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Overall Rating
1.74

Awesome: 4.35%
Worth A Look: 3.26%
Average: 20.65%
Pretty Bad: 5.43%
Total Crap66.3%

6 reviews, 56 user ratings


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fear dot com
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by Jack Sommersby

"Fear not: This is OK Entertainment"
3 stars

It's imperfect but compulsively watchable.

William Malone, the director of fear dot com, is clearly an artist with a major career dilemma: he possesses an undeniable love for the horror genre but just isn't talented enough to produce a good entry in it. Malone's previous film, the 1999 remake of House on Haunted Hill, was spirited and boasted lots of colorful touches but as a whole was even more of a botch than his film before that, 1985's Creature -- which at least showcased the great German overactor Klaus Kinski rolling his eyes up towards the heavens while hilariously mouthing a bunch of scientific babble before his on-screen demise. In between this fourteen-year stretch, he dabbled in a fair amount of forgettable tv fare like Tales From the Crypt and Freddy's Nightmares, so looking at his resume you can't help but feel sorry for a guy who so obviously loves what he's had the good fortune to be hired to do yet is devoid of the technical know-how and invaluable film sense to do proper service to his noble cinematic intentions. With fear dot com, I've good and bad news to report: It's Malone's best film; sadly, in light of what it's stacked up against, that isn't exactly the highest of praise.

Don't misunderstand that fear dot com is bad; it isn't. In fact, it's moderately entertaining even though it's not quite as involving as it should be; and there's a fair amount of graphic power to the imagery, even though it's not quite as expressive as it should be and is clearly patterned after the 1995 brilliant Se7en. What we have here is a malevolent Internet site infecting those who log onto it; it promises graphic details of death, and views whomever enters its domain as a guilty party worthy of their ultimate demise -- which, for the most part, involves the bloody-eyed victims being mercilessly tormented by imaginary manifestations of their deep-seated worst fears, like cockroaches or sharp objects. And in a subplot, a serial killer known as "The Doctor" is presently torturing away on a pretty young blonde, while the cop who's been tracking him for nine months is presently investigating the Internet case. In what plays out like an ambitious but failed hybrid of Se7en, David Cronenberg's brilliant cautionary fable Videodrome, and the Steven Spielberg-produced Young Sherlock Holmes, the film tries to thrill us while talking ideology. Granted, things never get gratingly didactic -- if anything, Malone isn't much for preaching -- but you're all too aware of how unfocused and too "busy" the story line is. The screenwriter, Josephine Coyle, tries to cram too much information into too short a running time, and Malone accentuates the problem by pacing things so hurriedly you've barely enough time to appreciate the arresting imagery or ponder the sometimes-disturbing moral implications. The story's various themes don't appear to have been fully worked out or even halfway-realized before production began; it's a film of fragmented images and ideas.

Still, what can't be denied is that the film manages in holding you from first shot to last (which isn't the same thing as asserting that it's successful). The story's setting is metropolitan New York, but the film was actually shot in Luxembourg, and the gray skies, constant downpours, and dank interiors work on you in exactly the ways intended. The cinematography by Christian Sebaldt is deliciously gothic with only the slightest hints of self-adoration (the widescreen shots of an abandoned steel mill are simply stunning); and the fabulous production design by Jerome Latour is a real doodle (the serial killer's abode looks as if its contents had literally sprouted from this fiend's warped psyche). And some of the late-in-the-game plot turns are somewhat nifty, like the mastermind behind the site and his (or her) central motivation behind it. While the characters fail to hold a whole lot of interest, they're vivid as needed and the acting is functional, with Blade alum Stephen Dorff (usually an acquired taste) atypically disciplined and appealing as the hero. I admired the film's refusal to pander down to the audience by spelling everything out for the feeble-minded, and its ability to make us eager to know where the story is headed even though the narrative drive is clunky. You can accuse fear dot com of a lot of things, but being run-of-the-mill and predictable it most certainly isn't.

Yet, as admirable as the film is in parts, you honestly wish you could like it better. If the material had been developed more and not rushed I think the scenes which hold potential but get cut short before having a chance to build would have had the proper underpinnings to ground the themes and therefore strike a responsive chord in us deeper than an elementary "Boo!" one. When the evil site's female-voiced host asks "Do you like to watch?", the implication that eager-beaver voyeurism of deplorable acts isn't as distanced from the actual administering of them as we'd like to believe holds a fair amount of force; but this same thing is repeated on three other occasions in the same emotional tone, and you soon realize the film is playing out on virtually one level. The story runs out of ideas, and director Malone, whose technique in terms of timing and control have improved so he can get you from point A to B without embarrassing himself, hasn't the above-average talent to make substandard material play better than it should. At times, his work is quite substandard. In a sequence where the hero walks cautiously down a creepy hallway with a flashlight, the effect is already hampered by the absence of a suitably suspenseful music score but is made even worse by a major snafu: the point-of-view shot of the hero is from a child's eye level, and we're temporarily brought up short by this inconsistency when we should be too nerve-jangled to either notice or give a hoot. And if Malone's staging of the serial killer taunting his naked and bound victim with words rather than weapons is bone-chilling, then his later execution of the hero and him battling it out in the grand finale is simply abysmal in the juxtaposing of spatially-coherent shots.

fear dot com is an interesting curio, certainly -- it's way more worthwhile than the lame The Ring -- but its director is unfortunately still on an experimental level, trying his darndest to make good on his intentions but still failing at making the masterpiece you know he thinks he's making. Still, this is a very good try.

