June 2003 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Gary S. Dalkin
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Film Review

Fear Dot Com (2002)  
dir. William Malone
Starring Stephen Dorff, Natascha McElhone, Stephen Rea.
101 minute

Fear Dot Com is released nationally on 27th June 2003

fear dot com

As in William Malone’s dire remake of House on Haunted Hill this Internet-killer movie forfeits plot and character in favour of an edgy, atmospheric moodiness that leaves the viewer largely lost. Irredeemably dark, seedy and dank (rather like Fincher’s Seven), with often only just a glimmer of light to take us out of the shadows, it’s a film more noticeable for what it copies than for any overt originality. That it also relies on the ability (or, in this case inability) of its cast to supply the tension to wind us up, and then spit us out, proves the film’s focal weak point.

The premise (and that is really all there is to the film) is a simple one: visit feardot.com and a live web-cam will determine your worst fears and 48 hours later bring them to brutal reality for you. You are invited into this world by the tempting beauties of a partly bondaged woman daring you to click ‘yes’, but what the film really fails to evince is the belief that such temptation has little to do with the fragility of a once-in-the-moment surfing opportunity and more to do with our own unrestrained desires to seek the unknown. We never really find out why the victims click ‘yes’ and as such the films potential for looking beneath the surface of its gritty gore-fest is lost.

The deaths are new-horror standard – Malone certainly isn’t a master of cruelty, like Argento for example. Eyes bleed, spiders bite, trains open up guts, women are mutilated but if that wasn’t enough we are also led to believe that it is the very soulessness of the victims, where emotions are opaquely disguised as loneliness, that leads them to the inevitability of the horror awaiting them. Much of the film relies on Stephen Dorff’s gritty cop, Mike Reilly, and his ability to delve into the inner secrets of the damned. Looking constantly dishevelled, nervous and vulnerable Dorff doesn’t equal the premise. Tormented he might be but that doesn’t seem to make him able to interact with what’s happening on screen. Natascha McElhone, as an ambitious health researcher doesn’t do much better. Stephen Rea, mad, bad and a believable sadist, steals the film by a hefty margin, even if it is the kind of over-the-top performance he’d probably rather forget.

The premise is certainly a good one – but Malone might have benefited from a screenplay that made sense. Josephine Coyle’s makes us feel we are wading through glue and the performances become bogged down because of it. Lynda la Plant’s 1998 Killer Net with its seedy on-line stalking and murder games, luring viewers and actors seamlessly into the blurred world of fantasy and reality, remains the ideal Internet horror. By comparison, Malone’s Fear Dot Com seems merely tired and pedestrian beside it.

Mark Hockley reviewed the score album of this much delayed film way back in January .

Marc Bridle

Film *(*) 11/2

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