[box cover]

Fear dot com

When an author (Udo Kier) is found dead in a subway tunnel, and then an exchange student shows up at a police station shouting in German only to die hours later, Det. Mike Reilly (Stephen Dorff) has no idea what's behind their deaths, nor does the viral pathologist Terry Houston (Natascha McElhone). But it turns out that they (and more victims) had their computers crash after visiting a website called Feardotcom (where the domain name actually isn't fear.com, but feardotcom.com). It turns out that the site links back to a mad doctor (Stephen Rea) whom Mike has been investigating and who has used the psychic energy of his website to kill people exactly two days after they first visit it. And once Mike and Terry decide to visit the site, they have only 48 hours to find and stop the doctor. Though his last film (1999's House on Haunted Hill) was a good deal better than it should have been, luck didn't favor William Malone in this 2002 picture; it's a shoddily conceived rip-off of the Japanese horror sensation The Ring meant to make it to the theater before the American remake. From its overly elaborate premise to the Doctor's need to kidnap and torture girls for his website's ratings (um, why would he be so concerned with ratings if everyone who sees the site dies?) to its misconceptions of the Internet (seriously, does everyone in this film have DSL?), Fear dot com makes not a lick of sense. Of course, horror films don't need to make logical sense, but they do need to feed on primal fears and sensations, and this effort never taps into anything that is remotely scary — except maybe bugs and knives, though they aren't the primary attraction. The problem is that, from frame one, the movie never envelops the viewer into its nightmare world, and instead bores us with plodding, clockwork precision. In fact, the only good thing here (besides the moody lighting) is the appearance of Jeffrey "Dr. Herbert West" Combs as Mike's partner, playing a dumb role, but great every moment he's on screen in a surprisingly low-key performance. He also gets the best line in the film (When Mike asks him if he knows any German, he responds "I can sing 'She Loves You' in German"). But unless you're a Combs fan-club member, why bother? Warner's DVD presents Fear dot com in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include a commentary by director Mallone and cinematographer Cristian Sebalt, a deleted scene with an introduction by Mallone, a five-minute featurette, stills, and a trailer. Snap-case.

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