Living in Fear (2001)
Director: Martin Kitrosser
Cast: Marcia Cross, Daniel Quinn, Katherine Helmond
Synopsis: A man returning to his childhood home for the reading of a will is met by hostility. Do the townsfolk know more about him than his new wife?
LIving in Fear bears all the hallmarks of a B-movie filmed on a limited budget, or a TV movie that somebody thought might have a chance of success with a wider audience: acting is of variable quality, the leads are familiar from their TV work (William R. Moses from Perry Mason, Marcia Cross from Melrose Place), quality of script is sacrificed to the speed of storyline, and both plot and structure are old-fashioned and stale. Oh, and a C-list movie celebrity (John Saxon) enjoys screen-time that totals perhaps two minutes.
Chuck Hausmann (Moses) and his new wife, Rebecca (Cross), return to Chuck’s home town for the reading of his father’s will. It soon becomes clear that Chuck’s home town is brimming with old enemies, many of whom believe his father (a priest) cheated them out of $250,000 worth of investments. Then bodies begin appearing all over the place shortly after Rebecca discovers her new husband spent a period of time in a mental home.
LIving in Fear starts off like an Agatha Christie novel, with the attitude of each character toward the hapless ‘hero’ signposted from their very first lines, and reinforced by their embittered reaction as they each learn of their inheritance. Dark threats are uttered, and intrigue is quickly piled upon intrigue at a dizzying rate as Rebecca begins to doubt her husband’s sanity.
The movie’s main problem is that it fails to focus on one character long enough for the viewer to identify or sympathise with them. A story like this, to be successful, needs to decide whether it is a ‘woman in peril’ tale, or an Hitchcockian ‘innocent man wrongfully accused’ story. By attempting to combine the two – and throwing in a whodunit element for good measure – the writer fails on all accounts, leaving the viewer with a mish-mash from which few redeeming features can be plucked. (The villain of the piece is such a movie-standard he is obvious from his very first scene, and manages to give himself away with the kind of time-honoured slip that should have been put out to pasture by the Screenwriter’s Guild back in 1946).
The film generates very little excitement throughout, and the climax, especially, is wholly devoid of tension.