‘Fear of Rain’ movie review: paranoia thriller keeps everyone on edge

A schizophrenic young woman struggles to cope with reality in Fear of Rain, a vaguely distasteful new thriller that uses a real psychiatric illness as a vehicle to drive its narrative forward. An empathetic lead performance from Madison Iseman and a half-hearted attempt to thoughtfully explore her character’s disorder keep this from being a total dud.

Fear of Rain is cautious of identifying the illness plaguing Iseman’s Rain, though characters in the film refer to her as schizophrenic. Some schizophrenic patients experience auditory hallucinations, Rain explains to new friend Caleb (Israel Broussard), but she has visual hallucinations, too.

That means the audience also gets to experience the hallucinations, such as in an opening sequence that involves Rain fighting for survival as a cloaked figure buries her alive. None of that was real, we later learn, as her concerned parents (Katherine Heigl and Harry Connick Jr.) watch over her, restrained to a hospital bed.

The hallucination occurred after Rain goes off her meds – she isn’t able to focus on her painting when she’s taking them, Rain explains – but it sets up the key gimmick here: everything throughout the rest of Fear of Rain could actually be happening, or it could all be Rain’s head, or some uneasy mixture of the two.

Has Rain’s creepy English teacher and next-door neighbor (Eugenie Bondurant) really kidnapped a young child? Caleb seems to support her theory — but wait, does Caleb even exist? What can we trust here?

Fear of Rain doesn’t just suggest an unreliable narrator: it explicitly questions the reality of what we’re watching throughout the entire film. Rain runs through a checklist when she doesn’t know if she’s hallucinating the existence of another person, but we’re still left with questions. It doesn’t help when other characters are telling Rain what is real and what isn’t, and we don’t know if we can trust them or not, or if they even exist.

This use of Rain’s illness as a plot device in what is otherwise a Disturbia-like thriller is an uncomfortable stumbling block that the film never quite overcomes. During some scenes between Rain and Caleb, her father, and her therapist, there’s some genuine thought put into exploring her mental state. But these well-intentioned moments are fleeting.

Iseman’s intense performance helps sell the core concept, and among the supporting cast Bondurant is a standout as the distressed neighbor. Cinematography by Joshua Reis nicely captures locations around Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg, Florida. There’s some genuine care put into the final product by writer-director Castille Landon, but Fear of Rain ultimately sinks under its gimmicky premise. 


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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