Fear Dot Com (2002)
Directed by: William Malone
Starring: Stephen Dorff, Natascha McElhone, Stephen Rea, Udo Kier
(out of 4)
fear dot com is the kind of horror movie that is 75% derivative and 25% wasted potential. There are scenes that stand out for their striking nightmarish quality, but these are scenes that belong in a better film. Stephen Dorff plays a cop who is on the trail of a serial killer who taunts him with occasional letters. There is no real fleshing out of the back-story involving the relationship between cop and killer, but no matter.. the bulk of the movie concerns a website which kills the viewer 48 hours after accessing it. Apparently, the unfortunate surfer ends up dying from his/her greatest fear, but even this plot point seems underused and glossed over – one can imagine fabulous death sequences involving one’s worst fears, but, with the exception of one clever sequence where a computer expert dies from a multiple onslaught of bugs (get it?), I suppose we’ll have to make due with the Elm Street movies.
It seems that the director decided to throw bits of other films into the mix, and stir them around, hoping for a brand new concoction; there are elements of old silent horror movies, bits of Videodrome, StrangeLand, Seven, and even some of the anime series Serial Experiments Lain. Yes, of course, the movie is a total ripoff of the J-horror flick Ringu (no coincidence that this movie and The Ring were made around the same time in 2002). In addition, the technological side of this killer-web-site scenario is barely touched upon – why, for instance, is there no attempt to track down the source of the fear.com website? (Does anybody know how to do a traceroute anymore?) The philosophical undertones of the film are reduced in importance to throwaway ramblings by our serial killer (“We will provide a lesson that reducing relationships to an anonymous electronic impulse is a perversion”), and abandoned in the end to a simple track-down-the-killer horror film. While there are interesting elements scattered throughout, the end result is not worth the download time – if you’re looking for a movie about a virus-in-the-wired, try the aforementioned Japanese items, or Ghost in the Shell; if you want merging-of-the-virtual-and-reality, see Videodrome; if you want a good noirish serial-killer movie, go with Seven.
- Bill Gordon