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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
FearDotCom (2002)

FearDotCom (2002)

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Released 26-Aug-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Dolby Digital Trailer-City
Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-William Malone (Director) & Christian Sebaldt (DoP)
Featurette-feardotcom: Visions Of Fear
Featurette-The Mushroom Factory with introduction by William Malone
Gallery-Fear Gallery
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Thir13een Ghosts; Fright Night
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 97:10
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (61:13) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By William Malone

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Stephen Dorff
Natascha McElhone
Stephen Rea
Udo Kier
Amelia Curtis
Jeffrey Combs
Nigel Terry
Michael Sarrazin
Case ?
RPI ? Music Nicholas Pike

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
Italian Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes, Occasional
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Let me cut to the chase; I detested this film.

    Feardotcom has an interesting basic premise. Let's just say that it is heavily "inspired" by Ringu/The Ring. The plot ostensibly centres around a website which, once visited, will result in you dying exactly 48 hours later after the horror of enduring your worst, most secret fear.

     The discovery of a man's body, his mouth frozen in a silent scream, blood pouring from his nose and eyeballs, leads Department of Health investigator Terry Huston (Natascha McElhone) to work with New York Detective Mike Reilly (Steven Dorff). Intriguingly, the dead man clutches in his hand a book he co-authored, entitled "The Secret Soul of the Internet". Investigation by Reilly and Huston soon reveals that his gruesome death is not due to a virus or any other infectious agent as initially suspected, yet Terry for some reason continues to work on the case.

    In short order, several other bodies start to appear, all displaying similar symptoms. Two victims have a camcorder in their apartment which shows them logging on to an internet website, rapidly followed by a visible descent into near-madness. Scrutiny of the video footage finds the link between the growing number of victims - they have all viewed the website exactly 48 hours prior to their gruesome deaths. Reilly is dismayed to find that the psychopathic murderer he has been seeking for the past several years, the evil Doctor (a poor caricature by Steven Rea), is to blame. His twisted website, named Feardotcom, features live video footage of young women being mutilated by him prior to being murdered online for the entertainment of hundreds of perverted subscribers. The film plays out as Reilly and Huston attempt to track down the Doctor and bring him to justice.

    The promising initial concept is soon ruined by a half-baked story with significantly more holes than plot. For example, the police cannot catch the Doctor even though they know his name, have his photograph and he clearly lives in New York. The sneaky Doctor avoids capture by cunningly changing his ISP after each on-line murder (gadzooks!). Most worryingly, we learn that the internet stores up evil psychic energy and can beam it back into your mind causing your death exactly 48 hours later (I'm sure Telstra forgot to mention that in my service agreement).

    There is no logical flow to the plot and the storyline seems to consist of several part-movies melded together into a disturbing mess. There is no real clarity between the Doctor's torture of women, his web-master hobby and the deaths of the subscribers. The inevitable love-story between Reilly and Huston makes no sense; there is no reason for them to be attracted to each other, they show no sign of chemistry and yet we are expected to bond with them and their relationship. The characters are underdeveloped and the dialogue - particularly some of the fake technical terminology - is risible.

    Director William Malone (House on Haunted Hill) spends far too much time showing gratuitous scenes of torture and mutilation of young women. The use of such scenes is presumably intended to build fear, but it does not - it simply makes you feel sick. The lighting is overly contrived and whilst the creation of a nightmarish, damp, dark city is realised, it is heavily overdone. Malone allows the images to overshoot moody and atmospheric and head straight into the realms of impenetrable darkness. The set design is a one-trick pony. No matter whose apartment you visit, they all appear to live in a slum. The CGI special effects are poorly done (the transforming white ball) and the little girl in white looks like she is wearing a a silly 1960s joke wig. To cap it off, the editing is irritating. Endless stroboscopic effects and flash-edits do not make the film any more scary, they just increase the chance of a seizure in the viewer.

    This a shoddily written, clumsily edited and incoherently directed piece of work. The plot is stolen from Ringu, the cinematography is stolen from Se7en and the voyeurism is stolen from 8mm. My wife gave up in disgust after the first twenty minutes; I had the displeasure of watching until the end. Feardotcom is a pale imitation of the far superior movies which it attempts to rip-off. Take my advice. Rather than buying - or even renting - this garbage, dig out your old copy of any of the films mentioned above and enjoy a movie which is vastly superior to this tripe.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    The overall video transfer of this disc is technically very good in almost all respects, albeit with a depressing choice of colour palette. Unfortunately, the horrendously poor lighting absolutely destroys this transfer.

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 which is close to the original theatrical ratio of 2.39:1. It is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer suffers from - probably intentional - extremely poor lighting and is very dark and murky throughout. When you can actually see something on the screen, it is usually sharply rendered with no distracting levels of grain. Black levels are very, very, very deep and solid. However, shadow detail is extremely poor, with most of the film all but unwatchable as you peer into a near-black abyss desperately trying to make out some kind of detail. The frequently impenetrable shadows and the constant searching for visual detail actually gave me a headache. I had to restrain myself from shouting "turn on the bloody lights" at several points through the film - not because of fear but because I could no longer stand the awful lighting and was developing cataracts trying to determine what the hell was going on.

