(2015) 1hr 28min

Made almost entirely from existing horror films, Charlie Lyne’s Halloween haul of clips was originally commissioned for BBC iPlayer but has now been remastered for the big screen. Delightfully abandoning canonical reverence and best-of oversight, FEAR ITSELF is a study of how it feels to be at the horror movies. Using films he’s seen, half-remembered and found to fit his theme, Lyne’s collage of the great and not-so-good is layered with a new score and vocal track – less a traditional documentary voiceover than a dramatic monologue.

In contrast to the iPlayer version – where the narrator’s voice sits centrally in our attention – on a bigger screen, the movies muscle forward, bullying for supremacy. This creates a tension that isn’t fully resolved but the carefully edited control of pace and mood still works beautifully across the run time.

Some facets genuinely get under your skin: the score and sound effects, the sustained focus on tension and the avoidance of explosive violence create a novel horror film teasingly devoid of money shots. It is these subtly seductive elements that make you wonder how intoxicating FEAR ITSELF could have been if Lyne had been allowed to forge real fear through his alchemy.


  • All of the horror films you’ve seen – and some you haven’t.

From FEAR ITSELF (2015): “Each night, with the lights off, my room fades into a world of deep blue. That space is so familiar to me but still it feels strange.”


After the London premiere of his film at Picturehouse Central (25.02.17), director Charlie Lyne took part in a Q&A. What did we learn?

  • He doesn’t like rules. Eat, drink, talk, fall asleep – it’s your movie, your way.
  • The BBC commissions for the iPlayer by painting “a picture of the ultimate casual viewer not paying any attention at all.”
  • The use of all movie clips fell under copyright “fair dealing” rules*, allowing use of protected material “for the purposes of non-commercial research or study, criticism or review” (backed up by a raft of BBC lawyers). Just don’t get gratuitous.
  • The film’s focus on tension rather than payoff was “much less intentional than I would now claim.”
  • The sound mix was used to emphasise a “multiplicity of tonalities” (we think we know that means), keeping the original voice and foley tracks whilst recreating tension-building techniques with a new score.
  • Whilst exploring his theme of being assaulted at the horror movies, any sense of a hierarchy fell away: “ultimately, great movies have bad moments and bad movies have great moments.”

And that’s the meat of it.


Watch FEAR ITSELF on BBC iPlayer (if you can).

Try pairing it with:

  • 24HR PSYCHO (1993) – Hitchcock’s masterpiece slowed to a glacial pace by artist Douglas Gordan, ratcheting up the terror frame by frame.
  • PSYCHO (1998), Gus Van Sant’s experimental shot-for-shot remake.
  • BLUE (1993) – Derek Jarman’s final film layers voice, sound and music over a single searing image – that of a deep blue screen.

*Known as “fair use” elsewhere.

Featured image: FEAR ITSELF (2015).