on August 30, 2002 by Tim Cogshell
   The problem with "Feardotcom" is that it didn't take itself seriously enough as a legit horror/thriller to bother to avoid some of the lesser conventions of the genre--or, for that matter, to just make sense. The premise is promising: Four very odd, disparate deaths are connected by visits to a particular website, fear.com. Within 48 hours of accessing the site, the netsurfers were dead. A brash young detective, Mike Reilly (Stephen Dorff, "Blade"), teams with a researcher, Terry Houston (Natascha McElhone, "Solaris"), to investigate the deaths. Against Terry's better judgment, Mike logs on, bringing the wrath of something otherworldly upon them. They've got 48 hours to figure out what it is, or end up like the victims whose murders they were trying to solve.

   Director William Malone's credits run from the popular "Tales from the Crypt" television series to 1999's remake of the William Castle classic "House on Haunted Hill." What those examples--and much of Malone's work--have in common are solid creep factors (especially excellent CG and SFX unit work), bad acting even by good actors, and a bit of camp. "Feardotcom" avoids only the camp, but replaces it with something akin to disinterest; certainly Dorff and McElhone don't seem to care what's going on. Their deliveries are straight out of an '80s Calvin Klein commercial. Lovely but stoic, to say the least. Writers Moshe Diamant and Josephine Coyle likewise weren't interested enough to weave a tight narrative. By the third act the entire film dissolves into something worse that camp--pure incoherence. It's impossible to know or care what's going on. Starring Stephen Dorff, Natascha McElhone, Stephen Rea and Udo Kier. Directed by William Malone. Written by Josephine Coyle. Produced by Yoram Barzilai, Moshe Diamant and Jan Fantl. A Warner Bros. release. Horror/Thriller. Rated R for violence including grisly images of torture, nudity and language. Running time: 98 min

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