Fascination (2005) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Fascination is an erotic thriller, basically another ugly step-child of the Body Heat era. (The film was lensed in 2004, but the script was written in 1989.)

A man drowns while taking his morning swim, despite the fact that he was in perfect physical condition and once won a silver medal in an Olympic swimming event. His distraught son finds dad's death rather suspicious, and the lad's suspicions deepen when his mom goes on a cruise after the funeral, and comes back engaged. The new beau moves in immediately and marries mom not long thereafter. Those ol' suspicions get as deep as a chasm when the son finds an old picture of mom and her new beau looking mighty cozy - while dad was still alive. Oops!

Having nobody else to confide in, the son turns for solace to his new stepsister (the daughter of mom's new beau), who fans the fires of suspicion even more when she admits that her mom also died under suspicious circumstances. The son finally has his dad's body exhumed and tested by a toxicologist, who determines that dad's drowning was probably caused by his being drugged out by a disproportionate dose of mom's sleeping pills.

Right from the beginning we know that the son is an innocent party - he's the mark -  but we don't know who, if anyone, conspired to kill dad, and we don't really know why. (The apparent motive keeps shifting.) We don't even know if the mother's beau and the daughter are really who they say they are. For all practical purposes, there are only three characters in the film besides the innocent son, and the answer to the puzzle may involve any combination of them. To say any more would be telling.

It sounds like your basic straight-to-vid, but somehow, in total defiance of reason, this film did not go straight to DVD or cable, but received a brief theatrical release. Very brief - ten days in ten theaters. On its second Friday it pulled in $519 in total, which must be some kind of record. Assuming each theater screened the film three times that day, it brought in $17 per screening. And some of that was accumulated at New York ticket prices, because Fascination was reviewed by the Times and the Village Voice! So we're probably talking about an average of fewer than two people per screening!

I suppose every cloud has a silver lining, including the unexpected theatrical distribution of this film, which generated some entertainment because mainstream reviewers rarely get to see a film this bad. Their infrequent exposure to bottom-feeders produces some funny and bitter reviews when they finally encounter one.

  • The New York Times called it "laughably bad"
  • The Boston Globe derided, "The German-born, first-time director Klaus Menzel got ahold of Daryl Haney and John Jacobs's ancient script (it's from 1989). It's believable that the screenplay was originally a parody, but it was written at a time when erotic thrillers had a certain sleazy seriousness. Say it with me: Wild Orchid. "
  • The Village Voice chortled, "If you're in the mood for some unscripted belly laughs or a catnap, Fascination should do the trick."
  • The Washington Post sneered, "I sat through something whose predictability managed to be both howlingly funny and crushingly dull, with a performance by a lead whose acting looks like he's trying to decide between the mushroom-Swiss burger and the Monte Cristo on the menu."

The Post was certainly right about Adam Garcia's performance. He's a very good looking guy, but if Hayden Christensen were suddenly transported to Planet Garcia, where everyone is Adam Garcia, Christensen would be hailed as their DeNiro, their Olivier, their Branagh. Garcia's character gets his first lines at his father's funeral, and his eulogy sounds like a particularly slow kid reading aloud from a book in remedial English.

Lacking any witty dialogue or imagination, this plays out exactly like the cookie-cutter erotic thrillers from Cinemax, except without the intense sex scenes. The only things that raise Fascination above the normal level for this genre are the purported $5 million budget and the presence of Jacqueline Bisset as the mother. La Bisset's Christmas Club account must have been drained when she agreed to do this script. Unfortunately, Fascination could not even pass muster as a cable or direct-to-DVD film, simply because the flesh is minimal. There are some buns from Adam Garcia in one sex scene, and some breasts from Alice Evans in a completely different sex scene, the eroticism of which is spoiled by darkness, inopportune cuts, and distracting dissolves.

So it fails as erotica and, although it looks fairly good, Fascination has to be considered a failure as a thriller as well. The characters are stock, the dialogue is mundane or corny, and the plot is by-the-numbers. Moreover, the film seems too contrived and plot-heavy in the second half, with the twists and revelations and pseudo-surprises coming one after another. You may not anticipate every melodramatic detail, but you won't find any of the curves to be especially surprising if you have been down this Genre Road before.

Surprisingly it's a fairly good DVD. There is a nice transfer of the film in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. There is also a twelve minute "making of" featurette, and a six minute featurette on how some scenes looked in storyboard form. The disc also features a "director's cut," which seemed to be the exact same movie except for the ending. The film ends with a car crash, and the director's cut showed a different result of that accident, but did not offer additional or different information about events leading up to that point, so the actual identity of the survivor(s) seemed to be largely inconsequential.



  • see the main commentary
  • widescreen anamorphic



see the main commentary

The Critics Vote ...

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 5% positive. It avoided a zero based on one positive review, which praised the film for "blood and hooters." (In fact, the film didn't offer much of either.)

The People Vote ...

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, or a C- from our system. 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 a D on our scale. (Possibly 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, it's a D. It can't pass muster as an erotic entertainment, because it has very little sex and nudity. It fails as a thriller because it covers too-familiar territory in a hackneyed way.

Return to the Movie House home page