13 Fear Is Real, a fizzled effort at scaremongering, reveals just how badly reality television can go astray when the casting fails to be creative.
The series, began on Wednesday on CW. They send 13 men and women out, Blair Witch style, into the woods of a Louisiana bayou to terrify the tank tops off them. Blindfolds, gags and mock burials follow in tricks and bizarre challenges that seek to eliminate a contestant each week until one victim is left standing.
As Lauren, a model with a Jayne Mansfield body and a ladybug brain, explains while introducing herself before the shenanigans get into full swing, I'm the type of girl that enjoys a dirty martini at the bar. No one appears to have told her at the audition that tryouts for The Bachelor were on a different lot.
Nasser is a concierge who calls himself Show. Kelly describes herself as a Christian and an event planner, and Leah says things like, Something's out there, I'm really not kidding, as panicked as if she were talking about a mint leaf floating in a cup of tea.
Nothing believably harrowing actually happens during the first episode - middle managers reviewing expense reports have been more easily horrified - but everyone is called upon to wear a look of terror, even if the collective acting skills hardly seem up to the exercise.
13 Fear Is Real wouldn't warrant comment if not for the affiliation of Sam Raimi, the horror auteur and director of the Spider-Man movies, who serves as an executive producer. He has made significant, Grade A contributions to junk television before - I speak of Xena: Warrior Princess - but 13 Fear Is Real isn't presented with the same aspirations to sublime stupidity.
It is shot in a documentary style, with a booming, disembodied voice directing contestants to their midnight Halloween checkmates, a voice digitally altered to sound like a whistle-blower's anonymous interview on 60 Minutes.
Given its home on CW, 13 Fear Is Real is obviously intended for teenagers, but no one involved seems to recall that these are teenagers who have been raised on Scary Movie - and know how to get Psycho on Netflix.