth were told, almost laughable.

The second, and probably more damaging, thing is the huge plot hole that nobody seems to address. It would be considered a spoiler to go into too much detail here but put it like this – if the intention of the final act is to send a demon back to Hell, then why summon it in the first place? Can’t reveal much more than that but needless to say it’s never explained and neither is the history of Stull, although that could be because Stull is a real town in Kansas that has a local legend all of its own regarding Satan appearing in a graveyard on Halloween every year. Why didn’t somebody consider this as a script before putting forward something vastly inferior and apparently incomplete? Would’ve been a better idea.

Which means that overall, Nothing Left to Fear has nothing left to offer once you get past the atmospheric first half, except for unanswered questions and a feeling of “that’ll do” from the filmmakers. It plays it too safe and goes for the quick and easy ‘scares’ rather than building on the locals-with-a-secret tension that was set up early on, hoping that nobody notices the fact that there’s no real reason for any of it to happen because somebody forgot to write one in. It could have been a decent, contemporary take on a familiar tale but instead Nothing Left to Fear just feels like a wasted opportunity.

Nothing Left to Fear

Special Features: None

UK Release Date: 17th February 2014

Anchor Bay – Website


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