The human mind is capable of a great many things. A person’s perspective on a particular situation can be amplified to extreme heights and be either a blessing or a curse. In the latest horror/thriller Phobia, the limits of one man’s mind are pushed to absolute breaking point. An indie film, through and through, Phobia has some very strong performances and a very original plot, though it may feel a tad familiar. The film’s lead actors do an admirable job here and the apparent shoestring budget actually helps the film significantly by adding a great sense of realism and grit.
The story is a simple one and follows Jonathan (Michael Jefferson), a young transcriber who was in a car accident with his wife Jane (Sarah Schoofs) a year prior. Jane died in the accident and Jonathan soon developed severe agoraphobia. Limited to just his Brooklyn brownstone, Jonathan lives in constant fear and anxiety of the outside world. He sees visions of his wife and shadowy figures which wreaks havoc on his mental health. Home visits from his psychiatrist don’t seem to help nor do regular visits from his best friend Taylor (Andrew Ruth). The only thing that seems to provide comfort for Jonathan is the appearance of Bree (Emma Dubery), a perky hipster who delivers Jonathan’s groceries. Soon, they cultivate a relationship and it is up to Jonathan to finally overcome the disturbing visions and his own mental collapse.
Phobia is as indie as they come which seems to have been shot on an iPhone and that’s okay because it works. Filmmaker Rory Douglas Abel (Gut, Apathy Breeds Contempt) shoots his characters like a home movie set up on a tripod. This lack of luster and pizzazz enhances the film’s mood and really draws the viewer in. Jonathan’s battle in the film is a battle between himself and his past, his regret for losing his wife and the pain and hallucinations that now plague him. Another film, the 1995 Sigourney Weaver thriller Copycat, also featured an agoraphobic going through some pretty hard times but Phobia does it in a more intense way.
Actor Michael Jefferson (Sheer, Nocturnal After Hours) is pretty sensational here as Jonathan, a man tortured by his own mental imbalance and with most of the film following him as he goes deeper and darker, things get more and more interesting. Emma Dubery (Shadows of Life, A Past, a Future and Destiny) is cute as Bree, Jonathan’s love interest but she isn’t the best of actresses. Perhaps it’s because she is young and inexperienced, so maybe in time she will develop into a more well-rounded thespian.
Indie thrillers like Phobia are a dime a dozen and that’s a shame because there is some really good stuff here. The agoraphobic angle works in the plot’s favor because it makes everything feel very enclosed and extremely tense. The brownstone is where the entire film takes place and it beautifully symbolizes Jonathan’s psyche which is isolated and alone. Are the visions and hallucinations Jonathan experiences real or are they just his mind playing tricks on him? That mystery serves as the basis of Phobia and with Jefferson’s decent acting chops, this is one horror adventure you might want to go on.