Fear Dot Com  (2002) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Two thumbs down. Scoop was impressed with the look of the film, but we both hated it and thought it made little sense.

Scoop's notes in white:

Quick, identify this recent film:

  • Stars Natascha McElhone
  • Production budget more than $40 million
  • Beautiful photography in a cold blue palette, in an ultra-widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio
  • Stylish, but pretentious
  • Plenty of body part close-ups, especially hands
  • Plot is incomprehensible
  • 98 minutes long
  • Opening weekend only $7 million gross, despite being in about 2500 theaters.

Amazingly, that description applies to two different movies in the past couple of months. FearDotCom closed October 27th, Solaris opened about a month later. Apparently that is the only kind of movie McElhone makes.

Fear Dot Com isn't otherwise similar to Solaris. It is edited with rapid cuts, is dark and Fincheresque, and features people who speak at normal speed, but think much slower. It is incomprehensible because the plot simply makes no sense. (Solaris makes some sense if you think about it, but by the time a character responds to another, you've forgotten what the previous character said, and you just don't care to put it together.)

The basic premise of the film is that feardotcom.com (yes, that's really how it is written) is a snuff web site. Not only does the webmaster kill victims live on a web cam, but some other force mysteriously kills anyone who visits the site. I think the idea is that the site is haunted by the ghost one of the former snuffees, who kills the subscribers for supporting snuffitude. But don't hold me to that interpretation. The infinitely world-weary Stephen Rea is the snuffmeister, performing here in high camp fashion.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen anamorphic 2.35:1.

As usual with web sites in movies (see Rollerball), the subscriber count goes up immediately, instantly, when something exciting happens on camera, even when it is unexpected There's no indication of how the non-subscribers could possibly know what is happening on camera at that very moment, thus impelling them to subscribe.

According to IMDB, McElhone was in another movie between Fear Dot Com and Solaris, something called City of Ghosts. I don't know anything about it, but it was directed by Matt Dillon and stars Gerard Depardieu, which tells me just about everything I need to know. Ever.


FearDotCom (2002) is, as near as I can tell, a double horror film, both related to a Web site, feardotcom.com. Horror one is a mad doctor (actually a medical school washout) who tortures bound women until they ask to be killed, then obliges them. The second horror is the ghost of one of his victims who haunts the Internet, killing people who log on to the site. At least, that is my best guess as to the plot. The director indicated that he intended it to be a little ambiguous, and that his real aim was just to be scary. He also prided himself on making the darkest film of all time.

I absolutely hated it. First of all, when I watch a movie, I like to see the movie, not dark shadows in dark places. Second, the set decoration was 1930's New York, which was a little out of place with an Internet Horror film. Third, the film was full of logic errors, and finally, I never really felt any sense of peril or dread.

Nudity Report: by Mr Grundy

FEARDOTCOM is a 2002 film with stunning visuals, but nothing really scary... just like most horror movies. Homage was paid to the little girl with bouncing ball that Fellini gave us in SPIRITS OF THE DEAD, who in turn was inspired by "bouncing ball" imagery from Mario Bava... but at least these little girls were spooky. The little girl in FEARDOTCOM is just a little girl they dressed in a wig, with no sense of foreboding whatsoever.

This is a movie where it's very difficult to identify the lesser-known actresses. I see from checking in the archives that my fellow Scoopers may not have called some gals correctly. For example, the main victim of Alistair Pratt (the mad doctor, as played by Stephen Rea) is identified in the credits as either "victim" or "Alistair's Victim." Which to choose? Regardless, this blond woman has either been misidentified in the archives as either Astrid Skuyat or Evie Garratt or Gesine Cukrowski or Amelia Curtis. (I figured I'd ought to mention these names, in case people run searches in the future, trying to pin down which face belongs to the breasts.) She is really Isabella Van Waes (according to someone who listened to the DVD commentary; I only had the silly video), who was also misidentified as the other victim seen bound and hanging for just an instant. Anna Thalbach has also been misidentified for Emma Campbell.

This is a tough science, trying to figure out who's who... just to get things right, I can spend too much time trying to see whether an unknown is called by a name, hoping to cross-reference with the end credits.

  • Amelia Curtis plays Denise Stone, a computer expert. She appears semi-nude in her damsel in distress scene. Curtis appears to have concentrated her career mostly in television; she did bare her wares in an exercise entitled "South West 9" (2001).


  • Isabelle Van Waes is a Flemish lass who is selected as a possible "leading lady" by a creepy videographer, and she walks into a seemingly abandoned warehouse. Her career in real life does not appear to have proliferated after this screen debut, but unlike her disastrous film career in the snuff movie within the movie, there's always tomorrow.
  • The miscellaneous nudies are Astrid Skuyat (probably) and Emma Campbell.

The Critics Vote

  • General USA consensus: one and a half stars. Ebert 2/4,  Entertainment Weekly D.

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. The people generally agree with the critics at one and a half stars. Voting results: IMDb voters score it 3.6/10,  Yahoo voters appraise it at 2.2/5, and Metacritic users averaged 4.2/10
  • Box Office Mojo. It was budgeted at $40 million for production, and opened in 2500 theaters. Opening weekend $7 million. total: $13 million. 


Special Scoopy awards for excellence in criticism go to:

Orders of merit in information and accuracy: Jonathan Perry, a movie critic centered in Tyler, Texas, wrote a comprehensive summary and review which is one of he best movie reviews I've ever read.

Best one-liners: Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly. "The film squanders every opportunity (and international-coproduction cent) on by now imitative Nine Inch Nails-video-style visual Goth-goo."

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. 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.

Based on this description, Scoop says C-. Great looking film, which may motivate genre fans. Others: stay away, because the plot is incomprehensible, and the film's attitude is depraved, unpleasant, and just plain ugly. Tuna says: D-

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