Four years ago in 1985, a college student named Cayce Bridges (Ally Sheedy) was helping police with a serial killer investigation since she had the ability to psychically track people and see what they were up to in her mind's eye. She did this by touching objects that those people had touched themselves, and this gave her visions of what she wanted to know about them, although it was not an exact science and while accurate, was not always as forthcoming as she or the cops might have liked. But her first case was a success as she managed to stop another young woman being murdered...
And now, a few solved cases later in the present of 1989, she is an author whose books on her experiences have become bestsellers, all without anyone apparently pointing out that police psychics don't actually work, and if she was the one who did achieve a hundred percent hit rate then she would be subject to all sorts of tests and examinations to find out how she ticked. Still, this was the movies and filmmakers were allowed a degree of artistic licence, the man in question being Rockne S. O'Bannon, who would gain sci-fi fan adulation a few years after this with cult adventure TV show Farscape.
Alas, there was not much of that excellent quality to be found in Fear, the movie forever destined to be mixed up with the Reese Witherspoon and Mark Wahlberg thriller, also of the nineties, if a bit later on. Actually O'Bannon's script owed most to two sources, one, the Stephen King novel The Dead Zone which featured a subplot about its psychic protagonist solving a serial murder, and two, Thomas Harris's first serial killer novel Red Dragon, the book which introduced Hannibal Lector to the world, and had as its main character a profiler who had the talent for getting inside the heads of his quarries to the extent that he could actually think like them and predict their next moves.
Therefore Sheedy was playing a cross between those two men, and like them was royally freaked out by the thoughts running through her head, those thoughts not being her own but of the murderers she was assisting in hunting down for the law. When we catch up with her she is plugging another self-penned book about a recent triumph, but she's a jumpy soul, understandably, so when she invites herself in to another investigation she does not react well to the twist that's in store. The killer is able to be tracked all right - but he seems to be tracking Cayce too, as he is as psychic as she is, only he uses his powers for evil, to terrify his victims with their biggest fear before dealing the death blow.
Although you'd have to say being offed by a mass murderer would be pretty high on anybody's list of fears, so he really didn't need to dress up his crimes any further than that. It may not be entirely original, but it's not a bad idea for a movie, except that this particular entry in the serial killer genre was really no more distinguished than a TV effort of which there would be increasing amounts as the decade wore on, indeed many of those were more absorbing than what O'Bannon concocted here. Sheedy was convincing enough as the nervy clairvoyant, but the script pretty much asked for a one note performance, giving her little room to manoeuvre. Michael O'Keefe put in a nice turn as the neighbour who becomes Cayce's knight in shining armour, and Lauren Hutton was appropriately hardnosed as her agent, while fifties sci-fi fans might get a kick out of seeing John Agar as the first killer, though you don't get a good look at him and wasn't he a bit old for that sort of thing, anyway? Other than that and a Ferris wheel finale, Fear was rather ordinary. Music by Henry Mancini (electronic, too!).