New York City detective Mike Reilly (Stephen Dorff, Blade, The Gate) and Department of Health researcher Terry Houston (Natascha McElhone, The Truman Show) team up to figure out the cause of death involving four victims that seemingly died from a strange virus. It becomes known that all of the victims died forty-eight hours prior to when they first logged on to a Internet website called FearDotCom.com. In an attempt to figure out the reasoning behind their deaths, Mike decides to log on to the site himself. Terry eventually follows along with the sadistic trend as well. Now, with their own life-clocks ticking away to the forty-eight hour mark, they must do what the site tells them to do before they become nothing more than victims of FearDotCom.
Director William Malone has now accomplished his greatest achievement to-date with FearDotCom. Sadly, this is still only a mediocre effort. It does manage to be a huge leap up the ladder, after realizing his prior works include House on Haunted Hill, plus various episodes of "Tales from the Crypt" and "Freddy's Nightmares". The first half of FearDotCom is hugely promising, due to great interaction with characters and very dark-toned, terrifying imagery. After all the goodness of this film settles in, the key ingredients to make a movie fall apart swiftly take a seat right before the viewers eyes. Multiple plot-holes, small parts from horror icon actors (such as Jeffrey Combs and Udo Kier) and an unnecessary love interest is what makes this film border a great effort - or just another Hollywood flop.
FearDotCom contains one of the darkest looks that has been seen for quite awhile. Even daytime sequences have a moody overtone that give off the feeling of a different world. Everything is very dark, and very blue. This somewhat makes the movie survive as much as it can in being a decent film. Another good aspect is that it isn't swamped with young talent-lacking actors/actresses that seem to be taking over the mainstream horror genre as-of-late. However, most characters in the film have interesting personalities early on, but end up becoming quite vague as every minute progresses. And fair warning to Udo Kier fans who want to flock out and see this because of your beloved actor; He is almost gone before you see him, and says not one word.
Dorff and McElhone are ridiculous together, yet both have good scenes when they are apart from each other. They develop feelings for one another after one day prior to when they meet, and it just doesn't feel believable. Right at their first hug is sewn into the middle of the movie an obnoxious and obvious song score follows it, and this song plays every time the two are thinking of each other. It kills the eerie feeling that FearDotCom had possessed just five minutes before this scene manifests.
Poor Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator, Castle Freak). This guy should stick with the films that give him the credit he deserves. He needs to avoid the mainstream at all costs, seeing how every part he plays in a Hollywood film is too small to show his nearly flawless abilities. He plays Detective Sykes, a very witty and strangely comedic character (as usual). It's great to see him strut his skills early on, but then he is missing for a good thirty to forty minutes before he is seen again. He and Stephen Dorff could have had some excellent interaction with each other, as shown in the first half; but apparently someone else thought otherwise.
Stephen Rea (The Crying Game, In Dreams) plays Alistair Pratt, perhaps his most disturbing role ever. Alistair and Detective Reilly have some history. Reilly has been hunting Pratt for quite some time due to a number of tortures and murders involving young women, which he likes to display online. These scenes are extremely graphic and distastefully perverse, containing lots of nudity. Every word that creeps out from his mouth makes it all the more unsettling too. His motives are bastard-like and sadistic, which make him a very believable evil. Most of these segments with Rea are shown in flash sequences, so it's not too much to handle or cringe at.
FearDotCom surprisingly carries some great visual and special FX. Not a whole lot of gore, but a heap of bleeding eyeballs and noses. There is a handful of startling quick images, along with surreal lighting effects creating the best scenes this movie has to offer. The creepiest element of the movie is a little blonde girl named Ashley. She has large significance to the website and the mysterious deaths that unfold throughout the film. The scary thing about Ashley is every time she pops up, she really pops up. Out of nowhere, and it's unexpected. Always carrying her mysterious little bouncy ball, wearing a pretty white dress with her long angelic hair curving the sides of her face, Ashley is the spookiest imagery to be seen here. She truly takes over the screen in her areas of the film.
Director William Malone swears that when he thought up this project he had never even heard of, nor had learned news of a remake for the Japanese smash hit Ring. But there are too many similarities to believe that to be true. First off, victims die with a strange expression on their face (like in Ring, only in FearDotCom the difference is bloody noses and eyeballs), and secondly anybody who views the site dies two day later to the minute (in Ring people died exactly seven days after a phone call due to watching a cursed tape). There are a few other aspects that are strikingly similar and obvious. FearDotCom also carries atmospheres from movies like The Cell, Seven, Dee Snider's Strangeland and even Event Horizon. So there isn't much new here, and if you have seen the original Ring there won't be nearly as much as a fear factor for you either.
Not a horrible film, but definitely not excellent. Hopefully a director's cut will explain a lot of the plot-holes that this film has. The very last scene of the movie is downright annoying and the only word that comes to mind while trying to decipher its meaning is... "What?" FearDotCom has a nice feeling if watched on a theatrical screen, but can easily be held off until a video release. Maybe then, you won't be as disappointed.
Hey, somebody on the project knew the genre. Look for the name Dr. Gogol (Peter Lorre's character in Mad Love) scrawled on the subway wall in the first scene.