A Woman Possessed: Know Fear (2021)-Reviewed

(Image Courtesy of Terror Films)

It’s generally a lazy critique to say a film would “work better” as a short. It’s important to take a piece of art as it is and not try to fit it into a box that it’s not currently occupying. Unfortunately, possession horror Know Fear tests that as it comes in at a short and sweet hour and eighteen minutes and still feels just a bit too long. 

From director Jamison M. LoCasio, Know Fear opens on a brutal family annihilation by an unseen force. We cut to a new family moving in to the murder house and almost immediately, Wendy (Amy Carlson) becomes possessed by the unseen entity after finding a mysterious book. Her husband Donald (David Alan Basche) is baffled by what’s happening with his wife and initially dismisses his niece Jami’s (Mallory Bechtel) supernatural theories. As the situation worsens, Jami enacts a spell that she believes will rid her aunt of the invading demon. Branching off into three directions, the spell gives each family member a different ability: Jami can see the Demon, her brother Charlie (Jack DiFalco) can hear it and Donald can speak it, or rather read the Latin on the pages of the book. 

On paper, this is a relatively inventive spin on the possession sub-genre and for the most part, the film follows through with that. The idea that each character has a different experience with the demon is an exciting approach and the ways in which that manifests results in some pretty clever choices to help hide the shoestring budget. 

Charlie convulses when the Demon’s shriek penetrates his mind, Jami frequently has to cover her eyes because what she’s seeing is too horrific to describe...it’s only Donald’s ability that comes across a too nebulous and undefined. Essentially, he’s capable of reading the book and speaking the incantations to fight the Demon. A useful but not at all cinematic skill. Still, the mix of abilities creates a disorienting effect. It cycles you through the senses and creates a unique atmosphere of horror in a film that does very little to stand out otherwise. 

(Image Courtesy of Terror Films)

Horror is at its most effective when you’re given little information to ground you. It’s always scarier being thrown into the fire and forced to piece together a puzzle as you go. To Know Fear’s benefit, there’s very little, if any, backstory given to the Demon, the family or the book. To its detriment, the lack of backstory is in a film bereft of real terror for the majority of its slight run time. LoCasio spends entirely too much time running through the rote motions of a woman slowly losing herself to possession that by the time he brings out the scares, we’re nearing the corner into the finish line. There’s almost nothing to invest you into the husband and wife, neither performance elevates the material in any meaningful way. You’re asked to feel for people you barely know based solely on genre stereotypes. There’s no depth to these people which wouldn’t be a problem if the film around them didn’t take so long to reach a point. 

It’s a shame because there’s enough here to warrant your attention. The unique concept and dynamite final act show that LoCasio and co. have the goods. A particular standout is Nichollete Talley’s astonishing makeup work once the Demon is finally revealed. It’s a genuine showstopper of a moment that nearly saves this entire endeavor. There’s great use of shadow and space in the tremendously bleak final act, further pushing your disorientation to its limits. It’s all so strong but you can’t help but feel cheated by a film that limps its way there. 
There’s a sense that this could’ve been a thrilling short if you trim the repetition of genre tropes depicting the wife’s descent. We know she’s possessed because we’ve seen this before. The continuous “spooky” shots of her staring into the middle distance are tedious in lieu of anything remotely engaging. 

Terrifically inventive, sporadically scary and frustratingly dull, Know Fear just ekes out enough positivity to not be a total bust. If nothing else, LoCasio has a distinct vision and it’s a vision we’ll undoubtedly be seeing more of in the future. Hopefully with more attention to depth and character. 

-Brandon Streussnig