Directed By William Malone
Written By Moshe Diamant (story)
Josephine Coyle (screenplay)
Starring Stephen Dorff, Stephen Rea, Jeffrey Combs and Natascha McElhone
Release Date 2002
MPAA Rating R
By It Now On
"I'd like to say I can feel your pain... but I can't."--Alistair Pratt (Rea)
In keeping with what Will was saying about films like What Ever Happened To Aunt Alice? I would like to resurrect long-forgotten flicks and illustrate why they are worth another look and, also, why they may have been ahead of their times or too relevant to their times to make most viewers comfortable.
The first title that springs to mind when I think of cinema's many bastard brainchildren is Fear Dot Com, a sanguinary supernatural crime thriller that seemed to have all the ingredients of a 21st Century slamdunk but suffered from poor box office attendance and petulant reviews from a serpentine critical base.
A precursor to both the J Horror remakes of the time (The Ring, The Grudge, Pulse) and the torture porn of the latter half of the decade (Hostel, Saws II through 1,000,000),Fear Dot Com holds up better today than similar web-themed horror flicks likeBrainscan and Argento's The Card Player. Marrying elements of Phillip K. Dick, Fincher's Se7en and the aforementioned Argento, Malone's movie delivers a slick yet not overproduced, always effective slice of cyber macabre that is at least as believable as any other supernatural psychokinetic thriller I've seen. And thanks to the darkness of Jerome Latour's set pieces and Christian Sebalot's rich adumbrated photography the CG creatures look every bit as real eight years later as they did on the big screen back in 2002.
Possible Reasons for Failure:
Stephen Dorff, although handsome and talented, had lost much of his appeal by the new millenium, something that would become blisteringly apparent in his later turn alongside Sharon Stone in Cold Creek Manor (2003). Perhaps those lucky enough to have seen his turn as the aggressively apathetic Cliff Spab in S.F.W. saw his public shenanigans as proof that he really was a belligerent jerk off. Perhaps they were wrong. And perhaps a celeb's private life has no bearing on their performances. Regardless Dorff's ride on the A List had come to a close and he would later be relegated to second fiddle roles in shit like Eww! Boll's Alone in the Dark (2005).
Consequently, and unfortunately, this may also be the reason why most folks never heard of the hilarious splatter punk Dorff action-noir Botched (2007), another title deserving of excavation. If Dorff and the movie's corny tagline ("Wanna see a really killer website?") didn't doom this flick on their own then maybe audiences and critics just didn't cotton to the concept of the redundant domain name fear dotcom.com, as it appears in the movie (This was also the domain name for the film's official website (a site which, sadly, is no longer up).
Maybe the biggest mistake of all was in Warner Bros. releasing a B-movie (albeit a really well-made one) as an A movie theatrical release. If this theory is at all correct they have since learned their lesson, opening subsidiary Warner Independent to premiere genre films like The Lost Boys: The Tribe (which suffered from one "the" too many in its title) directly to the DVD market where their success or failure comes with far less marketing overhead and minus the print traffic.
The ethereal bit of Nicholas Pike's sumptuous score that belies the bloody nature of the scenes it plays against; The crucifixion-like display of a certain former-Doctor of the Miskatonic University; And, most of all, the signature of director William Malone who continues here the specter stylizations and villain-as-victim-of-his-own-brand-of-villainy which punctuated his previous effort (1999's thrilling ensemble remake of The House on Haunted Hill).
Sure, a story such as this could have benefited from some additional in-your-face graphics and further investigation of the bowels of Internet savagery, but all things considered, Fear Dot Com has a sweet recipe for sinful cyberpunk supernatural horror. And the opening sequence with Udo Kier's Polidori provides sufficient grounds for genre loyalists to purchase, peruse and cherish this 21st Century thriller.