B&W, 1966, 106 mins. 11 secs.
Directed by Kostas Manoussakis
Starring Elena Nathanael, Anestis Vlahos, Elli Fotiou, Mairi Hronopoulou, Alexis Damianos, Spyros Fokas, Theodoros Katsadramis, Giorgos Sifis
Mondo Macabro (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD)
Though Mondo Macabro has definitely done its fair share to bring some of the wilder fringes of Greek genre films to English-speaking viewers (including the essential Tango of Perversion and The Wife Killer), there's nothing quite comparable in their output so far to 1966's The Fear. Though successful at the local box office and acclaimed at its two prominent festival appearances, the film marked the end of a three-feature career for its writer-director, Kostas Manoussakis -- who had also scored a hit at Cannes two years earlier with Treason. Since then his films have been extremely difficult to see outside of Greece, though the 2023 Blu-ray edition of The Fear is a major step in the right direction as it provides an experience that will leave more than a few viewers knocked out by its intensity and artistry.
After completing her studies in Athens, Anna (Nathanael) returns home to the isolated farming village where her father (Damianos) and stepmother (Hronopoulou) live a dysfunctional existence in which they only share a bed when he's drunk and bent on humiliating her. Even worse though is Anna's brother, Anestis (Vlahos), a socially bullied and rejected misfit who gives off Norman Bates vibes as he skulks around spying on women and being sheltered by his elders who are all too aware of his destructive potential. Also in the household is the mute housekeeper and sort-of surrogate daughter, Chrysa (Fotiou), who has become the primary target of Anestis' fixations. When Chrysa disappears, Anna tries to uncover the truth and puts her own future in deep jeopardy.
With its sinister fields, desolate barns, and blazing sunlight, The Fear is a potent mixture of thriller and social commentary about environments that stack the deck against women even if they manage to get away for a while. The predation baked into the story extends to the male characters as well in a different way as the self-centered father initiates a cover-up attempt that infects the community, culminating in an intense and unorthodox wedding finale not easily forgotten. Though it doesn't quite fall under the umbrella of folk horror, fans of that cinematic strain will find plenty of similar elements here including an audacious music score by Giannis Markopoulos (The Face of Medusa) that sounds like a fusion of The Wicker Man and 1971's Macbeth -- well before either of those existed.
Never released on home video before, The Fear looks excellent here with a 2K restoration from the original negative presented at 1.33:1 (not 1.66:1 as originally announced, and the framing appears to be correct). The essential black levels are nice and deep here in both the outdoor and indoor scenes, with the field sequences in particular looking really impressive with fine detail and tons of rich textures. Some limitations inherent in the source turn up here and there, namely some unavoidable detail flattening and instability in the main titles, but that goes with the territory. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 "Ancient Greek" mono track is also in excellent shape and features optional English subtitles. The biggest extra here is "Kostas Manoussakis: The Exiled Filmmaker" (50m14s), which provides some insight and speculations into the director's short career and the unlucky circumstances that led to his departure from the industry. It goes surprisingly deep including a lengthy look at his post-film life, his "quirky" personality according to the neighbor closest to him and his wife, and a visit to his now empty house complete with the cats and their descendants he was devoted to during his life. Also included are a gallery of stills and artwork (2m56s) and "Remembering Elena Nathanael" (2m24s), a quick collage of photos and clips with piano music
Reviewed on January 23, 2024