I LOVE A GOOD GRADE-Z horror movie. Sadly, this is not a good grade-z horror movie. Sure, it's grade-z, but that hardly makes it good. It's more like ... what's the opposite of good? Whatever that is, subtract 10, and you've got fear dot com.
Which isn't to say it can't be enjoyed. For example, how often do you get to hear dialogue like this:
Officer Mike Reilly: I'm emotionally burdened by the case of "The Doctor," the serial killer who dogged me for nine months before the feds took the case away from me and handed me my first failure as a cop.
Officer Sykes: I obviously already know that, seeing as I've been your surly but loyal partner for the last five years, so why are you telling me?
Officer Reilly: Sorry, I just have to do some exposition for the audience so that I can set up the big secret surprise moment when the killer in this movie turns out to be The Doctor.
Officer Sykes: Oh, just doing exposition, eh? OK, go ahead ...
Officer Reilly: Thanks ... OK, let's see, I'm a hard-nosed cop who doesn't have time for love and is obsessed with this one case ...
Officer Sykes: Hey, I'm gonna go out and see if I can get myself killed while you do this exposition.
Officer Reilly: OK, see you later ... now where was I ... Oh yeah, the back-story, see ...
OK, that's not exactly the dialogue, but really, it was pretty close to that.
Once Reilly (played by Stephen "Where'd my career go?" Dorff) finishes his opening exposition, he starts looking into why there are people dropping dead all over New York City with blood pouring out of their eyes. This is actually not so odd in New York, but still, I guess it bears investigating.
Reilly is stumped, so he calls in a beautiful woman (Natascha "Why am I in this movie?" McElhone) to provide some romantic tension. She's Terry Houston, the prettiest scientist at the center for disease control, which apparently is a hangout for people whose idea of acting is to pause between words and look concerned. I think that helps them fight off the Ebola virus and stuff, but it's never really explained.
What is explained, by means of a plot hole so large that John Holmes would have fallen into it, is that all of the dead folk looked at a Web site called FearDotCom (well, actually, FearDotCom.com, pronounced "fear dot com dot com") exactly 48 hours before they died.
Knowing that this Web site has the eerie and mysterious power to kill, Reilly does the only sensible thing, which is to have sex with Natascha McElhone and then look at the Web site, because, well, if you're going to die you might as well go down swinging.
Perhaps knowing that there's not a single line of decent dialogue in his script, director William Malone turns on the fireworks and basically produces a 90-minute Nine Inch Nails video. In Malone's world, everything is dimly lit, blue-tinted, and swirling with psychedelic naked breasts and bloody eyeballs. I couldn't find out much about Malone, except that he's made intermittent appearances as an actor, writer, director and producer since the early 1990s, but I'm guessing, by the quality of this film, that he's somebody's nephew.
Which isn't to say that I didn't enjoy this film. It's really refreshingly awful, with perhaps the worst script I've heard since Showgirls, and also some really dazzling visual effects. And, for toppers, it includes my favorite horror movie conceit: a little white girl.
I'm not sure who it was who first realized that little white girls were scary, but due to films like Don't Look Now, The Shining, Resident Evil, and the upcoming Ghost Ship, I'd have to conclude that it's a universally accepted theorem that having a little white girl doing something mysterious is just what's needed to up the horror quotient.
Not that fear dot com is scary. In fact, one of its most salient characteristics is its utter lack of scary moments. There are some distasteful moments wherein the evil Doctor tortures a young woman, but they're not really scary. More like "misogynistic" or maybe just "unsuccessfully exploitive."
Still, I couldn't help but hope that there'd be a sequel, because there's so many great opportunities for tag lines here, like fear dot org ... this time, it's not-for-profit! Or fear dot edu ... it's a lesson in horror! Or fear dot fr ... merci pour le terroir! Or my favorite Telnet://feardotcom ... this time, it's text-based!