Film Review: FearDotCom

2002 horror/thriller: Directed by William Malone; starring: Stephen Dorff, Natascha McElhone, and Stephen Rea. [rated R] Stars given: 4/5.

“You and I share a great responsibility to them. They’ve come to watch, but, also, to learn. We will provide a lesson that reducing relationships to anonymous, electronic impulses is a perversion.”

In what starts out as a bizarre death scene, and develops into something of interesting horror, “FearDotCom” is a tale of what happens when our technology is used for revenge of those wronged.

Stephen Dorff plays Mike Reilly, an NYPD detective that is stuck at a dead end with a serial murderer who is no longer sending him taunting messages. With no clues to move forward with his investigation, he is left to the usual litany of daily detective work. But when a mysterious series of deaths suddenly occur with similar patterns to them, he begins to wonder if they are all connected to his missing murderer.

“FearDotCom” earns points for having a R. L. Stein feel; by starting in the “middle” of the action, the audience immediately become invested and curious. The mystery is all the more mysterious when it starts with a hundred questions, thusly trapping the audience in to watch the movie all the way through.

In addition to Dorff, Natascha McElhone plays Terry Huston, a woman with the Department of Health. Even though she is introduced first as a random woman in an apartment, she is later revealed on scene, and her character is slowly unfolded as the film goes on. They make a rather good team, both as their characters and as actors, but are nothing too spectacular. Perhaps that is why “FearDotCom” never became the summer blockbuster it was hoping to be.

Much like other films that meld the supernatural with the technological age—such as “White Noise” and “The Ring” –“FearDotCom” opens a portal from what shouldn’t be and gives the world a chance to see something really bad, should they go looking for it. The victims of the supernatural willingly view what causes them to eventually die and even the victims of the killer (and you should rarely blame the victims of the killer) are given the chance to recognize the dangers, but choose to ignore them, becoming metaphorical, but still clueless, lambs walking into a slaughterhouse. The only real “innocent victim” is the poor police consultant, who is unfortunate enough to be the one to try and salvage one of the victim’s computers.

As far as horror films go, this one doesn’t offer too many actual “scares”. There are no jump scenes and only a couple of tense moments to satisfy the horror side of the viewers. The score is superb, truly making the film’s spooky atmosphere. What really makes it satisfying, however, is that just about everything is answered. Sure, the leading characters do some pretty stupid things, but it is for the plot to move forward, and most, if not all, of the questions presented are answered.

While, as a viewer, I didn’t have TOO many issues with this film, but one of my largest complaints is that the site-victim’s scares were not consistent. All of them were frightened by the mysterious little white-haired girl except for the police computer consultant. She didn’t even SEE the girl; she only saw the little girl’s ball, which quickly rotted away. Was this because she clicked “no” on the site? However, the film has the same question and the two main protagonists also question why she did not fit the 48-hour pattern, opting for suicide rather than facing whatever was on the website (which, as we later see, is some pretty trippy reality), and THAT makes “FearDotCom” a four out of five in my book. Any film that addresses its own issues with the same questions that the audience asks is a real winner.

One additional note: most of this film takes place at night or in ill-lit spots. Watch this one in the dark.



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