The internet, my goodness! You can’t go half a millimetre anywhere without hitting it, it’s inescapable and has become part and parcel of our lives. But there was a time and place when the technology wasn’t so ubiquitous, a time when it was mysterious and more so mistrusted. In 2002, a film entertained the notions about the perils in the realm of cyberspace and territories far beyond that, as we logged on to the domain of Feardotcom.
When a dead body is found with a transfixed gaze at the train tracks, the incident perplexes detective Mike Reilly, is this bioterrorism? An epidemic? Or something much worse? Calling on the help of Department of Health investigator Terry Huston, Reilly makes the connection with an elusive fugitive serial killer and a voyeuristic live streaming torture site, Fear.com, that kills its viewers within two days. Now the duo must throw their procedures out of the window as they deal with horrors far beyond their perception.
Despite not being filmed in New York, the location feels heavily inspired by the mythos of the city and has a unique look that feels strangely commonplace, if you were looking for a way to sum it up, “it’s like Se7en meets Metropolis”. A grungy polluted megalopolis with expressionist/art-deco touches that’s seen its fair share of horror and depravity. Making an excellent backdrop for a procedural tint that runs through the investigation, as Riley and Huston solve this case by the book.
McElhone and Dorff make a good crime-solving duo and combined with the films melancholy moody look (and distrust of modern technology) reminds me vaguely of Robson Green and Nicola Walker in Touching Evil. The cast of ancillary characters that makes this mystery come to life all feel native to this period and setting, with some of the victims being hip artistic types, with a crazy fashion sense that just feels very appropriate for the period. The eponymous fear.com itself is also this stylish picture-book style web-portal that doesn’t feel feasible in 2002 yet was designed by a real design company in Germany, so maybe I am underestimating the early 2000s.
While Feardotcom may not startle today’s sophisticated audience, it gives a valiant effort in doing so and its over-arching feeling of the grungy underbelly mixed with paranormal onslaughts makes for strong, engrossing bedfellows. A peculiar time-capsule to an era when the internet was omnipresent yet mysterious and treated with gross suspicion. As well as police procedural thriller that goes places both figuratively and literally. On your travels on the World Wide Web, if you’re looking for a fun thriller, Feardotcom is one to bookmark.
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