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William Malone
Stephen Dorff, Natascha McElhone, Stephen Rea, Udo Kier, Amelia Curtis, Jeffrey Combs
Writing Credits:
Moshe Diamant, Josephine Coyle

Want to see a really killer website? It's the last site you'll ever see.
Box Office:
Budget $42 million.
Opening weekend $7.087 million on 2550 screens.
Domestic gross $13.208 million.
Rated R for violence including grisly images of torture, nudity and language.

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 101 min.
Price: $26.98
Release Date: 1/14/2003

• Audio Commentary by Director William Malone & Director of Photography Christian Sebaldt
• feardotcom: Vision of Fear
• The Mushroom Factory with Introduction by William Malone
• Cast & Crew
• Fear Gallery
• Theatrical Trailer
• DVD-ROM Features


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Fear Dot Com (2002)

Reviewed by Blake Kenny (January 6, 2003)

Horror films to me are very much Ďhit or missí. Creating a truly sensational horror movie seems to be more reserved to fluke than anything else. Do you think Tobe Hooper had any idea that Texas Chainsaw Massacre would become such a visceral horror movie Ė and a cult favourite? Probably not. The thing is, I think great horror just happens or will only happen if created by serious fans of the genre. If youíre trying too hard to make it scary, you probably wonít succeed. Such is the case with about 95% of the horror movies that Iíve seen in the last 10 years. While theatrical trailers, using their quick cuts and fancy editing tricks always seem to make a horror movie look awesome, they never seem to live up to my expectations once I actually get around to seeing them.

Professional film critics go on about how a movie was ďÖthe scariest film I have ever witnessedÖĒ Ė I usually watch the same film and think to myself ďÖthat was pretty lame.Ē Who knows, maybe Iím just desensitized. Either that or these film critics were nursed on their mother teat until they were 4 years old and have never experienced anything more shocking in their lives than Jerry the mouse hitting Tom over the head with a frying pan, or perhaps sticking dynamite up his rectum.

Bottom line is, when it comes to horror, Iím a hard sell. Cheap scares to make you jump out of your seat hardly ever work on me. Fortunately my job here on this site requires more in the way of reviewing the quality of the DVD, and not some much the quality of the film. In this area itís open season and Iím free to express my opinion. After all, Iím still somewhat of a critic. Youíre reading my opinion arenít you? Fact is, some people will agree Ė others wonít - and who cares anyway. Ebert and Roeper are consistently off the mark in my opinion, and Iím sure they donít give a ratís ass what I think. Heck ,those two canít even agree with each other, so why should we be any different?

So, this being said, youíve probably already concluding that I donít think to highly of Fear Dot Com. In my opinion this film has an undeniable problem. Itís neither suspenseful nor scary. I wasnít being thrilled and I wasnít feeling chills. I sat there watching it with total ambivalence. The characters were dull, the special effects were boring and the story was standard Hollywood horror. I was perhaps a tad curious to see how the film would end, (even thought I predicted it about 30 minutes in) but at the same time, I didnít really care.

Anyway, Iím getting ahead of myself. Iím talking about my thoughts at the end of the film and I havenít even mentioned the beginning. Fear Dot Com essentially revolved around 2 primary characters. Mike Reilly (Stephen Dorff) is a dedicated New York homicide cop, and Terry (Natascha McElhone) is employed at the Department of Health. Theyíre paths are brought together when several people start to keel over from untimely and unexplainable deaths Ė all the while bleeding from every orifice on their person. The only thing connecting these mysterious death is the fact that they all died 48 hours to the minute after visiting a fear website.

While the viewer is likely to watch the first bit of the movie thinking there is some psycho behind all these bizarre deaths, itís quickly learned that itís something far more supernatural. Without giving the whole story away to those who actually intend to watch this movie. You, wonít really be all the surprised by much of what you see. In this day and age of technology meets science, itís pretty typical and predictable stuff.

Ultimately Fear Dot Com comes off as nothing more than a dark, supernatural thriller thatís themed after some crazy Marilyn Manson or Korn music videos. Using a lot of quick flashes of spooky imagery and a lot of MTV technique, the film attempts to scare you, but invariably Ė falls flat.

