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feardotcom

"Log on and suffer — for an hour and a half"

Dir. William Malone; writ. Moshe Diamant, Josephine Coyle; feat. Stephen Dorff, Natascha McElhone, Stephen Rea (R)

There is a great deal of difference between horror and horrible. A proper horror movie arouses tension, trepidation, and — although it typically won't instill any real terror — it should be worth a cheap thrill or two. A horrible movie, such as feardotcom, accomplishes only the element of disbelief: Can Stephen Dorff, who made such a killer vampire in Blade, really suck this bad? Has The Crying Game's Stephen Rea really lowered his standards so miserably? Did William Malone really not have enough foresight to license the name "fear.com" — and, rather than maneuver something comparable, did he really think it acceptable to use the redundantly ridiculous Web address "feardotcom.com"? Have I really just wasted $7.75 and 98 minutes of my life? The answer to all of the above, my fearful friends, is a horrendous yes.

When detective Mike Reilly (Dorff) discovers that the link between four grisly deaths is not just bleeding eyes but a common Web site each victim viewed 48 hours before his or her self destruction (you guessed it, feardotcom — or, well, feardotcom.com), he teams up with an unlikely partner in Terry Huston (McElhone), a lonely, annoyingly Nancy Drew-ish woman who works for the Department of Health, except when she is playing detective for the NYPD for no apparent reason. The Webmaster, "The Doctor" Alistair Pratt (Rea), is an elusive misogynist who tortures women on a live feed from his pay site to appease voyeurs with an appetite for violence. Also unbelievably bad is the deceased German dominatrix who seduces snuff-seekers into submission and then emits psychological "energy" through the internet on the unsuspecting sickos.

There is, of course, an obligatory bug infestation scene, a rotting corpse, a lot of gratuitously bare breasts, and an albino girl with a white rubber ball — all very scary. But the most frightening aspect of it all is that someone actually budgeted this horrible thing to the big screen. And an addendum to you, director: A poorly lighted film does not for a dark tale make. — Wendi Kimura

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