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  FearDotCom R.I.P.C.
Year: 2002
Director: William Malone
Stars: Stephen Dorff, Natascha McElhone, Stephen Rea, Jeffrey Combs, Amelia Curtis, Nigel Terry, Udo Kier, Michael Sarrazin, Gesine Cukrowski
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  2 (from 3 votes)
Review: The body of a writer is found on the New York subway, but he seems to have died not from the injuries he sustained when he was hit by a train, but by some strain of virus. Then Detective Mike Reilly (Stephen Dorff) discovers that a German couple found, one dead and one dying, in their apartment have suffered the same effects. A Health Department specialist, Terry Huston (Natascha McElhone), is called in to help with the case, which has a connection to a mysterious internet website - and an active serial killer who Mike has sworn to track down...

This murky chiller was written by Josephine Coyle, from a story by producer Moshe Diamant, and quickly earned a reputation as one of the worst movies ever made, or certainly one of the worst horror movies. While it's poor, it's really not that bad, and enjoys a level of competence at least; that's not to say it's much good, however, it's no sillier than a lot of straight-to-video movies. It's just that FearDotCom secured a cinema release to test the unwary, and you may suffer a strong sense of deja-vu while watching it.

It's all very well wearing your influences on your sleeve, but this film restages whole sequences from other, better films and can't help but suffer in comparison, especially as the end result makes for a confused mish-mash. The whole set up, where you visit the website and die in forty-eight hours, is lifted from Ring, only the characters here doom themselves quite willingly. It's like a "don't think of the blue monkey" thing: don't visit the FearDotCom website - oops! You did it!

What happens when you do is that you receive visions of a little girl and a bouncing ball taken straight out of Bava's Kill, Baby...Kill, and you die facing your worst fear in a Nightmare on Elm Street style. If Ring was a video nasties story, this is a Internet Nasties story, where all the tales of the ghastly stuff you can stumble across are true. And not only that, the whole Net has become a giant, evil superbrain preying on the surfers. Don't go into the woods alone, and don't go onto the Net alone, either. Or at all.

You don't really need to worry about that, though, because the film drops this line of thought halfway through in favour of the "catch the serial killer" plot from Seven. After a recreation of the underwater sequence from Dario Argento's Inferno, our heroes, who have viewed the killer site, work out that the whole virus thing is down to the ghost of one of the serial killer's victims. Cue a flurry of flashing, gruesome images, as in the television series Millennium. Again.

Filmed in a gloom that makes The X-Files look like a Beach Party movie, it all ends as you would expect, with only the absurdities to keep you interested along the way. Like, why, when told that the notorious killer has been found, does Mike's partner show up with the extensive backup consisting of... himself and nobody else? And why is fifty per cent of Natascha McElhone's dialogue "Oh my God!"? Couldn't she say "Heavens to Betsy!" for a variation instead? Urgh... it's just not worth getting worked up about. But combining grim with daft doesn't quite make FearDotCom one of the worst, it's simply not distinctive enough. Music by Nicholas Pike.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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