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FEAR DOT COM ($27) is an interesting horror movie for the simple fact that the execution is a whole lot better than the premise. The plot seems to suffer from bipolar disorder, not knowing if it wants to be a dark exploration of moral decay ala SE7EN, or a hip supernatural chiller like the remake of HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL. Director William Malone, who was responsible for the afore mentioned version of HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, manages to create some striking imagery and a genuine sense of tension during the course of FEAR DOT COM, but even he cannot overcome the deficiencies of the film’s screenplay.

FEAR DOT COM starts out as an investigation into a series of bizarre deaths that appear superficially like some form of hemorrhagic virus. The possibility of a biological contaminant brings together a NYC Police detective (Stephen Dorff) and a Department of Health investigator (Natascha McElhone) to trace the cause of the mysterious deaths. However, after all biological causes are eliminated, the investigation leads to the only commonality that all the victims shared- each of them visited the Fear Dot Com web site forty eight hours prior to their deaths. The cast of FEAR DOT COM also features Stephen Rea, Udo Kier, Amelia Curtis, Nigel Terry and genre film staple Jeffrey Combs.

Warner Home Video has made FEAR DOT COM available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. Considering how intentionally dark this movie is, Warner has come up with an incredibly good transfer. The image is sharp and fully detailed, even in the darkest scenes. Colors offer good saturation, even when the cinematography gets a bit artful. Flesh tones range from wholly natural to decidedly unnatural, depending upon the effect the photography and makeup strives for. Still, all of the hues are rendered with complete stability and a total lack of defects. Blacks are fairly velvety, whites are pure and contrast ranges between smooth and harsh- depending on the cinematic intentions of the particular moment. The cleanly authored DVD doesn’t betray any particularly noticeable digital compression artifacts.

FEAR DOT COM features a fairly potent Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack that is certain to give one’s sound system a nice little workout. Surround junkies will find plenty of rear channel activity in the film’s well-designed sound mix. Sound effects are convincingly deployed and can pan very fluidly through the entire soundstage, which helps to create a fairly immersive sonic experience. The bass channel is rock solid and adds a great deal of weight to the film’s sound effects. Dialogue is cleanly rendered, with a nice natural timbre. Both the film’s score and incidental music are reproduced with a very good level of fidelity. A French 5.1 channel soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French, and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD’s interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some supplemental features. Director William Malone and cinematographer Christian Sebaldt are on hand for an interesting and rather informative running audio commentary. FearDotCom: Visions Of Fear is a rather standard four-minute featurette that touches all of the expected bases of such a promotional program. A deleted scene that takes place in a mushroom factory has also been included on the DVD. While the deleted scene features incomplete special effects work, director Malone is on hand to introduce the sequence and explain why this particular sequence was cut. The Fear Gallery is still file that contains conceptual artwork and storyboards. A theatrical trailer and cast filmographies close out the supplements.

FEAR DOT COM is a far from perfect horror outing; however, I found the film interesting nonetheless for its tense direction, effective production design and moody cinematography. Warner’s DVD looks and sounds great, so anyone interested in checking out FEAR DOT COM would be wise to do so in its ‘scope aspect ratio on disc, instead of waiting for a cropped pay-per-view or cable presentation.



Fear Dot Com (2002)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2003 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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