Film review by: Witney Seibold
Both the Internet itself and William Malone’s new Internet-themed horror film “FeardotCom” can be described in the same ways. They are both large shapeless masses of information, they are both confounding most of the time, and they both can be rather amusing if you look in the right places.
Mike Reilly (Stephen Dorff) is trying to catch vicious serial killer/Internet snuff-filmmaker Alistair Pratt a.k.a. “The Doctor” (Stephen Rea speaking with a droll nasal). The mousy Terry (Natasha McElhone) is a pathologist of sorts who follows Mike about, and ends up helping him. While on the trail of this killer, who is already filming and torturing his newest victim (Amelia Shankley), they stumble across connections to a mysterious website, feardotcom.com, which seems to be spreading an epidemic of bleeding eyes and insanity (Of course, any website will cause bleeding eyes and insanity if one uses it too much, yuk yuk). What follows is a choppy race against time and sanity.
“FeardotCom” follows a solid contemporary horror film tradition of recycling old plot formulae, and in this respect, boy does it go for broke. I spotted elements of “Seven,” “Videodrome,” “8mm,” “In the Mouth of Madness,” and of course Dee Snider’s chat-room/serial killer film “Strangeland.” “FeardotCom” combines all of these films in a large murky bundle. The sources may be many, but they never break free into a refreshing originality.
Malone (“The House on Haunted Hill”) has a great skill in creating music-video-like images of pain and horror, and then pummeling us with them until we begin to feel the intended unease. There are extended hallucination sequences featuring all manner of grotesquerie, and Malone puts them on screen for such a large portion of the film that we begin to lose track of where the film is going. It doesn’t ruin the film or make it lose track of itself, but it does create a disorienting tone; stupefying, but not stultifying.
Also featured are: horror legend Udo Kier getting hit by a train, a cockroach attack, a creepy little girl (which are cropping up more and more), and Jeffrey Combs in an uncharacteristically sedate role.