Worth A Look: 3.23%
Just Average: 20.43%
Pretty Crappy: 5.38%
6 reviews, 57 user ratings
|fear dot com
by Doug Bentin
It’s not uncommon to find so many plot holes in a horror film, the script looks like a chain link fence. Prose horror fiction is plot-driven; horror films rely on atmosphere.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Italian tradition, and there especially in the films of Lucio Fulci.Fulci’s work, unknown to anyone in this country who isn’t a gore hound, abounds in stories that are called “plotted” only by courtesy. The scripts are merely pretences on which stunning visuals of mortifying fear and gag-inducing violence are hung. One of his most notorious moments comes in “The City of the Dead” in which a young woman, turning into a zombie before our eyes, literally pukes her guts out in one extended shot.
"Visual feast and intellectual famine"
Fulci has recently received fine treatment in DVD through the auspices of Anchor Bay, and I mention him here only because “Feardotcom” reminds me so much of his approach to the creepshow.
The movie comes by its European look naturally. It’s a co-production from the U.K., Germany, and Luxembourg, and the cast list is littered with surnames like Cukrowski and Güttgemanns. William Malone, whose previous feature thriller was “House on Haunted Hill,” directs and brings to this picture the same eye for odd, creep-you-out visuals he employed in that earlier movie.
Stephen Dorff stars as police detective Mike Reilly. He begins working with Dept. of Health investigator Terry Houston (Natascha McElhone) to look into a series of deaths that appear to be caused by some sort of unidentified virus. All the victims are bleeding from the eyes.
Terry determines it’s no plague. The only things they discover that the victims had in common were recent visits to the web site “feardotcom.com,” which they realize is a “live death” site. A serial killer known as The Doctor is torturing and murdering people for anyone with Internet access to watch.
But something is getting to those web surfers who enjoy watching others die in torment. Within 48 hours of logging on to feardotcom.com, they, too, perish, victims of their most terrifying fears. Each one’s demise is initiated by the appearance of a small girl dressed in white, playing with a white plastic ball.
In order to track The Doctor to his lair, Reilly has to log onto the site, thereby endangering himself unless he can locate the murderer before his 48 hours are up.
As you can see, this plot is serviceable to propel a series of shocking events, but Malone’s interest is not in telling a coherent story. Things happen with the inevitability and surreal quality of a recurrent nightmare. The movie is loaded with dark and stormy nights, long hallways with closed doors at their ends, and fluttery drapes that flick onto and off the screen with the imprecision of odd things seen out of the corner of the eye.
I know that these elements are standard in horror films, but Malone’s specialties are montage sequences during which frightening objects and people zoom past. You see them for a second, just long enough to comprehend what they are, but not long enough to decide why they’re there.
A naked woman creeping along on all fours, her head tilted up so you can see her glaring at you; flashes of The Doctor’s victims in varying states of decomposition; doorways leading to places you’d have to be mad to want to enter—all these things shoot across the screen with unsettling speed and suggestiveness. It’s a trick Malone used to good effect in “House on Haunted Hill,” and his visions are even more haunting here.
Dorff is fine as the obsessed cop, and cult horror film favorite Jeffrey Combs is a welcome presence even if he doesn’t have much to do, but the real heart—or heartlessness—of the picture is Stephen Rea as the butchering Doctor.
Rea hit one out of the park as the gender-confused IRA soldier in “The Crying Game,” but he hasn’t done much of note since. Here, his underplaying as the insane serial killer makes his scenes among the spookiest of recent memory. He’s so quiet, so still, so apparently rational as he kidnaps his victims and tortures them to the point of having them beg for death, he is the embodiment of evil’s banality.
This must sound as if the film presents moments of butchery beyond what most viewers could ever consider to be entertainment, but the movie is less overtly gruesome than most. The buzz is that the gore content was sliced off in order to get an R rating.“Feardotcom” is certainly not for everyone—not even for everyone who professes to like horror movies. But if you’ve seen the Italian model and know you can go with the visuals and not worry if the plot makes no more sense than the worst nightmare, you should be pleasantly creeped out.
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originally posted: 10/21/05 16:32:38