review by Gregory Avery, 30 August 2002

In the scare thriller Feardotcom, Stephen Dorff, as a New York City police detective, and a dazed-looking Natasha McElhone, as a Department of Health inspector, look into a series of strange murders which leads them to a haunted website, where visitors, once they've "entered," start hallucinating like mad and become so scared that they experience adrenaline rushes strong enough to cause them to die within 48 hours. There is also a mystery to be solved connected to the website, and a vengeful ghost, but what the mystery is and the steps that are required to solve it are long in coming.

The picture has been filmed in mildew-darks, a sort of modern Medieval look (if it doesn't quite look like New York City in the film, that's because it was actually made in Montreal and Luxembourg), and it has more rain puddles inside, rather than outside, of buildings since Blade Runner. The film also shamelessly swipes the little girl with the bouncing white ball from Fellini's Toby Dammit, and bits and pieces from Seven and Silence of the Lambs (and, from the looks of it in one scene, the hotel room "clue" scene in The Last of Sheila), plus a whole lot of Hideo Nakata's The Ring, which also included a ghost, a mystery, and a lethal time limit, only without Nakata's ability to generate suspense and scares without resorting to shock effects. Trying to create an atmosphere of total terror (and hell-bent on making a potential cult film by any means possible), the filmmakers of Feardotcom alternate between some meticulously realized and executed computer imagery and some of the darkest cinematography I've ever seen in an American film -- we're reduced to peering into the gloom, waiting to see what grotesquery is going to be served up, or flung in our faces, next. (Some of which fly by so fast you can't make them out, and you probably don't want to make them out.)

And there are some gratuitous, and inexcusable, scenes of torture featuring Stephen Rea, who, in an increasingly unwatchable performance, quotes Joseph Stalin while toying with bound, gagged, nude young women by wafting a scalpel through the air and over their helpless flesh, while a video camera streams the whole thing onto the Internet. People need to be punished for "watching," his character says, but I'm wondering what Stephen Rea, whose given some fine performances, both onstage and in film, over the past two decades, is doing spouting the type of blather you'd expect to see coming from a fifth-rate actor on some late-night movie on Cinemax. His character, at least, gets one doozy of a sendoff before the end of the picture.

Directed by:
William Malone

Stephen Dorff
Natasha McElhone
Stephen Rea
Jeffrey Combs
Amelia Curtis
Nigel Terry
Michael Sarrazin
Udo Kier

Written by:
Josephine Coyle
Moshe Diamant

R - Restricted.
Under 17 requires parent
or adult guardian..







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