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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Fear Dot Com
Fear Dot Com
Warner Bros. // R // January 14, 2002
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 4, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

In 1989, director William Malone helmed a few episodes of the "Tales From the Crypt" series, which was produced by director Robert Zemeckis and producer Joel Silver ("The Matrix"). Although the series attracted a legion of directors whose credits are more impressive, for some reason, the two producers have allowed Malone to direct two Halloween releases - "House on Haunted Hill" (1999) and now, "FearDotCom". Both share a surprising cast ("House" had Geoffrey Rush, while "Fear" has Stephen Rea and Natasha McElhone), but while "House" was a mildly fun B-movie that didn't take itself seriously, "Fear" is a dismal picture that takes itself ultra-seriously.

The film stars Stephen Dorff as detective Mike Reilly, a cop investigating a death that can't quite be explained. Assisted by Department of Health officer Terry (Natascha McElhone), the two first think that a plague has hit the city, but then realize that the victims have apparently expired from fright, shown their particular fears after visiting the feardotcom.com website.

Obviously, this is a nearly complete take-off (to the point where I'm surprised there aren't any lawsuits pending) of the Japanese film "The Ring" (which was also remade in English by director Gore Verbinski last year). Where "The Ring" was scary without much - if any - violence, "Feardotcom" is depressing, disturbing and difficult to watch. "The Ring" was beautifully stylish, well-acted and cleverly written. "Fear" is none of the above - in fact, while the cinematography tries for dark, slick and moody, it succeeds at times and looks just plain dark (and I mean completely dark) at others.

The acting certainly doesn't save the picture, which is somewhat surprising, given the talent involved. McElhone and Dorff are supposed to have a romantic thing going (which is rather odd, given the tone), but the two have positively no chemistry with one another. The screenplay is written with little concern for logic or character development - the characters are all one-dimensional cliches, while the film's structure is often messy and details not always clear.

Aside from some stylish visuals of the streets and a few moments of decent atmosphere, I found nothing to like about "Fear Dot Com". Fine actors work in service of a disasterous script, terrible plotting is covered up by flashy editing and the picture's ugly attempts at scares are not scary, just difficult to watch. An impressively bad film.


The DVD

VIDEO: "Feardotcom" is presented by Warner Brothers in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a fairly good transfer of difficult material. Many scenes take place almost entirely in total darkness, but the transfer still offers respectable detail for the characters walking around in it.

If there were any flaws within this transfer, most of them were probably hidden within the darkness. Still, a few minor instances of edge enhancement were present, but no pixelation or print flaws were spotted. The film's totally subdued color palette looked accurate to the intentions of the filmmakers.

SOUND: "Feardotcom" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 by Warner Brothers. After being greatly impressed with the soundtrack for Malone's "House on Haunted Hill" remake, I found this one rather disapointing. Aside from the rain and a few sound effects, the surrounds aren't used in any particularly creative fashion. The score also gets support form the surrounds, as well. Audio quality was fine, as the sound effects and dialogue were clear and crisp.

EXTRAS: Commentary from director William Malone and director of photography Christian Sebaldt, "Visions of Fear" promotional documentary, picture gallery, deleted scene and trailer. After watching this movie, I had no desire to learn anything more about how it was made.

Final Thoughts: Disturbing, depressing and often just utter nonsense, "Feardotcom" is easily one of the year's worst pictures. I couldn't wait for it to end. Warner Brothers has presented the film fairly well, with a few supplements and fine audio/video, but I certainly wouldn't recommend this film on any level.

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