BE AFRAID: Duller Than Dishwater
The only thing to "Be Afraid" of is the lack of originality in this uninteresting horror effort from director Drew Gabreski.
Lacking in any original elements and completely devolved of any scares, Be Afraid could possibly be the dullest and least effective horror film I’ve seen in a long time. If only Be Afraid was anywhere near as effective as the various films it rips off, but sadly it is not the sum of all its parts.
The plot follows Dr. John Chambers (Brian Krause) as he begins to suffer sleep paralysis, and in these paralyzed states he begins to see nightmarish creatures watching him. It’s not long before his son (Michael Leone) begins acting strange and soon John discovers a plot to that threatens not only him, but his family as well.
The plot of Be Afraid is like the footnotes of much more effective horror and thriller screenplays. You’ve got the strange town that’s hiding something taken right out off Twin Peaks, the hat wearing creatures that turn up at night – Freddy Kruger anyone? And of course, the film has the creepy child of the protagonist acting strange and talking to an imaginary friend, taken from every horror film from the last decade.
The only new element here is the inclusion of the protagonist suffering from sleep paralysis. This is an interesting idea but the film refuses to do anything engaging with it. This whole subplot becomes completely irrelevant by the films end, so it begs the question as to why it was even included.
The worst offender here is the screenplay, which is completely inert and unfathomably stupid. At one point the script seems to forget that Chambers is a doctor as he goes to get medical advice as to what sleep paralysis is – he is a doctor; how does he not know what it is? Did he skip that lecture? As a distraction one character claims she is “printing Facebook photos”, since when did that become a viable distraction? And when has anyone ever printed Facebook photos? I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to assume that the writer and director conceptualised this film in cloud-cocoon land.
These lapses in logic aside, the screenplay is still a complete mess. Throughout the runtime the audience is left to ponder what exactly these creatures are that haunt the family and what their connection to the town is; it’s probably the most interesting part of the story. Yet it goes completely unresolved. Instead of resolving the mystery the whole story is built around, the film opts for a generic run-of-the-mill “child gets kidnapped and the family must save them” story that we’ve seen done better before – many times before.
Above all of this, the film isn’t scary. The creatures we are meant to fear look more akin to the putty patrollers from Suicide Squad than anything nightmarish, and that’s even if you can make them out as the film is insistent on using an awful shaky-cam effect every time they appear on screen. Instead of being terrified, I wanted to vomit.
The film also heavily relies on cheap jumpscares, so much so I thought James Wan might have been a producer. I do wish would-be horror directors would learn that a jumpscare doesn’t mean your film is scary, it just means you cranked up the volume to eleven and startled people. Instead of these cheap excuses for horror, focus on building tension; something that Be Afraid couldn’t care less about doing.
Aside from the awful shaky cam effect that the director decides to use for nearly every single scare, the cinematography is acceptable. The film has some clever framing and fantastic lighting in places, it’s just a shame that nothing else really matches the professional cinematography.
The performances, like most elements of this film, are unsatisfactory. Brian Krause easily gives the best performance of the film, but it is by no means great. He is somewhat conceiving in the role of Dr Chambers, but the utterly horrendous dialogue holds his performance back from being anything special.
His youngest son on the other hand, is on another level of bad. Michael Leone’s performance as Nathan Chambers is so hilariously poor that it almost redeems the film in the tradition of “it’s so bad its good”, sadly everything else is so mundane that it doesn’t even get that honor.
Be Afraid is a dull, repetitive slog that does absolutely nothing original or interesting. During the run time, you are constantly reminded of the better films that the director and writer have ripped off, and by the end of the film you’ll wish you just watched them instead. Never once are the characters engaging and never once does the film scare.
The only thing to “be afraid” of here is the sheer lack of originality or inventiveness.
What is your favourite sleep related horror film?
Be Afraid is available on major streaming services now.
“The clock has run out on sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace. It’s time to do something about it.” Read the Letter of Solidarity here. Make a donation to the legal fund here.