|Star:||Steven Dorff, Natascha McElhone, Stephen Rea, Gesine Cukrowski|
|Cert / Year:||18 - R / 2002|
When four bodies are discovered around New York City, with blood seeping from their nasal and ocular cavaties young cop Mike Reilly (Stephen Dorff) teams up with Department of Health officer Terry Huston (Natascha McElhone) to investigate these violent and yet mysterious deaths. At first there seems to be no common denominator, but it soon becomes apparent that all of the victims visited a live cam site called "Feardot.Com" 48 hours before they died. Their investigation draws them into a voyeuristic world of death and torture and leads Mike to log on to the site. As the clock starts ticking, Mike realises that the man behind the site is the skeleton in his closet..... a sadistic and elusive serial killer known as "The Doctor" (Stephen Rea) whom Mike has been chasing for years. The only problem is, there is far more to this website than that....... "Time's almost up..."
If you enjoyed The House on Haunted Hill then Feardot.com was bound to appeal, seeing as it is director William Malone's latest offering. I have to admit that at times the film could probably do with being called "confusion dot com" as it doesn't quite know what it is and where it is going, but on second viewing it isn't nearly as bad and once the fact that it is really a modern spin on a ghost story is established the film starts to make more sense and plays out much better. First time around however it may well appear rather vague, but it is worth persevering with it as once the rabbit is out of the hat the story comes together nicely.
Fear Dot Com cleverly embeds itself in the internet age and aims right at the surfers and lurkers. The way that the spirit / ghost targets the online voyeurs as victims is smart and yet chilling.... do you really know what you are getting when you subscribe online? Exactly, and there lies the point. In addition to the film's major protagonist "The Doctor" using his website as a "live cam" death website to showcase his "talent" as a murderer and bring his work to a wider audience, not to mention his own chilling pleasure. That said there is hardly any gore and no buckets of blood, just some well placed and fast paced imagery. Malone directs well and clearly has an eye for horror imagery and direction. The dark, oppressive feel of the film is backed by some very stylish and subtle direction and eerie lighting. Although I do feel that in this instance Malone over relies upon jittery skewed camera angles and grainy / contrasty photography for much of his "style". He did all this before and marginally more effectively with Haunted Hill which leads me to the film's finale which is very reminiscent of Haunted Hill and doesn't really bring anything new to the film. The ending is predictable but entertaining nonetheless.
Overrall Fear Dot Com is inconsistently suspensful as portions of the film are very well set up and superbly atmospheric, but they just don't fit with some of the surrounding scenes or set pieces and the suspense diminishes / dissipates. This may be due to some poor editing but it is perhaps one of the confusing elements for some viewers. Malone's visuals offer a subtle, dark and oppressive feel but are eventually let down. A blatantly CGI effect involving a few cockroaches is a very dissappointing moment. The website visuals are good, in a frighteningly plausible way.
In a similar fashion to Ring, Fear Dot Com plays and even relies upon the predicability and weakness of human nature and our own curiosity, which would naturally ensure that someone would either watch the video tape or in this case visit the website. The end result is the same, except in Ring the victims die after 7 days, whereas here they die after 48 hours.
Steven Dorff provides a good performance and works well with McElhone but he still appears to be playing "Frost" from Blade. That said, he works better in solo scenes, unlike McElhone who rapidly becomes quite vaccuous when not bouncing off her co-stars. Stephen Rea is flouncy and baggy eyed as the "Doctor" and also becomes quite tedious as his over the top American accent and slow dialogue delivery proves most grating. A brief, haggard appearance by former King Arthur Nigel Terry from Excalibur is criminally short lived but pleasant. Horror icon Udo Kier appears during the film's opening scene in the subway, which also proves to be another short lived but pleasant performance. Cult hero Jeffrey Combs puts in a typically weird performance as Reilly's partner Sykes. Yet another odd ball character for Combs but he just isn't used enough and given a mildly sardonic role. Special mention to Gesine Cukrowski who manages to provide the best performance involving a sultry "eurotrash" accent in an avenging spirit / tortured soul role. Although she could have done with more screen time.
Not going to appeal to everyone, but I did find the film stimulating and morbidly entertaining but not impressive and not particuarly scary. I had hoped for better.
Abandon all hope...... Access all evil.... Enter Feardot.com
Want to see a really killer website? It's the last site you'll ever see
You asked for death, so I am no longer your murderer
|16:9 Anamorphic||Good quality crisp image|
|Dolby Digital 5.1||Overrall very good|
|Strobey, fit inducing animated Menu|
|Interesting Audio commentary by director William Malone, but he does waffle on a little.|
|"Visions Of Fear: The Effects Of FeardotCom" behind the scenes featurette|
|"The Mushroom Factory" Deleted scene with introduction by William Malone|
|Unimpressive photo gallery|
|A nicely put together little disc on the whole. Nice presentation of the film with a couple of interesting extras including some additional DVD-Rom features.|