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Phobia (1980)

A psychiatrist involved in a radical new therapy comes under suspicion when his patients are murdered, each according to their individual phobias.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
David Bolt ...
Henry Owen
Dr. Alice Toland
David Eisner ...
Johnny Venuti
Laura Adams
Robert O'Ree ...
Bubba King
Barbara Grey
Neil Vipond ...
Dr. Clegg
Mrs. Casey
Sgt Wheeler
Gwen Thomas ...
Dr. Clemens
Paddy Campanaro ...
Newswoman #1
Gerry Salsberg ...
Newsman #1


A psychiatrist treats his patients - sufferers from agoraphobia, claustrophobia, acrophobia, a fear of snakes, and a fear of man - with radical therapy in which they confront their fears by watching them on a large screen. The result is that each patient is driven to commit violent acts, and each dies by what he most fears. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


What happens when your Psychiatrist goes out of his mind?


Drama | Horror | Thriller


R | See all certifications »





Release Date:

9 September 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Fobi  »


Box Office


$5,100,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

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Did You Know?


According to Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett was the first to option the script from the original screenwriter. Shusett was in talks to sell the rights further, provided he could "fix it". O'Bannon agreed the script needed work and opined to restructuring it, instead of a more laborious 'Page One' rewrite.

O'Bannon and Shusett divided the script into three acts, and identified the main story conflict as "a crazy psychologist is trying to kill one of his patients". They realized the script only addressed this conflict in the third act, in which the hero also defeats the villain. They took out the first such scene, in which the conflict first matures, and moved it to the end of the first act.

Then, O'Bannon wrote a completely new scene to the end of the second act, in which the main characters suddenly freeze into a showdown. Both writers felt the revisions made the script more interesting; O'Bannon compared the rewrite to "a watchable sow's ear". Shusett sold the script to a Canadian producer, who attached John Huston to direct.

A further production draft was written by the producer himself. Shusett read the new draft and disliked it. He called Huston up to offer their earlier draft instead. Huston opted to use the producer's draft as a matter of convenience. (O'Bannon, Lohr: "Guide to Screenplay Structure". 2013, Michael Weise productions, pp.8-9) See more »


Dr. Peter Ross: [to Barnes] You arrogant, unconscionable bastard!
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Referenced in Sneak Previews: Extreme Violence Directed at Women (1980) See more »


My Rival
Written by Donald Fagen Walter Becker
Performed by Steely Dan
Courtesy of MCA Records.Inc
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User Reviews

Don't be afraid to watch John Huston's supposedly "worst" movie
6 August 2011 | by See all my reviews

If some movie magazine ever comes up with the bright idea of putting together a list entitled "the top 100 most idiotic ways to spoil a movie", than the number 1 spot is undoubtedly reserved for "simply reading the tagline for John Huston's Phobia!". Seriously, if you are considering to watch this film and you haven't yet paid any attention to reading the tagline, well then … DON'T! I mean, guessing the denouement of the film isn't exactly quantum physics, but the stupid tagline just gives away the end twist. Other than that "Phobia" honestly wasn't as bad as I was led to believe, in fact. I almost exclusively read reviews and user comments stating that "Phobia" is a terribly boring thriller effort and undeniably the absolute low point in John Huston's overall magnificent career. Well okay, in spite of all the warnings, I still desperately wanted to see it for two reasons. First and foremost, it might be an inferior John Huston film but it's still remains a John Huston film and they should always be worth checking out! Besides, this is the only horror movie Huston directed, even though he starred in a couple of weird Italian ones like "Tentacles" and "The Visitor". Secondly, and this is truly a personal weakness of mine, the movie poster very much appealed to me. The simply image of a face, half covered in darkness and half depicting people's death struggles is already a lot scarier than the entire content of most other thrillers.

In all honesty, I'm really glad that I took the effort of tracking down "Phobia" and I would definitely encourage other people not to base your judgment on the negative reviews. This isn't a terrific thriller, obviously, mainly due to the slow pacing and continuous predictability of the script, but it nevertheless contains a few good ideas and even a handful of genuinely suspenseful and macabre moments. I found the basic subject matter to be very interesting and full of horrific potential, maybe partly because I have a couple of bizarre and inexplicable phobias myself. Paul Michael Glaser (yes yes, the original Starsky!) plays the acclaimed but slightly controversial psychiatrist Dr. Peter Ross. With the support of his hospital, he started a project to help a test group of five patients get over their various phobias including heights, crowded places, drowning and snakes. Dr Ross' methods are unorthodox and even dangerous, as he literally forces his patients to confront their fears and pushes them quite far into them. Shortly after having received the media's attention, Ross' patients start dying under mysterious circumstances and each one according to their own phobia.

I've been watching horror practically my entire life and I really think that there aren't enough movies that deal with people's fears. "Phobia" is not a great or highly memorable effort, but at least it's decent and attempts to thrive on slow-brooding tension instead of on cheap shocks and gore. The film admittedly has too many shortcomings, like the clichéd selection of phobias and the truly disappointing climax, but several sequences are properly elaborated and the wholesome is definitely worth watching.

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