Fear Dot Com - Give it a Ring!

Discussion in 'Reader Reviews' started by dwatts, Jun 14, 2006.

  1. dwatts

    dwatts Active Member

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    Well, on another site I've been discussing the merits of this, erm, genre classic :lol: As part of that I said I would rewatch it, and write a review, I've not written anything for quite some time, and it's not edited at all - but I thought I'd cross post because a) This forum is almost dead, b) I know most of you all hate Fear Dot Com too! Stand proud indiephantom, bigdaddyhorse, fceurich39, _pi_!

    **SPOILERS** **SPOILERS** **SPOILERS** **SPOILERS**

    Fear Dot Com might not have landed itself a huge horror fanbase, but it sure struck horror of some kind onto the online community. In fact, it’s one of those films where you have to dig hard and long to find a positive comment about it, with the default option always offering up dismissal and denial. It always puzzled me. While I wouldn’t exactly call it innovative, shocking, or original – I confess I never found it offensive, as some seem to suggest. At the end of the day it’s a film with some highlights, some lowlights, and some flashing lights. In other words, it’s pretty much like every other horror film that sits somewhere in the middle between excellence and garbage. Not that a rating of “garbage” has ever been enough to put off a cult movie fan!

    Fear Dot Com is a film that entertains during its running time, and it never feels too long. It often reminds you of other films, some of which I’ll mention as I go along, while also taking on the prickly subject of the Internet, which – it seems – no-one has adequately brought to the screen. It’s even tripped up genre greats such as Dario Argento (we’ll be talking about him later, too).

    Summary

    Every detective seems to have a nemesis, an arch villain they must battle for the majority of their career. In this case, the nemesis of our hero detective is known as “The Doctor”. The Doctor had a snuff web site, where he would torture and kill his victims to the delight of his Internet audience. Once a person was killed, the web site would be moved, and so it would go on. The Doctor has not been caught, and our hero is no longer on the case since it’s been given over to the FBI for investigation.

    However, you can’t shrug off an arch nemesis quite so easily. Victims are turning up dead, and the only link between them is that they have visited a website, Feardotcom. 48 hours after visiting, they pass on, and these are no normal deaths!

    What’s the connection with The Doctor? Will the killer be found? What’s the deal with feardotcom? And who’s got all the balls?

    Comments

    So there you have it. Let’s get some things out of the way right from the start. In contemporary horror cinema, one of the closest matches we have is Hideo Nakata’s Ringu, remade in the US as The Ring. In fact, this movie came out the same year as the US remake.

    As we all know, in the Ring, people watch a video tape and die seven days later with a grimace on their face. In Fear Dot Com, people look at a web site and die two days later with a grimace on their face. At some level, it remains pretty much the same story. First someone has to discover what the connection is (what the people watched), then they have watch it themselves, and then they have to find a way to protect themselves from the curse.

    The similarities don’t end there. What kills the people are vengeful ghosts, and the ghosts appear at the time of death, essentially frightening their victims to a demise (Fear Dot Com doesn’t rely on fear alone, instead it adds an additional element where people die in their worse imaginable way).

    Actually that about wraps up Fear Dot Com. You don’t really expect the nemesis to live do you? And of course, the web site mystery must be cleared up once and for all. Oh, those vengeful ghosts must be appeased!

    While it might seem as though Fear Dot Com is purely a derivative film, it actually has a bit more to offer. Firstly, it’s got Udo Kier. Sure it’s a mere cameo really, and in the shadows, one even wonders if it’s really him, but sure enough – he does his bit for train safety.
     