While the film makers seem to boast that this is a very fresh film idea, theyíve obviously never seen 1993ís: Ghost in the Machine Ė in which a serial killerís consciousness in transported into the worlds electrical system. The killer then proceeds to kill people with their own microwave ovens etcÖ Heck, the movie even made me think of 1992ís The Lawnmower Man to some degree. While Fear Dot Com and these other films arenít identical, the similarities in themes is certainly there. Like I said, they only thing new about this idea is that it involved the Internet, but other than that Ė itís old hat.

Truthfully, there arenít many positive things to say about this film other than it had some decent acting by some decent actors Ė even if Natascha McElhone wasnít as good as I had expected her to be. Aside from that, the films visual imagery, special effects and attempts at innovation go nowhere. Thereís nothing at all about this film that felt fresh. Just another dull, cookie cutter horror movie without a single shred of originality or inventiveness. Itís sure to be forgotten rather quickly.

Lets face it folks. Horror might been seen in the eyes of most people as nothing more than the pursuit of gratuitous violence and a body count, but you have to admit, even with this simple recipe - film makers seldom get it right. Horror is not an easy genre to succeed in. There are only a handful of great horror movies out there, but there are a million good dramas. Why is that? Well, I suppose itís because weíve grown accustomed to violence in everyday life. We all watch the news and know that nothing is more horrifying than the real thing. Maybe itís time to get back to the basics of carnal terror and skip all this supernatural and trippy nonsense. We need some primal fear baby!

The DVD Grades: Picture B / Audio B+ / Bonus C+

Fear Dot Com is presented in itís original theatrical aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 Ė It has also been enhanced for widescreen 16x9 TVís.

For those of you who have seen the film, youíre aware how dark and dreary this film can look. Thereís hardly a scene in the entire film that isnít copious with shadows and rainfall. In an effort to give the movie a creepy quality, the film makers have done their best to make every seen look as unpleasant and uncomfortable as possible. This however causes a few concerns with the DVDís visual presentation Ė as dark scenes are often the bane of many movies. Fear Dot Com is no different, as many darker scenes look muddy and seem to lack the appropriate level of solidity. Black simply didnít feel intense enough for me, and many scenes which should have been extremely dark were more in the realm of dark grey.

Still, this is a minor complaint as a majority of the film looked exceptional. The image was sharp throughout much of the viewing, with hardly any noticeable defects to be seen. It perhaps seems odd to dock this film a full letter grade simply because the contrast wasnít so great and the blacks werenít very solid, but when nearly the entire film is dark with only trace hints of yellows and greens, it was very noticeable and simply impossible to ignore. Overall a very solid visual display, with only a few problematic issues.

Fear Dot Comís audio is unsurprisingly presented in Dolby Digital 5.1.

All in all, this film had very positive sound . With the birth of fantastic surround sound, the potential for a horror film to take fear to another level is a great asset. Fear Dot Com uses this ability fairly well. It audio was clean, clear and full of great, mood setting effects. The rear surrounds were used fairly regular and I found little room for aural complaints. Thunder cracks and rumbles throughout your living room Ė and adds great ambiance to the filmís rainy nights. The spooky voices whispering and shrieking behind me were also a nice addition, as voices often make horror fans uneasy, but all the great sound was somewhat of a wasted effort. Sound can only add so much to a dull film and even the greatest use of sound is meaningless if is film doesnít manage to captivate the viewer in the first place. The problem lies in the fact that even good sound canít save an uninteresting picture. It just makes the film a little more bearable.

With the release of this DVD we get a basic set is special features. First and foremost we get a Commentary by Director William Malone and Director of Photography Christian Sebaldt. Overall this audio commentary was mediocre at best. While our two presenters were very vocal for the most part, they never really made the track into anything more than just another standard session. While the men clearly enjoyed working on the film, their enthusiasm for the project doesnít carry over to the listener. While I wouldnít go as far as saying they were boring, they never really entertained me either.

