Neva Howell and Chris Marrone in Fever Dreams (Photo: Feedback Filmworks)
★★½ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Rob Underhill
STARS Jeff Briggs, R. Keith Harris
Folks interested in the grab bag of anthology shows from the late 1980s through the 1990s might take a shine to the independent feature film Fever Dreams. Those shows, which included the likes of Tales from the Crypt and The Hitchhiker, offered low-rent thrills but never could compete with such vintage classics as The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. Fever Dreams follows suit: None of the four featured tales will erase memories of such brilliant episodes as “Time Enough at Last” (Zone) or “The Zanti Misfits” (Limits), but most have something to offer. All are introduced by a character known only as The Bum (Jeff Briggs), sporting rotten teeth, smelly clothes, and other outward unpleasantries that would have had Rod Serling immediately thrown off the studio lot.
“The Agent” finds the titular character, Don Reynolds (Donald Sill), frantically searching for a screenplay that can be used by a client (Al Julian, also one of the film’s scripters alongside director Rob Underhill and Paul Julian) as the next episode in his popular chiller series. An alcoholic as well as a workaholic, Reynolds has no luck finding a story even worth the paper it’s printed on. Then The Bum shows up and eventually forces upon the agent a script that’s described as “a killer.” It’s not hard to see how this episode will end, but the story is ably handled, and there’s even a message about the evils of booze misuse.
“The Entertainer” begins as the most unpredictable segment of the film, which means it holds the most promise. Unfortunately, its non-ending (to say nothing of its sexist slant) also marks it as the most disappointing. A widow (Jason Caselli) sits down with a TV interviewer (Leanne Bernard) to discuss the lawsuit he’s facing from the family of his late — and loaded — wife (Kristi Ray). Out of the blue, the location of the wife’s corpse is revealed, and it’s unexpected, to say the least. Alas, the episode then takes a moronic turn before ending abruptly.
“The Cameraman” concerns itself with a wanna-be filmmaker (Chris Marrone) who feels he’s wasting his life working at a camera shop. He borrows a camera with the intent of making a movie that he feels will launch his career; he ends up filming his harridan of a mom (Neva Howell), who suffers a stroke in the middle of berating him. He shoots footage of himself treating her poorly, but she ends up having the last laugh. More imagination could have been employed in the service of this entry, but it’s arguably the one most in the style of those old EC horror comics.
“It’s My House” is the best segment, centering on a commodities broker (R. Keith Harris) suffering from a serious case of ageism. He recently scored big at the expense of his elderly investors, but now he’s facing a lull in his career. His only desire at the end of a particularly stressful day is to go home and “pop open a cold one,” but when he arrives at his house, he finds that it’s occupied by an elderly couple (Catherine Sewell and Owen Daly) who insist they have always lived there. The writing is the strongest in this story, with interesting characters, some nice foreshadowing, and a satisfactory ending.
(Fever Dreams is currently available on Amazon Prime, Tubi, and Plex.)