  2. dwatts

    dwatts Active Member

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    On top of that, the film looks beautiful. From the opening scenes in the train station onward, the sets and camera work are excellent, as is the use of color. In fact, this is a reference quality DVD, which adds to the wonder of it all. The crew on this one is the stuff of nightmares – the Director William Malone was responsible for 1999’s horrendous House on Haunted Hill, and he’d worked on the TV show, Honey – I Shrunk the Kids – urgh! (He also made an episode of the Master of Horror series, which means he was probably a filler for someone who had to drop out). The cinematographer doesn’t far much better with credits that include Species III, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, and Starship Troopers 2. I can’t explain it, they shouldn’t have been able to make a film that looks this good – but they do – somehow.

    To a large extent, this film benefits from some great sets. The last time I saw anything like the baroque architectures on display here was in Dark City. I think they’re actually better utilized here. Frankly, there’s not a single location in this film that looks “real” – everything is too ornate, too old-worldy. But it sure is beautiful to look at, giving the camera plenty to flow across. It also stands in direct contrast to the high-tech nature of the story. Here was have computers running in what appear to be the dark towers of some castle in Bavaria. Strange, but effective.

    One flaw in the film, I suspect, is the use of the Internet. Frankly, I’m still waiting for a film to do it justice, or to use it in a film where it doesn’t make me cringe. The last prson I saw fall at the first fence of the Internet was the great Dario Argento with his movie Card Player. Like that film or not, the Internet angle wasn’t a strong point.

    In fact, Malone borrows from Argento on several occasions – the use of a heavy metal soundtrack during the first kill (easily as effective as Argento ever managed), a rerun of the wonderful underwater scene from Inferno (Argento wins hands down here), and the color palette. In one important way though, Malone trumps Argento. Both Card Player and Fear Dot Com relies on the nastiness of someone being tortured on webcam. In The Card Player it almost sorta works – in Fear Dot Com it’s wonderfully executed. Sorry – Malone outplays Mr. Argento with this one.

    How about other films? Anything else borrowed? Well sure, other than borrowing all the CGI computers he used to dreadful effect in House on Haunted Hill (it’s better here, though may bother some) we have the ball from The Changeling, the found video film as in Blair Witch Project, and the concept that ones death can be recorded on the back of your eyeball, as in Four Flies on Grey Velvet (more Argento!). Still, it’s not in the simularities that a film such as this lives or dies, it’s in how it’s put together and presented. In that case, Fear Dot Com is pretty good actually, and certainly is worth 90 minutes of your time.

    One pertinent question is, why is cinema struggling with the concept of webcams, cramming them into movies creating only a flaw. Try these failures for size: Halloween Resurrection, My Little Eye, Card Player, AbNormal Beauty. Not necessarily horrible films, but each of them tried to weave the webcam into the mix to less than stellar effect. What’s the deal? Are people still somehow troubled by a film within a film, wasn’t the voyeurism angle amply dealt with many moons ago in the likes of Peeping Tom?
     
  3. dwatts

    dwatts Active Member

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    So what is this web site stuff all about? Alright, this is a spoiler, but if you missed my warning at the top of the page, then it’s your own fault. The Fear Dot Com website is being run from beyond the grave. A victim of The Doctor, Jeannine, was tortured for two days and then killed, her body dumped in a watering grave in an abandoned power station. Don’t worry folks – as in Ringu – some poor soul will swim into the depths and find that body, leading them to solve the riddle.

    Anyway, the point it, Jeannine is running this web site. If you watch it, you have two days – the length of time she was tortured before being killed – to find the Doctor and expose him. If you don’t, you die by whatever represent your worse fear (in this case, car accident, insects, Ebola, drowning etc.)

    But wait I hear you ask, how the heck does that happen? Well, here you’ve got to go with the narrative, throwing logic out of the window. The film basically offers up the idea that the Internet can store negative energy. That energy can be passed, through viewing websites, into your consciousness. This makes things that are unreal, well, real. It allows the ghost to plug into your fears.

    At this point I will assume some sighs, rolling eyes, and tuts. Males no sense, right? Well, of course not. However, I ask you, does watching a video tape and then dying seven days later make sense? How about haunted houses? How about possessed cars? How about books with spirits in it? Of course these thing make no sense – they only have to make sense in the context of the film in which they appear – this ain’t real folks, it’s only theatre!