In fact, the best thing I can do to praise their recording session is to say they were very screen specific. Rarely did the two men ramble on and head off on some uninteresting tangent that had nothing to do with the particular scene being shown in the film. When a specific actor appeared on the screen, they spoke about that actor. When a particular special effect was shown, they discussed how it was done. They offered a lot of good information about the production of the film and for fans of the movie, itís probably going to be considered a fairly good commentary. I however, wasnít particularly impressed with the film, and this being the case, the audio track was of very little interest to me. Still, it was a good effort from both of our speakers, but nothing overly memorable.

Next up we get feardotcom: Visions of Fear (5:08). During this particular segment we get brief comments from director William Malone and actors Stephen Dorff, Natascha McElhone and Jeffrey Combs. Essentially they have very little to discuss aside from the look of the film - the dark, dreary, 1930ís look. The segment also shows a few clips of the film. Overall this feature could best be described as a 5 minute commercial for the film that includes a few cast and crew comments. Nothing special.

With what is essentially a single deleted scene Ė we get The Mushroom Factory with Introduction by William Malone (5:02). This scene portrays an additional death of an unimportant character. Itís just another freaky end as a result of visiting the fear.com website. The scene is incomplete and was obviously scrapped well before the completion of the film. It contains green screen moments in which the effects had yet to be added. It was interesting to see another strange demise, but in the end it would have done little to improve the overall strength of the film. Still, I think it would have preferred it if the scene had remained in the movie.

Next we get Cast & Crew. This is the same thing you have seen on a million other DVDís in which you can view a list of other films a few of the cast and crew member have worked on, or appeared in. This time around you can check out the career highlights for Stephen Dorff, Natascha McElhone, Stephen Rea, story writer Moshe Diamant and director William Malone.

Fear Gallery is our next addition to this DVD. This segment allows you to view some conceptual art for the film, in particular the design work for the primary ghost character. We also get to view the storyboards for one of the filmís key death scenes. Overall, this segment is pretty weak, as it only contains about 20 pictures total and the owner of the DVD canít view the pictures at their leisure. The movement from one image to the next is totally automated, so if you donít catch it the first time around, youíll have to start over to see it again.

The filmís theatrical trailer is also included on the Fear Dot Com DVD.

Last up on our list of extras we have DVD-Rom Features. Unfortunately my present computer is without this luxury, so viewing the provided material under this segment was unavailable to me. In fact, had I a DVD-Rom on this computer, Iím sure my interest in viewing this material would have been non-existent anyway.

Well, in the end Iíd have to say that Fear Dot Com struck me as nothing more than another generic, uninteresting and typical Hollywood horror production. It featured nothing to make is thrilling nor memorable within the horror genre. As it stands, Iím starting to believe that the days of truly visceral and horrifying films are behind us. So few movie of this type in the past 10 years have done anything at all to capture my interest and live up to my expectation. Could the days of truly exceptional horror be over? I doubt it. I just think its time to tone down the big studio special effects and get back to the basics, which is scaring people.

While I have nothing against the actors in this particular film, I find that all the greatest horror films of the past starred no recognizable actors what so ever Ė very few anyway. Sure some of them have gone on to fame since then, but overall, not knowing the actors made the gamble over who would and wouldnít get killed off a bit more unpredictable.

I think itís time for Hollywood horror to disappear and independent, low budget horror to make a come-back. It seems scary movies made by horror fans are always infinitely more terrifying than the films made by big studios. Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Evil Dead and The Hills Have Eyes Ė all great horror movie made by Ė at the time, unknown directors with aspirations of nothing other than scaring the crap out of the viewer. No one knew a thing about them, but they obviously had a love of the genre, and they knew what they needed to do to scare people and to push their buttons.

So while itís obvious that I was thoroughly unimpressed with this movie, what did I think of the DVD? Well truthfully itís pretty decent for a basic film. The picture quality is fairly solid and the sound, while nothing particularly memorable was also very well done. Add to that a basic set of supplements and I donít think fans of the movie will have many complaints. The question is, does this film even have any fans? I for one know that if I never see this movie again as long as I live, it will be too soon. Fear Dot Com is another film that can be chalked up as okay for a rental, but itís certainly not worth the purchase price. Unless of course, youíre one of the 7-8 people out there who actually enjoyed it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.8285 Stars Number of Votes: 35
4 3:
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