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PHOBIAS (2021)

Directed by Joe Sill (“Robophobia”), Maritte Lee Go (“Vehophobia”), Camilla Belle (“Hoplophobia”), Jess Varley (“Atelophobia”, “Outpost 37”), Chris von Hoffmann (“Ephebiphobia”)
Written by Joe Sill (“Robophobia”), Maritte Lee Go, Broderick Engelhard (“Vehophobia”), Camilla Belle (“Hoplophobia”), Jess Varley (“Atelophobia”, “Outpost 37”), Chris von Hoffmann (“Ephebiphobia”)
Starring Alexis Knapp, Lauren Miller Rogen, Charlotte McKinney, Hana Mae Lee, Leonardo Nam, Martina García, Macy Gray, Micah Hauptman, Anthony Gonzalez, Monique Coleman, Steve Park, Joey Luthman, Ross Partridge, Benjamin Stockham, Mackenzie Brooke Smith, Rushi Kota, Mike Ferguson, Sisa Grey, Gerardo de Pablos, Evan Holtzman, Christine Weatherup, Katia Gomez, Freddy Bosche, Jason E. Kelley, Christine Little, Monte James, Ruben Perez, Matthew Hanjoong

A group of people with extreme phobias are trapped in an underground lab that exploits those phobias. PHOBIAS is an anthology telling the tales of how these people ended up in this twisted asylum and how they try to escape it. .

PHOBIAS is a frustrating film. While it attempts to tie the tales of the inmates in the asylum together into one bigger tale, unfortunately, none of the stories make much sense or really tell a complete tale on its own. Every one of the stories end with—“And then they ended up at the asylum.” And while that gives the connective tissue between stories some relevance, it fails at delivering stories that feel complete and satisfying on their own.

On top of that, PHOBIAS fails to even let the viewer know what the phobias they are featuring actually are. I commend this film for not relying on the go-to phobias like arachnaphobia, agoraphobia, and claustrophobia. Instead, they use robophobia, vehophobia, hoplophobia, atelophobia, and ephebiphobia. The problem is that while I can make some vague guesses from the short stories, the film fails to tell the viewer exactly what those phobias are exactly. So here. I’ll do the work this film was apparently too busy to do.

Robophobia is a fear or hatred of robots and is the title of a chapter focusing on a mild-mannered Korean American (Leonardo Nam) tormented by a gang of racists and develops a bizarre bond with an electrical being living inside all machinery. While Nam exhibits some nice leading man qualities, the story is as light as can be and there’s no explanation as to who or what this being is. It would have been much more accurate had this one focused on xenophobia.

Vehophobia is the fear of driving and focuses on a brazen young bank robber (THE BABYSITTER’s Hana Mae Lee) who goes too far and scares away her partner. Then for some reason her getaway car begins to turn on her and starts having a mind of its own. Again, little sense is made in terms of story. It’s always fun to see the eccentric Hana Mae Lee in action, but she gives a pretty reserved performance.

Actress Camilla Bell directs Hoplophobia, the fear of weapons, specifically firearms. Again this story, featuring a mother and son attempting to deal with a violent world around them, feels off its mark. It seems more like it should be a fear of the police aka Capiophobia as everything leads to a confrontation between the mother and a cop in the climax.

Ephebiphobia is the fear of youth and out of all of the shorts, this one seems like the filmmakers actually understood and did a little work on making that specific phobia scary. This one follows a strict teacher tormented by her students and really does capture the paranoia and fear in ways the rest of these shorts don’t.

Finally, the wild card of the bunch is Atelophobia, the fear of imperfection. This is the weirdest of the bunch because of its star played by musician Macy Gray. This was just one whacked out story and Gray seems to be acting from another planet. This one also is extremely gory, which definitely gives it positive points from me.

Unfortunately, all smooshed together, PHOBIAS really doesn’t work. The story threading these short tales together is pretty thin and feels as if some of the filmmakers didn’t really have a tight handle on what these phobias were all about. I enjoyed about two of the five stories, which isn’t a good percentage. There definitely are better anthologies out there, but at least PHOBIAS has a talented cast and moments of solid terror going for it.

Check out the trailer here!!