Mark Reviews Movies

FEARDOTCOM

Ĺ Star (out of 4)

Director: William Malone

Cast: Stephen Dorff, Natascha McElhone, Stephen Rea, Amelia Curtis, Jeffrey Combs

MPAA Rating: R (for violence including grisly images of torture, nudity and language)

Running Time: 1:38

Release Date: 8/30/02


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Review by Mark Dujsik

FearDotCom is a cautionary tale about spending too much time on the Internet, going to websites that people warn you to "never, ever go to," giving people suffering from intense paranoid delusions firearms, going to dilapidated theaters because some creepy guy with a camcorder promised to make you a star, allowing young children who suffer from hemophilia to play in abandoned, rusted steel mills, and paying to see a horror movie anymore. This movie makes me yearn to use colloquial phrases like "sucks big time" and "piece of crap," but, alas, I cannot bring myself to do so except with quotation marks. It follows in the tradition of many recent horror movies in which the filmmakers have given up trying to scare with craft and instead rely on the volume of the sound system in the theater to do the job for them. This is the antithesis to Signs in that it forgoes style, characterization, atmosphere, plausibility, tone, coherency, and every other accepted practice of making a movie and replaces it with one, big, empty void.

Detective Mike Reily (Stephen Dorff) investigates the death of a man hit by a speeding train and finds the manís face in a petrified state of terror and his hands gripping a book about the Internet. Back at the station, an arrested foreign student is brought in, bleeding from the eyes. At his apartment, Reily discovers the studentís girlfriend drowned in the bathtub and meets Terry Houston (Natascha McElhone) from the Department of Health. Is this a virus? No, autopsies of the victims show no evidence of a disease. Eventually a connection between the deceased is discovered. Shortly before their deaths, they all visited the same website, feardotcom.com (apparently the filmmakers couldnít get the domain name fear.com). The horrifically redundant website was once used by a serial killer named Alistair Pratt, a.k.a. "The Doctor" (Stephen Rea), who would broadcast torture sessions online and change locations and web addresses before the police could nab him.

So is "The Doctor" responsible for these deaths? Well, to a certain degree, I suppose, but the movie never actually flat-out states whatís going on. Why? Well, saying it out loud would just emphasize how utterly ridiculous the movie is. To prove it, Iíll tell you now (spoilers inevitably follow, although you really shouldnít care): the Internet transmits energy, and one of "The Doctorís" victimsí spirit entered the web and occupied the site to punish anyone who visits it to watch her demise. Since she was the little hemophiliac girl who used to play in the abandoned steel mill, her greatest fear was knives, so anyone who goes to the site dies from their greatest fear. Listing the rest of the absurdities of the movie would simply take too much time. Characters end up in dark, creepy places simply to be killed. A romance develops between Reily and Houston, and the timing is so awkward, itís laughable. In this movie, "Promise me youíll never go to that site," actually means, "I love you, and I canít live without you." Then thereís the random, blind old woman at the steel mill where the hemophiliac child used to play. Her existence is merely to creep out, and that fact alone makes her appearance hilarious.

Then there are the simply offensive aspects of the movie. Most horror films feature women being chased and attacked, but director William Malone seems to relish in his torture sequences. The women in the movie are objectified and exploited to a degree bordering reprehensible. Poor Stephen Rea has the thankless job of playing a dull, illogical (even in the sense of deranged logic) killer and trying to make something of him. It doesnít work, but you canít really blame him. His job is reduced to standing there and sounding creepy. Malone has no sense of suspense, and the movie looks as though it was made by someone who watched Seven fifty times too many. Characters wander around in the dark with flashlights and donít even try to find a light switch. The rest of the so-called atmosphere is created with an assault of visual tricks, including some of the most annoying uses of a strobe light ever captured on film. And could he please just pick one lens and stick with it?

FearDotCom will end up becoming one of the worst movies Iíve seen this year, and thatís only if it doesnít turn out to be the worst movie of the year. The movie ends on the right note. It tries to be arty and ambiguous, so instead of leaving the theater feeling disgusted, it provides one last opportunity for an unintentional laugh. My greatest fear for this review is that my words are not enough to accurately describe the soulless dreck Iíve witnessed.

Copyright © 2002 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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