    Also, before you dismiss that negative energy idea entirely, give it some thought. I think there’s a good argument that it’s actually quite correct. Without the Internet how would we fulfil our darkest needs? Do we really have to watch beheadings? Do we need 24 hour access to all kinds of weird and wonderful porn? No – but the Internet gives it to us. I think that’s the point the film is trying to make – not demonize porn or anything, but to illustrate and call to question the effect unlimited access to all the things the web offers us can have on our society. I don’t know, that sounds like a higher calling to me.

    The film has other flaws – a lame love interest (although it has a brave ending), and a few lines that betray the technical savvy of the writers. But you can’t have it all.

    The film ends in static silence, which I think is a nice touch. The film also lacks the bows too many filmmakers want to saddle their films with too. It’s not all smiles around.

    Summary

    In summary, Fear Dot Com isn’t a bad film at all. It’s also not great, and in the catagory of good it misses the upper echelons. But it’s not bad, definitely not bad. In fact, for lovers of the whole The Ring cycle and the many knock-offs it’s spawned, I’d even go as far as to say it’s essential viewing. Just as people like zombie flicks, vampire flicks, and haunted houses, Ringu defined a new subgenre of situations that sound our death knell. Fear Dot Com sits in there among “those other films” pretty well.

    Should I hide my head away because I dare write something positive about Fear Dot Com? Maybe. But I won’t – because it deserves better. Roll out the superlatives! It’s under-rated – it’s under appreciated – it’s under valued! There ya go, maybe it’ll give you an incentive to seek it out. If that doesn’t work, maybe the price helps, you ought to be able to find a copy of this for the change in your pocket – my copy was $5 for goodness sakes.

    Fear Dot Com – Are You Ready to Play?
     
  4. shift

    shift Hot as shit!

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    Dwatts, thanks for the review. I have rented it, but I always tend to shy away from it and never really got the see it or payed any attention to it. I might rent it again and be patient and see what it has to offer.

    Thanks.
     
  5. walkingdude

    walkingdude Megatron

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    This forum is not almost dead.Do you really think that?And if you do,surely you don't believe a Hainesesque review on one of the worst ever movies to hit the screens is going to save it?
    This site is fine.It does not need to be taken dead serious.Some people come here to have fun and escape the crap of every day life.Is it the site it was a year ago?No.Fatclown is gone.:lol:
     
  6. dwatts

    dwatts Active Member

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    The FORUM - not the site. Relax mate, it's you taking it too seriously :lol:
     
  7. walkingdude

    walkingdude Megatron

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    I'm not really.There's just alot of talk about this place going to shit lately and really it isn't much different.
    I guess when it comes to reviews i don't care because I am am major blind buyer.
    You obviously seem to have some knack for reviewing so you should try to hit some newer DVD releases for those who don't want to run out and sped money on something they don't like.
     
  8. dwatts

    dwatts Active Member

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    As this review stated, I wrote this for another site, because the movie was getting slagged off, and I enjoy writing about trash. I cross posted it here because of the reasons stated, nothing had been in here for quite some time.

    Funnily enough, I'm usually way behind on most of the new releases, you people always get them way before me. I'm also more into the older stuff. But people should write about what inspires them - so where are yours? ;)
     
  9. walkingdude

    walkingdude Megatron

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    I just thought you could have spent that time reviewing something worth while is all.I think if you spent more timing catching new release DVDs and reviewing them you'd catch the respect of many members.;)
    As for me reviewing I hate most everything new so I'd be doing reviews on Hell of the Living Dead,Zombie Lake and Burial Ground.:)
     
  10. Reverenddave

    Reverenddave New Member

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    You can pickup a used copy at Amazon for under $3.

    I agree with the review. This movie isn't as bad as most people have made it out to be. What it lacks in substance, it makes up in style.
     

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