Starting tonight, NBC reaches out to the horror crowd ....
It does so with "Fear Itself," an anthology of suspense, terror and blood from writer-producer-director Mick Garris ("Masters of Horror," the TV versions of "The Shining" and "The Stand"). NBC sent out a disc of three episodes. I made it through the first one, "The Sacrifice," picture above, but didn't have the patience to finish the second one or to get very far into the third.
That's not because of squeamishness, although I'm not a big fan of contemporary splatter-horror. (I have some "Saw" movies in my DVD reference library but have yet to sit through one.) Indeed, while there's plenty of blood flying in "The Sacrifice," it is still relatively mild compared to what's happening on big screens these days, or even what Garris et al. got away with on Showtime with "Masters of Horror."
Instead, it's just that I have limits to how many times I can see creepy old houses (which figure in two of the tales I tried out), jumps in the dark, scary monsters, eerie sounds, sudden car accidents, eerie creatures staring out windows and minimal justification for the carnage to come. "The Sacrifice," for example, leaps pretty quickly into messy business and saves the explanation for a few lines of dialogue later, after plenty of splattering, a couple of deaths and even gunplay. "Spooked," which airs June 12, had a bit more of a plot -- and Eric Roberts, a master of playing creepy corruption -- but it lost me not long after we settled into the spooky old house with the odd noises and the scrap of police tape out front. Yes, something bad was going to happen -- something bad is bound to happen in a show called "Fear Itself" -- but it didn't make me care much. And I don't even care enough about the third episode I sampled to bother to summarize what I saw.
As I said, I'm not much of a modern-horror guy. But one of the problems in "Fear Itself" is how utterly old-school it is in terms of narrative, how often it digs up old settings and notions, and then asks us just to stick around until the screams and blood start to fly.