A pointless Marilyn Manson video run amuck, William Malone’s cyber-thriller qualifies easily as the feel bad film of the summer. Not to mention its oddest example of counterprogramming. With so many comedies and action films in theaters, executives at Warner Bros. apparently felt the voyeur sadist market was going untapped and decided to capitalize on the oversight.
If “FearDotCom” were merely sick stuff, that would be bad enough but, to make matters worse, it’s also completely incoherent. Stephen Dorff plays an improbably young veteran police detective. The Truman Show‘s Natascha McElhone costars as an improbably babeliscious Department of Health investigator. The two cross paths when a series of New Yorkers die mysterious deaths. Because the cases all involve copious bleeding from the eyes, noses and mouths of the victims, McElhone initially suspects Ebola. A supernatural computer virus turns out to be the culprit though. Dorff soon discovers what the dead have in common: each logged onto the eponymous website exactly 48 hours prior to dying.
A loopy mix of David Lynch and Monty Python, the site serves up a nonstop supply of mutilation, torture and murder to subscribers. Stephen Rea slums bigtime as the ill defined psycho behind the enterprise. Evidently some sort of doctor, he roams the town with a video camera, invites attractive young women to his studio for a screen test, takes them prisoner and broadcasts their prolonged mistreatment over the Internet.
Neither the mad doctor’s motive for doing this nor the reason entering the site proves hazardous to one’s health is ever explained satisfactorily. Several characters allude to a theory about the Internet having a soul. Another offers an offhand suggestion that electromagnetic energy may be the source of the website’s evil power. Dorff and McElhone promise one another not to take a look for themselves. Both break that promise and find themselves with two days to get to the bottom of things and put Rea out of business.
What Malone’s movie lacks in logic he attempts to make up in stylized violent imagery. The House on Haunted Hill director borrows from some of the most visionary horror and fantasy films ever made-everything from “The Shining” to “Eraserhead”-but, in the absence of a comprehensible narrative, fails to produce much beyond an S&M phantasmagoria, a psychedelic peep show. It’s characteristic of this sick, self-indulgent nonsense that Dorff’s character describes the site as “a live action deathcam” when in fact it’s nothing more than a snuff film.
Warner Bros., Malone and the picture’s cast should be ashamed of themselves for having anything to do with this. I feel guilty and somehow unclean. And all I did was watch it.
Talk about a dot com failure.