Visually staggering and well-acted, this is a film that should have been thought through better.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=6085&reviewer=327
originally posted: 12/31/02 05:17:06
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User Comments

11/26/11 Wa Wa Weitz Just awful. Crap, exploitative crap, derivative crap, boring crap, crap crap crap. 1 stars
9/11/07 kristina The movie was orgasmic :D 5 stars
6/09/06 Frank Rountree This movie was bad all the way around, everything! 1 stars
4/04/06 JRE horror films arent supposed to be predictable which is exactly what this was. dont watch it 1 stars
11/26/05 shell bell Not only was this predictable...it was boringly predictable. 1 stars
11/23/05 Melissa just waiting for something to happen, hard to hear, boring 1 stars
10/27/05 deadwiz Not scary, just weird. Had some interesting ideas. 3 stars
10/26/05 Richard Brandt Seems ghosts could just come out with what's bothering them...Wait, this wasn't The Ring? 2 stars
10/23/05 baseball-nut I have to agree with the majority....this was CRAP! 1 stars
9/02/05 ES Nothing here your life won't be better off without 1 stars
1/05/05 Joe England From what I saw, "The Ring," with "du you want to plé?" constantly fed onto the soundtrack. 2 stars
1/02/05 Sarah Jack Sommersby is a fucking idiot. 1 stars
7/21/04 American Slasher Goddess A boring mess, Jeffrey Combs is once again wasted in another movie. 1 stars
7/11/04 NaturezRevenge 1. The ring meets wannabe hellraiser where girls can have haemophilia and play at old mills 1 stars
6/23/04 Freeman Not bad at all 4 stars
4/11/04 valerie hart this is one of the worst films i have ever seen crap story its so dark cant see the screen! 1 stars
3/09/04 Sean McLean Boring direction and a script that needed some more drafts mars an otherwise decent concept 2 stars
2/14/04 Jingo P. Everyone involved deserves slow decapitation with a saudering iron. 1 stars
1/09/04 tatum Stunning visuals lift dumb story 3 stars
12/14/03 darkofnight An excellent ride that offers a surprising amount of great jolts. Conclusion falls flat. 4 stars
11/24/03 Samuel Good premise, but unfortunately the rest sucks! 3 stars
10/17/03 Jeremy Ach The best movie I have ever seen. 5 stars
10/11/03 Peter What a load of shite, and thats being Nice!!, if the film was any darker You need a tourch! 1 stars
10/11/03 Dumb Like it was the boring movie of all time 1 stars
10/09/03 Stacey !Stupid! 1 stars
8/26/03 feardotgovdotny everyone involved with this four-assed-monkey turd has 48 hrs b4 I start shooting! 1 stars
6/16/03 Alice I have no words for this piece of shit 1 stars
4/30/03 WORST MOVIE OF ALL TIME Anyone who likes this even a bit is a TURD. 1 stars
3/12/03 garamy swearingen it is shit 1 stars
1/24/03 nora parsons it is a very good movie 5 stars
1/17/03 othree serial killer, ghost & the net, supporting cast almost pulls it off, DARK! NO fEAR 3 stars
11/17/02 snowconehead Udo Kier is the man 5 stars
11/08/02 SPYDER ITS A RIP OFF OF THE RING, THAT SUCKS!!!! 1 stars
11/01/02 The Velcro Warlock Natasha McElhone, the angel of "Truman Show" is just as wasted here, even w/more screentime 2 stars
10/30/02 Oz got it just right, read his review Lillian, David A — you are RETARDS! Only a MORON could find anything to like in this TURD! 1 stars
10/23/02 Lillian Alston I agree with Eric, the movie had no meaning. I was exspecting something different. 3 stars
10/22/02 Jiz About as interesting as watching roadkill decompose. Yawn-o-matic, fuck you Malone 1 stars
10/08/02 This Movie Sucks The only frightening thing about this movie is the amount bad press it's getting. 1 stars
9/20/02 thejames why did stephen dorff have to be in this movie? hes good, movie sucks 2 stars
9/12/02 Mike G I laughed a lot. The dialogue is painful. 1 stars
9/12/02 Buddha Unconscionably bad. Terrible dialogue, for torture fans only. 1 stars
9/10/02 David A. Just like an episode of X Files. Lead characters are imitations of Mulder and Sculley. 4 stars
9/10/02 Warbandit What a load of bullsh!t. Avoid at all costs. 1 stars
9/09/02 jay shit shit garbage, waste of money, IM soo fuckin upset. crap, shit garbage, donation, damn 1 stars
9/08/02 Cliché Master The only thing scary here was the admission price. 1 stars
9/08/02 Erik Snider is right Not even bad in a funny kind of way. Just unbearable 1 stars
9/06/02 alien Which part of the movies name didn't warn you it would suck? Only suckers could go see it. 1 stars
9/06/02 Jennie sucked big time, stupidist movie ever seen 1 stars
9/06/02 Gregg I think this film should be titled Crapdotcom 1 stars
9/05/02 CARLOS GUTIERREZ VERY BAD MOVIE, IN DIALOGUE AND EDITING 1 stars
9/04/02 The Chronic Mastubator Such a boring turd of a movie. 1 stars
9/02/02 Sugarfoot Piss rotten! 1 stars
9/02/02 Danielle Ophelia Fear dot coma 1 stars
9/01/02 Danny See my review at www.bucketreviews.com 3 stars
8/31/02 Damien Raven Maybe the weirdest damn movie this year. Decent plot, bad acting and dialog, great looking 3 stars
8/20/02 Peter Brook Is this a joke? Fear dot com? 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  30-Aug-2002 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  06-Feb-2003




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