.com for Murder (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

As you can guess from the perfect title, this is a high-tech tribute to Hitchcock. The film's plot actually pays homage not to Dial M for Murder, but to Rear Window. A wheelchair-bound woman is bored when her husband is out of town, so she surfs the internet. While doing so, she witnesses a murder, but can't convince the police or the FBI that it was real. Meanwhile, the murderer is monitoring her every move and planning to come after her.

Nico Mastorakis did it all on this film. He wrote the screenplay, produced, directed, casted, chose locations, and edited. He shot footage with 10 different types of cameras. He spent four months in the editing room alone, creating a high-tech feel with technical music and widely varying cut speeds. Some scenes play out slowly while the camera drinks in the spectacular mansion they used as a locale. Other scenes are cut in a rapid-fire rock video style. Since much of the action takes place on computer screens, much of the footage was shot on DV to give it a special look.

According to the official web site, where you can get a detailed plot summary which includes the entire plot from stem to stern, Mastorakis spent between $10 million and $11 million on the film, and it does look good. When a man who has spent 30 years learning to direct also decides to learn all the high-tech nuances of editing with his own hands, using the latest editing tools, and that man is also a perfectionist, you can expect technical proficiency, and in this film you get that.

I think Mastorakis got exactly what he wanted on screen.


Four internet strippers are seen on DV footage on the killer's computer. Two of them are Julie Strain and Shelley Michelle.

The first murder victim (Clara Rainbow) is seen naked, but much of it is in fast cuts and various altered footage (B&W, inverse colors, etc.)

Unfortunately, nobody seemed to like what he got up there. Produced by Mastorakis's own production company, it was screened at a couple of festivals when Mastorakis was fishing for a distributor, but it didn't land any big fish and ended up going straight to video. I think the marketing failed because the film doesn't really have an audience niche.

It's too cold and technical for the female audience or for the indie and arthouse crowds. In fact, women despise it. In the IMDb voting, 46 women have cast ballots, and the AVERAGE score is 1.0, which is the lowest possible grade. Men don't score it much higher. With a weighted score of 2.4 at IMDB, it is contending for a spot in their all-time worst list! Of 172 votes cast, 149 of them scored it a 1.0, including every woman.

Starring a 40ish woman, and not completely accurate in its portrayal of the internet, it's not really a film for the young techno-geeks, especially since they are represented by the bad guy, a hacker with lights attached to his fingers, who surfs the internet with a glowing red keyboard while sitting naked on his bed, staring at a gigantic wall-sized computer screen. There is more strangely inexplicable action in this film. Nastassja Kinski wants to get her film of the murder uploaded to the FBI, but it is encrypted, so she calls up a technical geek service in the middle of the night, saying she wants to "copy her hard drive", and that it is "an emergency" and can't wait until morning. The guy on the other end never even flinches, or questions that illogic. Any real techie roused from sleep by such a strange request would be asking questions. If nothing else, he would simply ask how it could be necessary to copy a hard drive in the wee hours of the morning when it can be copied just as easily or more easily during regular business hours. If she had managed to describe the problem accurately on the phone, the techie might have been intrigued enough to come down to her house, but he still would have asked why it could not wait until morning. Of course, if she had told him it was an encryption problem, he probably would have said "I may or may not be able to solve that quickly, and I can solve it much better in my own environment than I can sitting at your poolside"

On the other hand, I think it's a pretty good DVD package, if you like high-tech thrillers. The film is not as bad as the IMDb score would lead you to believe, and Mastorakis's special features are always excellent. I have watched four of his DVDs now, and I haven't really iked the films, but I've enjoyed the director's interviews on every single one of them. When speaking directly to the camera, Nico is a great storyteller and a down-to-earth guy who just loves to gab about the inside workings of film production. Like magician Penn Gillette, Mastorakis loves to show you what's behind the illusions. It's a shame that he can't seem to bring the same feisty spirit and humanity into his feature-length movies that he exhibits in his short "making-of" documentaries.

The official web site is also a lot of fun. Unlike the film, the web site is very homey and low-tech, filled with backstage and production stills (including topless shots of Julie Strain and Shelley Michelle acting in front of a blue screen) and an interview with Mastorakis.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic 1.85:1. Good transfer.

  • documentary/interview with Mastorakis about the making of the film

The film? Well, to tell you the truth, I really wanted to like it more than I actually did. In addition to the illogical behavior of the characters described earlier, I thought that the characterizations and dialogue were completely uninteresting, and that some of the acting was weak and lacked energy. It seemed to me that the film had a lot of techno glitz and dazzle, but not much real heart or understanding.

And I'll be damned if I can figure out why Mastorakis decided to add the Psycho-like shower stabbing at the beginning of the film. Some things in that scene looked really cool - like the fact that some of the exposition was provided by images seen in the reflection from a polished knife blade - but if that had any connection to the rest of the plot, it was tenuous at best. The woman in that scene was completely anonymous and was never mentioned again.

The Critics Vote

  • no English-language reviews on file

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. 2.4/10. Women score it the absolute minimum 1.0 out of 10.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this film is a C-. It looks good and is better than its IMDb score, but it's not for you unless you are really into an offbeat high tech thriller. Based on the IMDb scores, I can just about guarantee you'll hate it if you are a woman.

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