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Death By Dial-Up

FeardotCom (2002)

A man having a really bad day finds it could always be worse when in the subway he sees a little blond girl playing on the tracks, hears the train approaching and attempts to intervene. She vanishes, but the train just keeps on a-comin’ and he dies clutching a book called The Secret Soul of the Internet. Detective Mike Reilly (Stephen Dorff) is brought to the scene.

Mike is one of THOSE cops – you know, still obsessing over an unsolved case – the one that got away. It doesn’t help, I wouldn’t think that the killer sends him letters which he signs “The Doctor.”  

The eyes of the man who dies on the subway were bleeding and later a German exchange student is hauled into the precinct with the same symptom. Mike decides to get in touch with the Department of Health and see if there is some kind of “bug” going around.

Mike heads over to the apartment of the German exchange student and finds a dead girl in the bath tub. The Department of Health shows up in the form of Terry Huston (Natasha McElhone). The dead girl has the bloody eye thing going on, too. Terry mentions a virus, something like Ebola.

Mike is called from the scene in the bathroom back to the precinct where the German dude has died in his cell and written a bloody message on the wall. Terry found a video camera at the apartment under the bathtub and we learn that the German guy was the boyfriend of the dead girl in the bathtub. Tests come back from the Department of Health which reveal that whatever happened to cause these deaths it wasn’t a virus.

Alistair Pratt (Stephen Rea) is “The Doctor” and he is still up to his old tricks – he lures one young woman to a theater under the pretense that he is making a film and that she would be the perfect leading lady. He isn’t entirely lying, as he does plan on filming her and she will be the star – only he’s doing a snuff film and broadcasting it live across the Internet.

Terry’s boss turns up dead and as Terry and Mike probe this new death, they discover a computer at her boss’s house with a shattered monitor – Mike also saw the same thing at the German kid’s flat.

“The Doctor” has some hair-brained logic to what he is doing, and his “lesson” is that reducing relationships to anonymous electronic impulses is a perversion. Ok then – so why is he streaming his crimes across cyberspace? Isn’t that kind of I don’t know – hypocritical? Using the very thing he despises as one of his main tools? He believes he offers “intimacy” – to who I’m not exactly sure. And I don’t think that just because he asks his victims if they have brothers and sisters before he tortures them is a really good definition of knowing someone well. But he is fucking crazy, so.

Mike asks forensic specialist, Denise (Amelia Curtis) to review the hard drives of all the dead victims. She finds they all visited feardotcom.com – shouldn’t it be fear.com? Is the title wrong? Should it be FeardotComdotCom?

The website if a Kairo knockoff that asks “Do you like to watch?”

Forty eight hours after someone visits the website they die. Obviously, you get a better deal in The Ring – you have a week to work with.

Mike gives us some information on Alistair Pratt – he was thrown out of medical school and after every killing he changes the website so it can’t be traced. Denise, meanwhile, having visited feardotcomdotcom is going crazy – trashing her apartment, writing numbers on everything, generally tripping out like a total tweaker and seeing bugs everywhere.

Terry realizes that everyone is dying by their worst fears. She says her boss was terrified of a car accident (how he went, duh) and then she says, “I did some research. Did you know the German girl was terrified of drowning?” First of all, Terry – how would I know that? And second of all – how exactly does one do research on such a subject? Is there a database at the Department of Health that tracks what everyone is afraid of?

Terry and Mike both view the site, so now they’re racing against the clock to save their own lives! There isn’t much to the story and we know what is going on way before the characters wise up to it. There are a few interesting visual cues, but not enough style to propel a movie along on that alone, and the film suffers from an extremely underdeveloped script. This was director William Malone’s follow up to the 1999 remake of House on Haunted Hill and he relies on many of the same “scare” tactics that he utilized there.

At one point Terry is in her apartment reviewing the footage from the German couple’s camera and she makes her cat turn around because she doesn’t want him watching it. When she discovers that one of Alistair’s previous victims, Jeannie (Gesine Cukrowski) is behind all of this – her spirit is haunting cyberspace and she wants revenge – the ghost calls Terry on her cellphone and Terry snaps at her: “Leave me alone! Where are you?”

The film certainly has nothing of substance to say about technology and how it manages to isolate people from one another while at the same time connecting us all. So much of this movie feels like filler – an array of shock cuts, rapid fire edited montages, and whiz bang camera tricks.

“The Doctor” tortured Jeannie for two days – which is why someone who views the site has forty-eight hours to live after they log on. And knives were Jeannie’s phobia because she was a Hemophiliac – so she died by her greatest fear.

Apparently no one has reported the girl that “The Doctor” has been torturing missing.

The film looks grimy and washed out but not in any interesting way, everything just looks dirty and indistinguishable.

When confronting “The Doctor” why doesn’t Mike wear a bullet proof vest? Why is Stephen Rea who is a fine actor so smug and annoying and one note here? Where did Jeannie pick up that German accent? Why is Udo Kier in this? Why did I think the first time I saw this that is wasn’t so bad? C-

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6 responses to “Death By Dial-Up

  1. Pingback: The Top 7 All-Time Crappiest Ghosts - BuzzFeed

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  3. christy November 17, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    I remember wondering what the hell happened in that 2nd half when everything started tripping out. At the time I thought it was stupid, then in later reflection wondered if maybe it was some brilliant device to bring us into the story, since we have now seen feardotcom.com we are going c-c-c-craaaaazy!!! Your review confirms my former conclusion.

    Keep up the good work, i am really getting inspired to watch some of these!!

    p.s. have you seen the Human Centipede yet?

    • itallhappensinthedark November 18, 2010 at 12:23 am

      You know, I never thought of that – that we were going crazy because we had seen the website, too. I like that theory a lot. Yay, I’m glad I’m inspiring you. I did see The Human Centipede but I’m not sure what to think of it. Did you watch it? I’m thinking of giving it another spin and seeing how I feel about it the second time.

      • christy November 18, 2010 at 4:17 pm

        i haven’t yet– i am really curious but from the reviews i have read it sounds like an idea that the director had, and while it’s a fascinating one it doesn’t flesh out an entire movie (and i heard there’s a sequel!).

        However, last night I did watch a movie I was ambivalent about before (thought the script was kinda weak but it really got under my skin), but after seeing it again I picked up on more of the subtleties and am definitely a fan. Bug, with Ashley Judd, have you seen it?

      • itallhappensinthedark November 18, 2010 at 4:26 pm

        It is worth a watch, just because it is such a crazy idea for a film, but the reviews you read were right, it was a good idea that he didn’t really do anything with, which is sad because it could have been super awesome.

        And yes, I like Bug. The first time I saw it I was pretty lukewarm about it, but I saw it a second time, too, and enjoyed it a lot more. I thought Ashley Judd was pretty awesome in it. The stuff with the room shaking and what seemed like helicopters landing right outside their window, that I really liked but am still not sure what it meant exactly – were they just totally losing it?

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