Outer Limits – Fear Itself (04/10/98)

Bernard Seldon has crippling fears and anxiety.  He is also haunted by visions of fires and demons.  Father Wilkes from his old orphanage even returns in his dreams to taunt him and peek at his Underoos.

The next morning, Bernard leaves his apartment and his mind reels at the sights and sounds.  He is terrified at the open space, the strangers, vehicles zooming past, the honking, the loud noises — wait, are they saying this isn’t a normal reaction?  After imagining Wilkes pursuing him down the street, Bernard seeks the clean, peaceful refuge of a city bus, which tells you how scary Father Wilkes must be.

Dr. Pike of the Osgood Psychiatric Clinic tells us that Bernard “suffered a trauma at age 6 from which he never recovered.  In the midst of a raging tantrum, he started a fire in his orphanage which resulted in the death of his 4 year old sister.”  Pike has never seen a patient so crippled by his phobias.  Like all Outer Limits doctors, Pike has a theory.

They strap the terrified Bernard into a chair to perform the first procedure.  For some reason, Pike seems to think that after the quivering Bernard is strapped in, that is a good time to give his students a basic lecture on the amygdala.

Afterward, as Bernard walks home, he is confronted by some neighborhood bullies.  Mind you, these bullies are in their 30’s, so assholes is probably a better word for them.  And, frankly, after just seeing the worthless trash in Tough Guys Don’t Whine yesterday, I’m ready for Bernard to skip ahead to the inevitable scene where he massacres them.  Unfortunately, this is a 60 minute show so we first get a scene where the big tuff men steal his wallet, and send him running in fear as they laugh at him.  Making them even more manlier is the fact that Bernard is so debilitated that he might as well be mentally challenged.  I’m sure their mothers — who they probably still live with — are proud.

When he gets back to his building, his new neighbor Lisa says she baked a butt-load of lasagna, but he seems oblivious to the fact that she is inviting him to join her.  She is undeterred and shows up at his door the next morning to see if he would like to take a walk in the park.  He says yes, but comically closes the door in her face to finish his coffee.  He plays this very Rain-manesque.  It is not clear whether she is pursuing him because she thinks he is special or because she thinks he is “special.”

They take their walk in the park.  The bullies confront Bernard again, but we just get another scene of him being pushed around.  This show is only 60 minutes, right?  This isn’t a two-parter?  At least we make a little progress — there is a vein pulsating in his forehead.  I expect some whoop-ass next time.

Lisa takes Bernard up to the roof of their building and shows him her pigeons.  Sadly, that is not a euphemism.  The treatments are starting to have an effect.  Not only is Bernard no longer afraid of being on the roof, he is dancing around the parapet.  Doctor Pike is happy with the progress, but wants to slow down the treatments.  Bernard disagrees and his forehead starts pulsating again.  He is able to project into Pike’s mind the same kind of horrific hallucinations that he had been living with.

Bernard continues to become more confident.  He rescues a kid in a well — wait, what?  That was so 1980s!  Then the middle-age gang confronts him again.  The leader slams Bernard against a wall and punches him in the gut.  Oh boy, this is going to be great!  Bernard grabs the guy by the throat and . . . that’s pretty much it.  He let’s him go and the gang runs away.  WTF, is this a mini-series?  Let’s get to the good part!

After Lisa says she is falling in love with Bernard, the head thug breaks into her apartment.  Bernard hears this and chokes the guy again.  OK, he does transmit to the idiot images of the guy’s worst fear — in this case, being buried alive. [1]  Kind of out of left field, but it is high on my list too, so it was effective for me.  But still, he lets the guy get away.

There is a revelation about how the fire started.  There is also a fairly pointless case of mistaken identity. The good news is that Bernard finally goes full Charlie McGee on somebody in a pretty disturbing scene.  I’m just sorry it wasn’t the bullies.

Arye Gross was amazing as Bernard.  Was his performance realistic, or was it over the top?  Having never seen a person with this affliction, I couldn’t say, but he did make it effective.  My only quibble is that I felt like the character was blurred between having crushing anxiety and actually being mentally challenged in the usual sense.

Tanya Allen (Lisa) struck me as authentic as a woman who had had some mental issues herself, and had been hurt in a relationship.  Although I wasn’t clear on the motivation, I could imagine her becoming friends with Bernard.  Sometimes her delivery reminded me of Shelley Duvall in The Shining, which ain’t good.  But then, she was supposed to be a little “damaged” so maybe that was intentional.  It worked for me.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] Coincidentally, being buried alive also played a part in a pretty good movie I just saw on NetFlix — an Argentinean joint called Ataud Blanco (White Coffin).
  • Maybe I should get out on the roof and see some pigeons more often too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.