    Colours are deliberately under-saturated with a washed-out palette limited to mainly greys, browns and blues throughout. The odd splash of yellow from flames merely served to illustrate how utterly depressing and overly affected the rest of the colour scheme was. By the final reel, Malone decides not to bother with colours any more and sticks to an even more contrived sepia and blue colour scheme. If you want to see how to correctly utilise a muted or restricted colour palette then watch Se7en or The Matrix instead.

    The use of a limited colour palette can be highly effective in conveying mood, or suggesting a slightly off-kilter environment. In Feardotcom it is not well used - it is just bloody annoying.

    The transfer has no major MPEG artefacts. Aliasing is present at many points in the film but is reasonably mild. There is no significant edge enhancement present. There is a defect present around 25:10 where the backlighting of the characters from a window seems to make one of them appear translucent for a few seconds. This is similar to a "lens flare" and is puzzling if not overly distracting.

    There are very few film artefacts present, which is to be expected from such a recent transfer. Given the standard of this feature, I doubt the film has had much contact with too many Cinema projectors.

    I sampled both the English and English (captioned) subtitles. Both were very well timed, legible and accurate, with the captions having the added benefit of descriptions for the sound effects.

    This is an RSDL disc with the very fleeting layer change extremely well placed at 61:13 just as Huston is knocking on the front door.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The overall audio quality of this disc is excellent - and is pretty much reference quality.

    There is a single English audio track available in Dolby Digital 5.1 track at 448 kbps. Additionally there are Italian and Hungarian soundtracks are available with identical specifications.

    Dialogue was crystal clear, and lip synch was not an issue.

    The original music is credited to Nicholas Pike and is very well suited to the feel of the film, building more tension than most of the visuals can manage. The sound effects are very well done, albeit a little abrasive on occasion.

    The soundstage is the most enveloping I have heard for quite some time. The surrounds are used almost continuously to provide a soundstage which completely engulfs you. The sound of the omnipresent rain showers and the crack of distant thunder add to the oppressive mood of the film tremendously. The front channel separation is great, directional effects are wonderful and the use of panning, fading and pinpoint location of effects is superb. The voice of the computer is ethereal and seems to be originating from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. There are some excellent panning effects during the sequence when Terry logs on to the site, which wraps you up in a whirling storm of sound around 57:30. This is a soundtrack to demonstrate the quality of your audio system.

    The subwoofer was heavily used throughout and contributed a great deal to the special effects and lent an air of ominous danger to the soundtrack. LFE effects are quite frequent and appropriately used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are a few unexciting extras on the disc.


    The main menu is a static photograph of a ghostly face with an ominous strings orchestral accompaniment. It allows the selection of playing the film, audio options, subtitles, scene selections, special features and trailers. There are twenty-eight chapter stops available.


    There are three trailers present on the disc:

The Mushroom Factory

    Running for 5:01 this is a dark, ridiculous scene thankfully deleted from the movie (otherwise it would have been even longer). It shows strange mushroom-like people living in a greenhouse, possibly just about to attack a security guard. Much of the clip is virtually silent but the soundtracks is Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192 kbps. It is not 16x9 enhanced, presented letterboxed in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

Feardotcom: Visions of Fear

    Presented in varying ratios (full screen and letterboxed) and not 16x9 enhanced, with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack at 192 kbps. This Featurette runs for 5:08 and gives the actors and director a chance to desperately try and justify committing this pitiful rubbish to celluloid. Dorff dazzles with his ability to sum up the entire movie in one sentence: "To me it's a very grey movie, it's always raining, it's very dark".


    Dorff, McElhone and Rea get one boring text screen of filmography each.

Fear Gallery

    Twenty pages of small drawings and storyboards from the film.

Commentary by Director and Director of Photography

    William Malone and Christian Sebaldt provide a pretty technical commentary. I laughed out loud at some of Malone's first remarks: "I really wanted the entire picture to be a nightmare". Well, Mr Malone you succeeded - it is a total bloody nightmare! It also transpires that the constant use of rain in the film was not because of some deep artistic sentiment, it was just that whilst filming in Luxembourg it was always raining. Malone has the balls to say with a laugh in his voice, "When Christian and I first talked, I really wanted a film that was right on the edge of light and dark. To where probably if we were one point off in our printing stops, which is technical stuff for how you print the film -light or dark, you know, that we'd be in serious trouble, and I think that's what we got. We may well have made the darkest film in motion picture history (Ha, ha, ha)". Sebaldt admits that "when you watch the audience in the theatre, they often lean forwards because they just cannot see. Ha, ha, ha." That was when I felt compelled to turn the commentary off and stamp on the disc.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region 1 version of this DVD appears to be identical to the Region 4, with the exception of a French audio track replacing the Italian one, and the addition of Spanish subtitles. If you choose to buy either version, don't blame me.


    This film possesses some genuinely disturbing imagery - and most of it is gratuitous. I felt like taking a shower after watching this garbage. Feardotcom is irritating, derivative, disturbing, abhorrent work. Avoid it at all costs.

    The video quality is headache-inducing due to the ridiculously dark and muddy cinematography and gimmicky editing.

    The audio quality is outstanding, albeit with a musical score that is sometimes slightly too oppressive.

    The extras just prolong the pain.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel O'Donoghue (You think my bio is funny? Funny how?)
Sunday, June 08, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-344 Multi-Region, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TX-47P500H 47" Widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationONKYO TX-DS484
SpeakersJensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer

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