Philophobia: or the Fear of Falling in Love is, unsurprisingly, a film about the fear of falling in love. While many movies have tackled this concept, very few have done so in the same way as this one. This film is both a rom-com and a horror (or hor-rom-com, to use a term I just coined), with writer Aaron Burt developing a story about a man who is, quite literally, haunted by his fear of commitment. Burt’s unique idea sets up one of the most interesting, original romantic comedies in some time, with this independent flick providing amusing humour, emotional weight and, at times, some genuine scares.
Director Tyler Cole does a solid job of developing an eerie and unnerving atmosphere throughout the film, combining inventive editing techniques, intelligent camerawork and an ominous score from E.K. Wimmer to keep the audience on edge from the off. Cole’s patient camerawork underpins the story with an unsettling degree of tension, luring the audience into each scene before hitting them with unexpected jump-scares or impactful moments of terror.
However, at times, the director’s ambition is his downfall, with Cole attempting horror set-pieces for which the film simply does not have the budget. In its more atmospheric, reserved moments of tension, this movie is at its best. Yet when it attempts to go toe-to-toe with the effects and methods of mainstream horrors, the discomforting, anxious ambience quickly evaporates, with poor CGI and make-up design exposing the tight restrictions within which this film operates. Far from scary, the more supernatural moments are almost immersion-breaking, with the movie needlessly attempting to produce visuals that are clearly beyond its capabilities.
Outside of its moments of terror, this film provides a consistent stream of genuine hilarity. Burt’s script is sharp and witty, demonstrating a surprising level of sophistication that is admittedly absent from a number of more big-budget comedies. Through establishing a sense of spontaneity in his screenplay, Burt enables dialogue that feels natural, developing characters and relationships that are believable and relatable. There is an impressive intelligence to the comedy, avoiding the need for over-exaggerated line delivery or outlandish physical performances to produce a constant flow of entertaining moments.
Burt’s script is excellently delivered by an impressively charming and likeable cast. While forced into a relatively limited, stereotypical role as ‘the one who could get away’, Emily Pearse makes the most of her screentime with an alluring and understated performance as Dani. David Lengel, as best friend Alan, supplies some decent comedic relief, as well as numerous moments of authentic emotion, and Darren Keefe Reiher as Travis is deeply amusing as the total jerk of a side character.
Yet the star performer is Burt himself, as lead character Damien Booster. The character of Damien is deeply flawed, but is also undeniably quick-witted and remarkably charismatic. Memorable rom-coms require a memorable lead and, through combining a sense of humanity and imperfection with a dark and cynical sense of humour, Burt develops a character who is certainly that. The audience roots for his success and follows his story so intently that it is easy to overlook the clichéd ending, which brings a frustratingly predictable close to his crazy character arc.
While some misplaced ambition leads to moments of broken immersion, this sharp, intelligent and unique comedy horror feels like a breath of fresh air in the rom-com genre. With a deeply amusing script, believable characters and impressive performances from the entire cast, this small-budget indie boasts originality and sophistication which is absent from some of the bigger, more mainstream comedies of the year.
A sharp, intelligent and original rom-com which certainly puts the phobia in Philophobia.
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