Crazy. Insane. Nuts. Psycho. Someone like the main character in Fear of Rain has heard those terms said about her at one point or another. Rain Burroughs (Madison Iseman) is going through a rough time at both home and school because she lives with schizophrenia and the challenging symptoms that come with it.
Rain seems like she should be an average girl with run-of-the-mill teen complaints and pangs, but looks can be deceiving. Something else deceptive in Castille Landon’s movie Fear of Rain is everything the protagonist sees or hears. After another scary episode, Rain‘s parents (Katherine Heigl, Harry Connick Jr.) become more concerned than usual. School isn’t any easier as her former friend is now using Rain‘s mental health issues as social currency. With her condition out in the open now, no one other than her new confidante Caleb (Israel Broussard) believes her about the abducted child she claims is in her neighbor’s attic. It’s been made clear to her and her parents that if she causes another problem, Rain could be involuntarily admitted to a hospital. Regardless, she believes something is amiss and she risks everything to prove everyone else wrong.
Taking a page out of other young suburban thrillers like Disturbia or Summer of ’84 where someone suspects crime is afoot in their neighborhood, Landon creates a sizable obstacle for her amateur sleuth. Rain‘s hurdle is incredibly personal and realistic, which adds some glow to an otherwise seasoned story. It’s a relatively unique spin on something done before, and to a considerable degree, it’s compelling. The movie doesn’t exploit Rain‘s condition for entertainment; it doesn’t suggest she now has enhanced abilities that aid in her detective work, either. Rather, Fear of Rain looks to destigmatize schizophrenia while also sharing an engaging story.
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Ever since the act of gaslighting entered the public’s collective consciousness again, filmmakers have made sure to capitalize on it. Movies where someone causes another person to question their own sanity reflects this era’s ethos. Women, often the targets of gaslighting in cinema, now must not only deal with the daily horrors of the real world, but they also have to contend with those close to them betraying their trust or fueling their paranoia — sometimes both. It’s true Rain is the one who’s consciously doubting herself because that’s how her disorder works, but there are external influences which are exacerbating the situation. There’s the turncoat ex-friend, the boy she believes is too perfect to even really exist, and the creepy neighbor whose faux concern is raising red flags. On top of that, her parents are scrutinizing everything Rain does out of fear she’ll snap and hurt herself again. The worldbuilding here is attentive and successful seeing as audiences will undoubtedly feel the inordinate stress on screen.
Aside from agreeable performances and reasonably fleshed-out characters, the movie’s actual mystery leaves something to be desired. There isn’t a lot to figure out when deducing whether or not something sketchy is going on or not. And so much effort is put into everything else that a captive child ends up being a subplot instead of the main one. The third act is where anything not pertaining to Rain‘s personal life is rushed in and out with barely any mess. The ordeal is over in a matter of minutes, and audiences with hopes of sustained tension will be left disappointed. The inclusion of a late-arrival twist will pull at heartstrings even if it comes of no surprise.
Landon wrings solid entertainment out of an overused idea. Aside from the generous amount of discussion about schizophrenia, albeit organic and positive, there’s no real novelty here. To offset that, Rain‘s development is above the line and gratifying — Iseman plays a large part in that. Don’t be fooled by the younger cast as this is a mature movie brimming with emotion and wide appeal. The thriller elements seem wedged in when it’s convenient, but in the grand scheme, the need for strong character work exceeds scares.
“The thriller elements seem wedged in when it’s convenient, but in the grand scheme, the need for strong character work exceeds scares.”
Fear of Rain arrives February 12 on digital demand and then on home video on February 16. Share your thoughts on the movie with the Nightmare on Film Street community over on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and in the official Nightmare on Film Street Discord. Not a social media fan? Get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.