Day 28: FearDotCom

Day 28 of Calloween Movie Month

Content warnings: blood and gore, flashing images, torture, ableism, misogyny, sexual violence

Recommended?: No

Spoilers and discussion of many of the mentioned topics below. You have been warned.

Horror movie about the internet by people who don't understand the internet for people who don't understand the internet.

feardotcom (2002) Reviews and overview - MOVIES and MANIA

FearDotCom is about detective Mike Reilly and department of health researcher Terry Houston teaming up to investigate a sudden string of similarly mysterious deaths. They soon find one connecting link: each victim visited the same website 48 hours before their deaths.

I'm going to cut to the chase: this movie sucks. There is good bits and pieces here and there. It's pretty stylish and appropriately dreary when the screen isn't being filled by bad CGI or the shots don't look like they were edited in Windows Movie Maker. The score is pretty good, riding the fine line between Hollywood action flick and paranormal horror film. The genres of horror and mystery naturally fit very well together. And it's easy to see how you could take pieces or ideas of the plot and make an interesting film. A vengeful ghost that haunts people and kills them via their worst fears after she was tortured to death with something that represented her own worst fear. A detective driven into increasingly dangerous situations while chasing a serial killer from his past. A serial killer livestreaming the torture and murder of his victims. But faint praise and imagining better, non-existent movies aside, that's where the positives end.

First off, for a movie so convinced of the idea that viewing violence makes you complicit in it, it sure seems to revel in it's own gory torture scenes. Like, I can't be the only person who noticed that the camera loves to focus on the naked restrained bodies of crying waifish blonde white women just as much as it loves to focus on the subsequent death and torture of those bodies. Or the fact that all of the women are found dead or dying in some state of undress whereas all the men are fully clothed? Or that a woman's breakdown caused by hallucinating cockroaches swarming her body resulted in her tearing her nightgown away to reveal her lacy bra before she jumped to her death? That the serial killer's base is just as much a Saw movie set as it is a BDSM dungeon?

Horror in general gets a bad rap for being exploitative and reveling in it's own violence. I think this is a false over generalization made by people who haven't seen a lot of horror and/or think it's immoral to make art that is violent or horrific at all. FearDotCom however fully fits this description. It loves mixing sexualized images of naked and vulnerable women with violence, torture, and misery. I would say some hard drives should be checked but I don't even wanna know what would be on them

Secondly, it's less grievous sin. This movie doesn't understand the internet or computers at all. It seems to think websites are videos and that you get to them from your computer's desktop? It also seems to think the default look of a computer's UI is a bad music video from a Linkin Park rip-off band. It also doesn't know the difference between a viewer and a subscriber to a livestream. The fact that the serial killer shows his face on the videos (or livestreams?) of his crimes and they can't catch him is patently ridiculous, but I digress.

Internet horror can work very well. The movie Pulse (Kairo) was released close to the same time as this and works a lot better. There's also Cam, the first thing I reviewed this month, the Lacey's Flash Game online series that's still ongoing, and many other noteworthy examples. This movie just doesn't do it justice at all.

All in all, I think there are pieces of a decent movie in here somewhere, but I think we should probably avoid making things for an audience of boomers and people who still defend Marilyn Manson.

2 Kudos


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