FearDotCom or Fear Dot Com depending on where you look is likely one of the first ghost stories of the information age. In my opinion it’s long overdue. While there will be other probably better efforts to update the classic haunting tale I found this to be a relatively solid start. The film borrows heavily from just about every sub-genre in the world of horror. The anatomical display is right out of the German film Anatomy. There are a number of Tim Burton elements present in the Elfman-like score to the dark nature of the cinematography. The plot is almost identical to the later released Ring. The acting borders on B grade fare, but the atmosphere is actually quite effective.
A maniac killer who calls himself “the doctor” (Rea) tortures and finally kills pretty girls live on the internet. Mike (Dorff), a city detective, and Terry (McElhone), a health inspector, stumble upon another site that appears to cause the death of anyone who visits after 48 hours of dementia.. The sites could very well be related.
The audio is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track and is fairly aggressive. I was a little disappointed in the low range. There are some times when I expected more of a rumble from my sub. The rest of the sound, however, is superb. Highs are astonishingly clear. Dialogue is easy to distinguish. Subtle and obvious ambient sounds abound to place you in some rather surreal settings. There’s plenty of ear candy.
There is a commentary track with William Malone (director) and Christian Sebaldt (director of photography). The commentary stays on track throughout the film. Rarely will either man stray from what you are watching at that moment. While this may not be the most exciting commentary I’ve heard, it is far from distracting.
FearDotCom is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The transfer is excellent. Colors are accurate and fresh. I found no noticeable artifacts or film specks. The digital mastering here is extremely sound. Everything is smooth and clear. This is an incredibly dark film. Even the daylight, sun doesn’t seem to ever brighten anything. The true marvel of this transfer is in the blacks. Seldom have I seen so many layers of shadow. The detail in such dark cinematography is a tribute to the mastery of Christian Sebaldt. Anything less than perfect and this could have been a difficult film to watch. Instead we are treated a stylish use of darkness that envelops us into this evil world.
There are a couple of very short features on this disc. “Visions of Fear” clocks in at just over 5 minutes and mostly offers short comments from Malone and Sebaldlt about the 1930’s style of the film. “The Mushroom Factory” is a lone deleted scene which was best left out of the film. It features these strange “mushroom people” and some of it is unproduced. (You’ll see green screens and crew). The trailer is offered along with the standard collection of production stills, cast and crew bios, and production notes. A few extra DVD-ROM items are amusing, nothing more. The menu is pretty much straightforward.
I did find this film worth watching. It’s an original idea presented in a not-so-original way. The pacing keeps you moving fast enough to ignore the predictability of it all. It’s a fun ride that asks the question: “Do you like to watch?”