31 Days of Hallowe’en 2020, Day 20: Philophobia: or the Fear of Falling in Love [2019]

I liked Philophobia: or the Fear of Falling in Love. But I would have preferred to have loved it.

For one, I feel it’s a good 15 years too late; the story – about a rising podcaster in LA who is literally haunted by disturbing visions after his girlfriend dumps him – feels lifted from pre-social media and our reliance on personal tech, especially its unfashionable, perma-hollow Los Angeles setting and its jangly indie soundtrack.

That’s really the only plot; there are nightmarish jump scares a-plenty (the earlier, more insidious background scares were excellent) peppered through the main character’s childhood BFF visiting from Smalltown USA. But nothing really happens, and our podcaster’s character development is really just a one-note wake-up call.

There are some odd dialogue choices (a ‘pinot’ is requested without confirming it’s a grigio or noir ( know shit about wine and even I know this); someone refers to instagram as ‘IG’ (literally nobody calls it that); and maybe this is deliberate, but someone compares their perfect pairing to ‘Mike Myers and Hallowe’en’.

There is some good here. The movie is freaking gorgeous to look it, with its blue-red neon colour palette, striking photography and killer lighting. The rather obvious references to The Shining‘s bartender scenes don’t go unappreciated. Despite playing either whiny, unsympathetic or just shitty-people characters, turns in decent performances. But I found myself bored at moments of the film’s ultimate narrative repetitiveness, and felt left with no real substance, message or mood. If it wasn’t originally, it would have been a great short film or as a special Hallowe’en episode of an ensemble dramedy.

Score: 🎃🎃

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