Unemployed Superman Brandon Routh stars in the sixth episode of Fear Itself as a young husband and potential father who allows his wife’s (Shiri Appleby) enthusiasm for a home in an odd private community to blind him to the fine print on the sales contract. You see, though The Commons seems like a great place to live and raise your kids, it’s really a lot like Stepford, Connecticut or Kings Row where everyone hides behind painted smiles.
If you ever read any Ira Levin, Thomas Tryon, Shirley Jackson or Jack Finney, you’ll be able to predict every beat of this episode scripted by Kelly Kennemer and directed by American Psycho’s Mary Harron. This would not be a big deal were it ever really suspenseful, witty or scary but since it fails on all counts, we’re left looking at the bland story and just waiting for the obvious “shock” ending to drop, right out of Tryon’s Harvest Home but without the power of that novel’s symbolic castration.
The storytelling desperation can be found right in the opening minutes: We’re plunged into an inexplicable chase through the night woods with Clark Kent running from a mob armed with torches and a pack of barking dogs like the angry villagers from Frankenstein. We see that this is just a flash-forward, placed here so that we might stick out the utter boredom of the next hour in the hope that we’ll understand just why he’s being chased. But that becomes completely obvious when it’s quickly revealed that everyone is being watched by security cameras and that community transgressions are punished through methods slightly medieval.
Harron brings nothing distinctive to the episode, which looks like the rough cut of a Lifetime Network Christmas special. The only thing that’s missing is Gail O’ Grady. Hopefully the next episode in the series will bring back some of the bite that Stuart Gordon put into Eater, still the best of the bunch.
This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.