Is The Bartender really there? Are those girls real? What’s up with Bob, the constantly complaining but elusive neighbor? Cole builds up those elements while thrusting the narrative forward: as Damien and Alan proceed with their partying, the phantasmagoric world encroaches upon Damien. His apartment becomes increasingly claustrophobic and sinister, with elongated dark hallways, dimmed fluorescent lights, and douchebag, non-sequitur-spouting neighbors. When, during a night out, Alan brings up Damien’s ex-girlfriend and how she’s happily getting married, it all implodes.
There are quite a few leaden touches that threaten to weigh the film down into pure nonsense. While I see what they were getting at (I think) by including the horror elements, Cole and Burt end up shooting themselves in the foot – ghouls and bloody brides with poor make-up just don’t belong in this film, even as metaphors for a decayed past (or whatever). They also simply aren’t frightening or funny, and hence dilute our investment. The Lynchian tone clashes with Philophobia’s bro-ish rom-com inclinations.
“The film is sprinkled with some surprisingly deep psychological insight, neon-noir-ish colors…”
Aside from the three leads – Aaron Burt, Emily Pearse, and David Lengel – all of whom display real screen presence and an off-kilter charisma that fits the film’s oddball vibe, there are moments of truly egregious acting here. Whether the screechiness of the girls Damien brings home is intentional or not, it has a “nails-on-a-chalkboard” effect. They’re not helped by poor dialogue; it comes in stark contrast to the rest of the film, which contains moments of true perspicacity.
Such a moment arrives about halfway through when Damien interviews Alan for his podcast. The questions quickly become more risqué, escalating from Alan’s New Mexico pistachio farm to the “craziest thing he does in bed.” Damien even tries to secretly record Alan, projecting his own insecurities onto him. The scene ends with Alan’s confession that he’s about to propose, which sends Damien spiraling. The entire sequence is near-perfect in its execution.
I wish the same could be said about the rest of Philophobia: or the Fear of Falling in Love. Despite all the missteps, Cole and Burt are onto something here. The film is sprinkled with some surprisingly deep psychological insight and neon-noir-ish colors – Cole and Burt nail the final scene’s joke, ensuring they at least leave you with a smile. A curiosity that’s worth a watch, then. Just don’t expect to fall in love with it.
"…elongated dark hallways, dimmed fluorescent lights and douchebag, non-sequitur-spouting neighbors."