FearDotCom

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The premise of “FearDotCom” is that people who visit a certain Web site are turning up dead two days later. The idea of a Web site killing people may sound preposterous, until you consider that I nearly died watching this movie.

This is a relentlessly morbid, cold and dank film about depraved people doing ugly things. It is unpleasant and exploitative, and unceasingly hellish. And while I have used all of these descriptors positively in regard to other movies, I mean none of them as compliments to “FearDotCom.”

This is a film to be shunned and ignored. It cannot be enjoyed, even on the level that one enjoys a bad slasher flick, primarily because it is dull. Yes, dull. The acting is wooden and the story is random and senseless.

The director, William Malone, is the same man who gave us “The House on Haunted Hill” in 1999. That movie, while by no means a good piece of cinema, at least had some effectively creepy images and gigglishly scary moments. In “FearDotCom,” he uses the same camera and editing tricks but none of the brains, re-creating the atmosphere but without the impact. It is full of loud sounds and devilish fury and registers nada on the Creep-o-meter.

Bored-sounding New York detective Mike Reilly (Stephen Dorff) is working a case where people have been turning up dead with weird hemorrhaging around the eyes. They think it’s a virus, but boring Department of Health babe Terry Houston (Natascha McElhone) says it’s not, though she sounds so bored when she says it, I can’t believe she feels very strongly one way or the other.

They figure out all the dead people had visited a particular Web site exactly 48 hours earlier, and that they died according to their worst fears. (I don’t know how Mike and Terry figured that out. Maybe you can go to MyWorstFear.com and find out the worst fear of anyone in the world. )

The Web site in question is www.feardotcom.com, and it is run by a crazy man called The Doctor (Stephen Rea). He was the perpetrator of Mike’s one unsolved case, and now he kidnaps women and tortures and kills them live on the Internet. Mike even knows the guy’s real name, yet he could never capture him. Now, the madman runs a Web site, yet apparently no one can trace it and figure out where it’s coming from. In real life, I think the NYPD is somewhat less inept than this.

I like the look of this movie; however, I liked it more when it was in “Seven,” which Malone has clearly watched way too many times. The movie is an indictment against using terror as entertainment. The people who visit the torture Web site, after all, die as a consequence. So essentially, “FearDotCom” is telling the people who would watch and enjoy “FearDotCom” that they shouldn’t. And I agree. You shouldn’t watch this movie — not for moral reasons, but because it sucks.

F (1 hr., 38 min.; R, frequent harsh profanity, abundant blood, violence and torture, a lot of nudity.)

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