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directed by Richard W. Haines
USA 2009


A writer who prefers to be known as "Ghost Writer" (Ian Tomaschik) pitches an article to Ghastly Horror Magazine editor Marshall McFarland (Patrick Flynne, THE UNDYING) about "What Really Frightens You" in which he will interview New Yorkers on their deepest fears. Scouring Times Square he happens upon lawyer Drew (Postell Pringle), bookstore employee Chloe (Jennifer Sorika), and office worker Brett (Chris Keveney). After their interviews, the three begin experiencing nightmares and hallucinations related to their fears: Drew worked his way out of Hell's Kitchen and is afraid of running into the gangs that used to beat him up (meanwhile, he's defending a slumlord with a building in the area), Chloe has nightmares of being in her underwear in public and getting pawed by strip-club customers, and Brett fears a monster under his bed from childhood. Drew and Chloe share their experiences when she approaches his law firm about suing the magazine for punitive damages because of her too-real nightmares. When they learn of Brett's apparent suicide, Drew and Chloe endeavor to track down the mysterious "ghost writer" before they too are consumed by their worst fears.

Writer/producer/director/editor Richard W. Haines' name may not be familiar to even the most dedicated horror viewers, and that is partially his fault since he prefers to forget his earliest credits: 1984's SPLATTER UNIVERSITY and the 1986 Troma production CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH. While neither film is even remotely a classic of eighties exploitation, they are both his best known works. For better or worse, this film could have used the promotion of "from the director of SPLATTER UNIVERSITY" which would have at least piqued the curiosity of seasoned horror viewers. Haines has also written the books TECHNICOLOR MOVIES and THE MOVIEGOING EXPERIENCE published by McFarland (as an in-joke, the magazine editor in the film is McFarland). WHAT REALLY FRIGHTENS YOU? seems less like a CREEPSHOW or TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE type anthology film and more like THE GRUDGE (with its intersecting stories of characters individually haunted by the same force) with gore and TALES FROM THE CRYPT-esque (the TV series) frights. It could almost pass for a feature-length episode of the less successful, short-lived third TWILIGHT ZONE series from 2002.

Although Haines claimed to have used latex monsters because he could not afford CGI, the practical monsters are a welcome throwback (even if they are not particularly scary). Although Tomaschik's performance as the creepy "ghost writer" is rather one-note, the good cast is mainly hampered by cliched dialogue and a script that seems to give up on tying the three haunted characters together after starting to suggest how Drew and one of his clients might be connected to "Ghost Writer". Taking his cue from Haines' affection for the Technicolor look, Tom Agnello's 35mm cinematography taking a refreshingly saturated approach in contrast to the tiring modern preference for muted colors and bleach bypassed contrast.

Eric Cotenas

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DVD Review: Celebrity Video Corporation - Region 0 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Celebrity Video Corporation

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:16:00

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.61 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Celebrity Video Corporation

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• Audio Commentary by writer/producer/director Richard W. Haines
• Trailer (16:9; 1:33)
• Production Still Gallery

DVD Release Date: 19 October 2010

Chapters 10



Celebrity Video Distribution's DVD features a fine-looking single-layer, anamorphic, progressive encoding with a 5.1 soundtrack. Director Haines mentions that he maintains the film negatives for all of his features. He may have been responsible for this DVD package, which is perhaps why the audio/video presentation is technically top-notch even if the DVD screener's authoring is a little bumpy.

The commentary track is unfortunately an extremely dry listening experience with less on the film at hand (in favor of his admittedly more interesting earlier work), as well as some lengthy technical discussions not on the film itself, but on filmmaking in general (recited with no regard to the onscreen happenings worthy of comment). Haines spends five minute history of stereo sound in cinema alone, another lengthy discussion of foley work, Technicolor and various film processing steps including dye transfer processing (he had to travel to China to have his earlier film ALIEN SPACE AVENGERS processed in this format), and the full process of creating latex models for the monster effects while disregarding what is happening onscreen. Haines knows his stuff (and the lengthy discussion of stereo and surround sound formats does confirm that he knows how to use the 5.1 configuration effectively), but interested film students and indie film hopefuls will have picked up this information elsewhere.

  - Eric Cotenas


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