FEAR OF RAIN (2021)

Fear of Rain.jpg

Studio:      Lionsgate
Director:    Castille Landon
Writer:      Castille Landon
Producer:  Dori A. Rath, Joseph J. Restaino, Robert Molloy, Joe Riley
Stars:     Katherine Heigl, Madison Iseman, Israel Broussard, Eugenie Bondurant, Harry Connick Jr.

Review Score:

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Summary:

A schizophrenic teenager suspects her neighbor kidnapped a child, but the only person who believes her is a classmate who may be another hallucination.


Synopsis:     

Review:

On any other day, ¡°Fear of Rain¡± would be ¡°just another¡± ordinary psychological thriller. That¡¯s because it is. The movie is chock full of familiar characters including a misunderstood teenager, her goofily charming crush, and her concerned parents who still make a cute couple for saccharin sweet family moments. The film also fills up on recycled scenes like a laughing montage when the two young lovebirds go on a time-lapse date, or a wannabe nailbiter when those same teens break into a house to conduct an amateur investigation only for the homeowner to unexpectedly (for them, not the audience) return early.

On any other day, I¡¯d review ¡°Fear of Rain¡± unfavorably for being a ¡°morning watch¡± movie you¡¯d fully forget by the afternoon. Not today though. That¡¯s because ¡°Fear of Rain¡± never makes any false promises about being anything other than a plain and simple thriller. On this particular day, my mind wanted to decompress with an uncomplicated little movie that goes by the book, yet still offers expectedly average entertainment with professional production value. That¡¯s precisely what ¡°Fear of Rain¡± provides.

High school student Rain suffers from schizophrenia. Her parents Michelle and John already worry about their daughter after her latest psychotic break results in an unplanned hospital stay. They worry even more when strange sights and sounds lead Rain to believe their neighbor Dani, who is also one of Rain¡¯s teachers, imprisoned a kidnapped child in her attic.

As if it weren¡¯t awful enough that her parents and her psychiatrist think she¡¯s caught up in fantasy, everyone at school treats Rain like a freak too. Everyone except Caleb. Among a cruel gaggle of catty classmates, Caleb¡¯s kindness seems almost too good to be true. Maybe it is. After mom mentions that Caleb could be another figment of Rain¡¯s imagination, the poor girl can¡¯t help but wonder whether her brain has betrayed her again. She¡¯s going to have to go with it though. Real or not, Caleb is the only one willing to help Rain get to the bottom of whatever might be going on next door.

Of course, there isn¡¯t much of anything in the mystery. I needlessly point this out every time a movie employs an ¡°is she or isn¡¯t she imagining things?¡± premise. But whenever a possibly hallucinating hero believes something is happening that everyone else thinks isn¡¯t true, without fail the hallucination always turns out to be real. Over a century of cinema and there still hasn¡¯t been a similar setup that¡¯s ended with the protagonist struggling in a straightjacket while someone says, ¡°Toldja she was crazy.¡±

Tolerating ¡°Fear of Rain¡¯s¡± tropes isn¡¯t as big of a deal as it can be for some films though, thanks to some subtle switch-ups to stereotyping. For instance, being a woman instead of a man installs a different brand of dread into the potential kidnapper. It¡¯s less gross to absorb that kind of abduction instead of having pedophilic molestation draping uncomfortably over the fiction. Meanwhile, Harry Connick Jr. plays a typical ¡°disbelieving husband¡± role, except he¡¯s a ¡°disbelieving dad,¡± dismissing his daughter¡¯s claims like horror movie men usually do to a hysterical wife who supposedly saw a ghost. It¡¯s just different enough to not immediately feel like we¡¯ve seen this dynamic a million times before, even though we have in other forms.

Speaking of the crooner turned actor, an appealing cast makes it additionally easier to bite on ¡°Fear of Rain¡¯s¡± basicness. If the movie had one less zero in its budget, Mena Suvari would have had Katherine Heigl¡¯s part. But Heigl¡¯s broader range makes playing Rain¡¯s mom a breeze, and gives gravitas to simple scenes that would fall even further by the wayside without her or Connick. Under the specter of their daughter¡¯s troubles, Michelle wrestles with emotional trauma while John wonders about restarting his catering business. Neither arc ever significantly impacts the main story, which runs at least 15 minutes longer than it should anyway, although these brief bits of side drama do develop the film¡¯s depth.

Horror fans might recognize Madison Iseman from ¡°Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween¡± (review here) or ¡°Annabelle Comes Home¡± (review here). They should definitely remember Israel Broussard from ¡°Happy Death Day¡± (review here) and its sequel, as his similar role here cements him as a go-to guy for a good-intentioned dork whose awkward affability eventually wins over both you and the heroine. Even when an undemanding script allows them to coast on cruise control, this roster has the right chemistry and experience to put pop into otherwise pedestrian proceedings.

It¡¯s simple to see why someone gave this project a green light. ¡°Fear of Rain¡± fits the criteria for a movie that adheres to pre-approved protocol for standard story structure. In addition to featuring mid-level names that most people recognize but don¡¯t break the bank, the soundtrack squeezes in songs from excellent artists like Laura Marling and Caroline Rose. A crank could complain that the twist can be seen from six miles away, or that characters rely on the threat of institutionalization ten too many times to wrangle Rain¡¯s behavior. Those sensible criticisms don¡¯t come close to negating that ¡°Fear of Rain¡± excels as something perfectly safe for sale to a cable TV network¡¯s regular rotation. Sometimes, the mood is right for a straightforward thriller when you know what you¡¯re getting into. And ¡°Fear of Rain¡± delivers exactly what¡¯s advertised.

Review Score: 50