Friday, April 30, 2010

Worst of the Worst: #30, Fear Dot Com

I don't believe in guilty pleasures because of a piece that Chuck Klosterman wrote in Esquire and re-printed in one of his books. The piece ends with this sentence: "These things that give us pleasure, they are guilty of nothing. And neither are we." For instance, some might describe my watching of these movies as a guilty pleasure, but I gladly accept -- and trumpet -- that I'm doing it. So, I can't knock anyone for liking anything. That's not to say that I understand everyone's taste. I don't like most romantic comedies, but I suppose I'm not "wired" to get them. I don't particularly like horror movies and I really, really don't get the love for movies like Saw and Hostel. I watched Saw when it came out on cable some years ago to see what all of the fuss was about. I braced myself for what I thought would be scary and ended up alternating between laughter and yawns. So you can imagine how I might feel about a movie that tried to be Saw and failed.

Fear Dot Com tries to use shocking imagery like Saw, but couldn't quite get all the way there. Even more, it is a nearly straight rip-off of an actually good recent horror movie, The Ring. I can't quite make fun of this movie without spoilers, but I suppose nobody will complain. There is a detective who used to chase some serial killer, but could never catch him. Now, people are turning up dead from a stroke exactly forty-eight hours after they visit the site at Seriously, that's the actual address of the site. When they visit the site (all through a browser that doesn't look like any web browser that has ever been invited, but rather through something like you might find as an interface for some old role-playing game), they see disturbing images and then they hallucinate the thing that scares them most until they eventually die of fear. Note: none of the death-by-fear scenes are scary in any way. The detective assumes it's the work of the serial killer, so he and an investigator from the Department of Health (not sure why she is working on this case once disease is ruled out at the beginning of the movie) are trying to end the hunt once and for all. The investigator becomes especially interested when her boss dies from the site and eventually figures out that the website actually is unleashing the psychic energy of the serial killer's first victim. She realizes that the only way to stop the site from killing is to get the serial killer to look at it so he dies from fear (note: that scene also not scary and actually quite indecipherable). This is pretty much the same plot as The Ring with only slight differences.

The writer spent so much work on the details of the plot that they forgot to include any reality to balance the unoriginal supernatural story. The cops routinely move evidence as soon as they stumble on a crime scene, including handling a newly-found dead body with their bare hands. The Department of Health is apparently in a dirty building where the staff is allowed to chain-smoke. The director helps out by leaving every scene so dark that you often can't actually tell what's going on. It makes the lighting on C.S.I.: look like the lighting in REM's Shiny Happy People video.

And, of course, the writer and director tried to bring a lot of disturbing gore, but they seemed to only be willing to go so far and stopped short of anything memorable. I don't like these movies that are only about showing people doing horrible things to other people, but I suppose I can't complain about other people wanting to see it. It's their right to watch crap. I just hope it's better-done crap than Fear Dot Com.

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