MTV's Reality Show 'Fear' Scared The Hell Out Of Us Way Before This Footage Took Over Horror Shows

MTV reality show Fear was one of the scariest TV shows of the early 2000s. Arriving just a year after the seminal horror film The Blair Witch Project, Fear goes down as one of the best entries in the history of found footage entertainment. This reality series sent a group of five or more strangers to a haunted location to investigate paranormal activity. The results were often absolutely terrifying. 

Fear existed in an era when MTV was still really awesome. This horror reality series took us to many of haunted places, such as West Virginia State Penitentiary, the USS Hornet aircraft carrier, Fort Gaines, and Mina Dos Estrellas. On top of being in allegedly haunted places, the challenges the show put the contestants through were usually pretty horrifying. MTV really pushed the cast to the limits.

While this scary MTV show only ran for two seasons from 2000-2002, it remains one of the most underrated horror experiences out there. Hopefully, some new reality shows will live up to the standards set by Fear. Here's why you should find this series and give it a rewatch:

  • Legend Has It That The Show Was Canceled Because A Contestant Died

    Legend Has It That The Show Was Canceled Because A Contestant Died
    Photo: MTV

    The cancelation of MTV's Fear was as shrouded in mystery as the locations the show investigated each week. A couple of spooky rumors popped up that have sort of turned into urban legends over the years. One rumor suggests that the show was actually canceled because a contestant died during the filming of an episode. Another, even more ridiculous rumor is that a participant was possessed by an evil spirit. 

    Both of these urban legends turned out to be false. The real reason for the show's cancelation is actually a lot more dull and disappointing. Put simply, Fear was too expensive to make, according to cast member Carla Baron. Despite the fact that the show had the second highest ratings of any program on MTV, the money the show was making and the cost of making it were not balancing each other out. The network simply never made a profit on the series.

  • The Contestants Were Truly Alone

    The Contestants Were Truly Alone
    Photo: MTV

    As if dropping them into a reportedly haunted location wasn't enough to scare the contestants of MTV's Fear, they were also left to explore the area alone. There weren't any camera crews or guides leading the way for the contestants or dropping clues along the path. 

    The contestants were blindfolded before taking the trip to the haunted location. Once they arrived in the safe house - the room that acted as their headquarters during their investigation - the show's crew would disappear, leaving the "paranormal investigators" completely alone. 

    Each episode was shot by hidden cameras and the contestants wore body cameras to record their reactions to the different scares. The contestants never encountered anyone outside of the rest of their team members while out on the field.

    The idea that the contestants were left to their own devices wasn't exactly revolutionary for a reality show of the time, but it hadn't been done with a horror twist before. The feeling of isolation surely upped the terror for each participant. 

  • The Challenges Were Terrifying

    The Challenges Were Terrifying
    Photo: user uploaded image

    MTV's Fear featured challenges and objectives that would even make audiences today cringe. From sticking your head inside a hole full of rats and performing a blood ritual to summoning evil spirits and being isolated in a haunted cell for hours at a time, Fear didn't pull its punches when it came to terrifying its contestants.

    Most of the challenges had to be completed alone, which meant that one contestant would have to step out into the dark haunted locations and venture through the spooky grounds without anyone by his or her side. The feeling of being alone with the monsters and ghosts often made people turn back, aborting their missions.

    Seriously, what is $5,000 worth to you? The masochistic participants of this horror reality show who won the money were apparently willing to go through a whole lot. 

  • The Show Arrived Only A Year After The Blair Witch Project

    Part of what made MTV's Fear so effective was that it arrived a little over a year after found footage film The Blair Witch Project had scared the hell out of audiences. The infamous indie movie, which made almost $250 million at the box office, featured a similar narrative structure to Fear. The story was told through the eyes of the characters, who carried cameras throughout the movie while they were shooting a fictional documentary about the Blair Witch. 

    The Blair Witch Project features visceral scares, moments so intimate with its terrified characters, that it was impossible for audience members not to feel like they were in the characters' shoes. Fear sought to emulate that feeling. It was successful for the most part. 

  • The Locations Were Horrifying, Real Or Not

    The Locations Were Horrifying, Real Or Not
    Photo: user uploaded image

    MTV chose some of the spookiest places for Fear. From a creepy haunted campground known as "Camp Crystal Lake" (in reality, it's Camp NoBeBoSco in Hardwick Township, New Jersey), which was said to be the site of the Princess Doe murder (the body was actually found in Blairstown, NJ), to old prisons occupied by the vengeful spirits of former prisoners, the show always featured really interesting settings. 

    Certain locations were presented on the show under different names, such as Fairfield State Hospital in Connecticut, which was named "St. Agnes Hospital for the Chronically Ill," and the Desert Plantation in Louisiana, which went under the name "La Guerre Plantation" for the show. Whether they were presented as real locations or fake ones, these haunted grounds were always scary. 

    MTV did a great job of showing of variety of different places during Fear's two seasons. On top of the aforementioned locations, there was also a mine, hotel, mill, brewery, and even an aircraft carrier. Each site was chosen to give the contestants and the viewers goosebumps. 

  • There Were Real Stakes And Whole Teams Would Lose

    There Were Real Stakes And Whole Teams Would Lose
    Photo: MTV

    Besides the locations and the challenges, what really made MTV's Fear a great reality show was that it had real stakes. Contestants could choose to abort their dares if they became too scared, but another teammate would have to take his or her place and complete the objective. Some episodes would end with all of the contestants quitting. This didn't make the episode feel anti-climactic, though. Instead, it made certain locations seem even more terrifying because their mysteries were never solved.