Worst Fears (2016)

Sometimes, things are even worse than we fear. e

Writer: David McGillivray, Andrew Cartmel
Director: Keith Claxton

Worst Fears is a portmanteau of stories written mostly by David McGillivray. Although the movie itself is a 2016 release most of the individual segments mainly date back to around 2005. They’re held together by a frame starring McGillivray himself as the Storyteller.

There are seven stories in this collection and they cover a wide range of subject matter and styles. Here are a few examples:

“Tincture of Vervain” – the most recent, from 2011 – starts things off. This is a wonderful piece about a coven of witches in an English seaside town who are preparing for a visit from Her Ladyship (Fenella Fielding). But these aren’t your usual witches – they’re a small group of respectable ladies and gentleman in their sixties who meet every week at Mrs Acorn’s house for tea and biscuits. The incongruity is what makes this work and it’s handled very well with the cast playing it straight and hence making it funnier.

Story three is “In The Place Of The Dead”. There’s nothing funny about this one. It’s about a couple on a visit to Marakesh where the husband seeks out the local rent, only to find that he’s chosen a bad day to do so. Nothing much actually happens in this story until the end, however it’s carried by Anthony Wise as the world weary Peter. Wise has great screen presence and gives an excellent performance.

Story four is “Mrs Davenport’s Throat”, starring Celia Williams and Luis Castro. Jose is a driver sent to pick up Mrs Davenport from the airport – but all is not as it seems. For a lot of this story the two are just chatting, but there’s a constant air of menace and a feeling of things not quite right. Clearly there’s more going on – and eventually we find out what. Great performances and atmosphere kept me interested.

The fifth story is… different. “Child Number Four” is about a couple whose young son finds an unusual new friend. It’s difficult to say much about this other than it’s weird. Good, but weird.

So those were four segments I loved. The others were less successful. “Wednesday” is about a cleaner sent to the house of an unpleasant old lady. It tries to be funny but isn’t strong enough, especially coming immediately after Tincture of Vervain. The Andrew Cartmel written “After Image” is a simple idea dragged out way too long which soon becomes tedious. The final story, “We’re Ready For You Now”, is just silly and makes for a disappointing finale.

Stories aside, the production quality is strong throughout and even the poorer stories are well acted. I picked out Wise for special mention but there are plenty of other good performances and no duds. Direction by Keith Claxton is nicely pitched for the mood of each story. There’s also a refreshing lack of gratuitous gore or nudity.

There’s definitely a lot of good stuff in Worst Fears, but unfortunately also some rubbish. The result is that when it’s good it’s very good, but overall it feels a lot longer than its 97 minutes.