'Fear dot com' is gratuitous mixture of sex and violence


Published: Sunday, September 1, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 31, 2002 at 10:46 p.m.
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"Fear dot com" follows New York police detective Mike Reily (Stephen Dorff) and Department of Health reserarcher Terry Hustron (Natascha McElhone, above) as they investigate why people are dying within 48 hours of logging onto the Web site www.feardotcom.com.

Facts

'fear dot com'

  • Starring: Stephen Dorff, Natascha McElhone
  • Rated: R
  • Theaters: Butler Plaza, Gator Cinemas Oaks 4 West

  • "Fear dot com" isn't just bad in a corny, horror-flick kind of way, though it has its share of unintentionally funny moments. It's bad in a sickening, disturbing way, with its gratuitous mixture of sex and violence.
    The movie follows New York police detective Mike Reilly (Stephen Dorff) and Department of Health researcher Terry Huston (Natascha McElhone) as they investigate why people are dying within 48 hours of logging onto the Web site www.feardotcom.com.
    (If curiosity gets the best of you, and you feel compelled to click onto the site, don't worry - you won't die. You'll just waste time with information on the cast and crew.)
    The Web site in the movie allows people to watch as murderer Alistair Pratt (Stephen Rea, who doesn't need this work) tortures women before killing them. Screenwriter Josephine Coyle probably intended this as an indictment of people's voyeuristic appetites, and the way in which the Internet feeds them. But the images are so twisted and bloody, they seem to shock for shock's sake, and provide no insight.
    Pratt injects a bit of comic relief into this dreary outing as a sort of "Saturday Night Live" version of Hannibal Lecter. He nasally intones in his victims' ears, "Tell us about yourself - who you are, where you're from," and compliments them on their cheap perfume while they're tied up and blindfolded.
    Like "Poltergeist," the Web site knows what scares the people who log on to leer at the violence. They end up dying from what they fear most: A woman who's petrified of insects is eaten up by them; a man who fears car crashes goes flying through his own windshield.
    Despite the popularity of his Web site - and the string of corpses he's left behind - Pratt has eluded police and the FBI for years. Mike figures the only way to find him is to log on, even though Terry warns him not to do it - and so begins the 48-hour countdown to death (which is never explained, but whatever).
    Then Terry points and clicks to try to save Mike - and guess what happens to her. Beautiful but boring, Terry contributes to the investigation with insights like, "We'll know more when we get the body back to the morgue," and "Maybe this guy was trying to tell us something."
    The look of the film is no better than the script. Director William Malone is described in the production notes as a film historian and avid collector of memorabilia. But the images he's chosen are strictly cliches: a spooky-looking little girl playing by herself with a ball, elevator doors that close at the last minute during a chase, and incessant thunderstorms.
    Malone must have saved a ton of money on lighting, though. Most of the movie takes place at night, and every room is illuminated by a single lamp in the corner, which usually has been knocked to the floor in a flurry of Internet-induced violence. In its quest to be a dark, Gothic horror movie, "fear dot com" ends up being just dark.

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