Of all the crap I had to watch in 2002, the insipid FearDotCom easily ranks among the worst. It's an admittedly odd judgment coming from me, considering that it shares so many superficial themes with my favorite flick of the year, The Ring. But while they both focus on a malevolent presence spread through modern technology, the two films are at completely opposite ends of the quality spectrum. It just proves that a movie is a culmination of a great many components--from script to performances, artistic vision to technical achievement--not just a single idea.
In FearDotCom, police detective Mike Reilly (Stephen Dorff) and Department of Health researcher Terry Huston (Natascha McElhone) team up to solve the mysterious cases of individuals who died 48 hours after viewing a website that shows people being killed. Their investigation leads to Alistair Pratt (Stephen Rea), a disturbed med school reject who broadcasts his murders of young women on the internet. As it turns out, the spirit of his first victim is the supernatural force behind the website that's leading everyone to their demise, and she won't stop in her extermination of net voyeurs until Pratt is brought to hard justice.
The story is a jumbled mess full of holes, and it's not really worth the effort to untangle the twisted flow of logic that went into it. Since fear.com was apparently already taken on the real internet, the movie uses the cumbersome feardotcom.com as its domain of horrors. But who is running this grisly show? Is it Pratt? If so, why are the visitors to feardotcom.com being greeted by the ghost of his victim instead of his streaming murders? Are there possibly two websites, one run by the restless spirit and the other by Pratt? Nothing is particularly clear--or interesting, for that matter.
As if the story wasn't bad enough, there is also a cast of braindead characters for your viewing dis-pleasure. Leads Mike and Terry are the type of dumbasses who "go inside the abandoned house looking for the monster" in horror movies. In the wake of the fear website's lethal effects, Terry begs Mike not to log on. But this tough guy cop who spends the first part of the movie posturing like he's some sort of badass ignores her warning. After hearing her plea and subsequently boning her, he immediately visits the site and starts his own 48 hour countdown to death. Once he starts going nuts, he flips his attitude and warns her not to go to feardotcom.com--but that, of course, is the first thing she does. Idiots! By the way, do cops and scientists often go off on extended, carefree adventures together?
Even worse is the character of Alistair Pratt, who is given the cliche nickname of "The Doctor." With his pseudo-medical murders and coy, teasing letters to the authorities who can't catch him, he's a shoddy, wannabe Hannibal Lecter. Actor Stephen Rea comes across like a first class wuss with all the villainy of an insecure Woody Allen coming at you with a butter knife. The script goes out of its way to provide Pratt with dialogue that strains to be sinister, but with Rea's wimpy voice, it's more a laughable joke than evil incarnate.
If there's anything remotely positive that can be said for the moronic FearDotCom, it's that there are a few interesting visuals to be seen. Some of the images are disturbing in an unsubtle, music video sort of way (the chick with the broken teeth is freaky), and a scene that is saturated in a copperish tone is eye-catching, despite looking too modern for its own good. Aside from that, I can say that Natascha McElhone looks pretty good with glasses, but that's some deep digging into the trivial to find praise for this ill-executed thriller.
Rating: 2 out of 10 (0=Abysmal, 5=Average, 10=Excellent)