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by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor [September 26, 2022]





[]  Sarah (Shannon Dalonzo) and Michael (Justin Gordon) are driving alone in the American southwest desert. No other cars in sight. As they discuss their upcoming marriage, they strike something in the road. But when they stop to look, they see no damage to their car. Nothing in the road.

Aside from a patch of ice. In the desert?

A strange black muscle car begins to harass and chase them. They seek refuge at a rest stop diner. The locals are friendly enough, but they act strange. And as the day progresses, the sun never seems to set. Time doesn't work the same here, a waitress (Jessica Gray) later explains.

Long before Michael and Sarah figure it out, horror fans will have guessed that they're dead. Or dying. Or something like that. They're certainly not in Kansas. The diner patrons and staff all talk in that vague way that intimates much while saying little specific. "I don't want to go. I'm afraid."

There seems to be a franchise of diners located just outside the afterlife. As in the "All Night Diner" episode of the 1997 TV series Ghost Stories.

The Fearway is like a lot of horror films. Part of the fun is identifying where you've seen this or that trope before. It's being marketed as a cross between Jeepers Creepers and Duel. Yes, the creature in the black car does resemble "the Creeper." Horror fans will recognize him as a ferryman type long before Michael and Sarah do (being your typically clueless horror film protagonists). And there are some car chases in the desert, though the film is mostly set at the rest stop.

Actually, The Fearway has more in common with The Twilight Zone and Jacob's Ladder. There's little gore or violence, emphasis being on the human drama and creepy atmosphere. In Twilight Zone tradition, you have a couple in a surreal predicament. And horror fans will readily recognize the Jacob's Ladder similarities.

The story is entertaining, if familiar. The empty desert vistas and grungy diner contribute to the film's eerie surrealism. Cinematography and production design are well done.



The film's weak point is the couple. The actors are likable and talented, but they are mismatched and poorly directed. Michael says he and Sarah have been dating since freshmen in high school. Yet while Dalonzo can pass for 20, Gordon looks to be in his 40s. (The IMDB gives his age as 44.)

Then there's their incessant banter, all that teasing, lovey-dovy repartee. They never shut up. I suspect this is to create chemistry and infuse the film with "heart." Sarah's great love for Michael becomes important to the film's resolution. But she speaks way too often of her great love for him, as he does for her. Two rules -- "Less is more." and "Show, don't tell." -- would have made for a better film.

The Fearway has a "surprise twist" ending not unlike that of the "Time of Terror" episode of the 1973 TV series, Ghost Story/Circle of Fear (also involving an accident on a desert highway). But whereas "Time of Terror" ends on a sad note, The Fearway opts for "feel good."

On the whole, The Fearway is an enjoyable albeit familiar tale, infused with a dose of Twilight Zone type surrealism.


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