[31 Days of Horror Part VII: The New Blood] Day 7 – Feardotcom (2002)

Director: William Malone
Cast: Stephen Dorff, Natascha McElhone, Stephen Rea
Screenplay: Josephine Coyle
101 mins. Rated R for violence including grisly images of torture, nudity and language.

You have to appreciate a film that tries to be ahead of its time only to look dated from the moment it’s released. It hasn’t gotten any better either. The film I’m referring to is Feardotcom, a 2002 horror film from director William Malone (House on Haunted Hill, Creature), one of the rare films in history to earn an “F” Cinemascore. I hated this film back then, but now seemed like the right time to experience it all over again and see if it’s really that bad. Spoiler: It is.

A man has died in the New York City Subway system. His eyes were bleeding and he looked to have seen something horrible before his death. NYPD Detective Mike Reilly (Stephen Dorff, Zoolander, Blade) and Department of Health researcher Terry Huston (Natascha McElhone, The Truman Show, Ronin) have teamed up to discover exactly what caused his death. Along their investigation, they learn that the man’s death is linked to a mysterious website, feardotcom.com. Seemingly, the website has ties to other deaths, too, all of which occurred within 48 hours of visiting the site. Now, Mike and Terry must discover the secrets of the site and work to stop the next death from coming.

Now having seen the film twice, I’m sure there’s a workable narrative within Feardotcom, but it definitely isn’t in the finished product. Rather, the film feels like an amalgam of ideas better utilized in previous films. It’s a copycat killer of a movie, never reaching the heights of the various films it has borrowed from. Director Malone stated that his number one priority was to create a “nightmare” look for the film, and some of the visuals work here, while I’m sure others looked better when the film was released but have since aged rather poorly. The most notable of these visuals comes from the titular website. It looks cheesy, the animation is very old stylistically, and the finished product is perhaps the least frightening element of the film. When your central horror prop is a killer website, you need to make sure it looks good. This is a case where that’s not even remotely successful.

Then, there’s the name of the site. When producers decided to make a movie called feardotcom, the idea was to purchase the rights to Fear.com as a domain name as it was already owned. When the owners of Fear.com informed them that they would not sell these rights for any amount of money, producers aimed to purchase the rights to feardotcom.com, and the film ended up utilizing that address in the script. It’s a dumb idea, made to sound even dumber, and you can say that I’m nitpicking here, but again, we are talking about the central plot device of the film, and you go with feardotcom.com? You didn’t think to change the website’s name to death.com or murder.com or something that you might be able to pay off the domain holder’s for? Again, sure, this is nitpicky, but every time feardotcom.com came through my head, I had to hold back a giggle because it’s just so damn stupid.

Stephen Dorff and Natascha McElhone have solid enough chemistry to make the central characters workable enough. It really boils down to not having enough for them to do. We keep jumping to these scenes featuring Stephen Rea (V for Vendetta, Interview with the Vampire) as Alistair, an abductor and torturer with the promise that all the stuff we are seeing him do is going to be important to the plot, and it really isn’t It merely adds another layer to a nonsensical narrative. If Dorff and McElhone had more to do, and we focused less on Rea (I get it, he is one of Malone’s favorite actors so he wanted to give him more screentime, but its needless because characters serve story and he doesn’t), we might have a more coherent story, one worth seeing.

Feardotcom is a bad movie. It’s story is problematic, it’s characters not given enough to be interesting, and the film is full of things we’ve seen before. It’s a cake baked with expired ingredients. It’s a movie so thoroughly boring that I’m shocked I made it through a second viewing all these years later. It’s terrible. In fact, I would wonder why the website isn’t shit.com.

-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of William Malone’s House on Haunted Hill, click here.

[Early Review] Greta (2018)

Director: Neil Jordan

Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Chloe Grace Moretz, Maika Monroe, Colm Feore, Stephen Rea

Screenplay: Ray Wright, Neil Jordan

98 mins. Rated R for some violence and disturbing images.


I was told by a pretty reputable colleague who had caught Greta at TIFF last year that I needed to see it when it hit theaters, and earlier this week, I was given that opportunity. I didn’t realize that the film was directed by Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, Byzantium) until the credits started to roll, which raised my expectations considerably, but I did not expect the seasoned director to turn in something quite like Greta.

When Frances McCullen (Chloe Grace Moretz, Let Me In, Suspiria) finds a purse left behind on the subway, she makes a point to do the right thing and drop it off with its owner, a woman named Greta Hideg (Isabelle Huppert, Elle, Eva). Upon meeting the older widow, Frances begins a friendship with her until she discovers that Greta has a number of secrets. She’s a very lonely woman and Frances isn’t able to cut ties with her very easily. As the cat-and-mouse game spirals out of control, Frances finds that Greta isn’t ready to let go.

Let me be clear: Greta is a little cheesy. There are elements of it that fall into cliché. After leaving the film, I began to think more about the nature of the characters and I found a couple of plot holes I couldn’t wrap my head around. But all that didn’t really matter to me. The film sets out to tell a creepy stalker thriller, and it succeeds.

Director Jordan propels himself out of these problems by keeping the runtime as tight as possible. There’s only a moment or two toward the end of the film where the pacing struggles, but there’s no time to think as he rockets the narrative forward.

He’s also placed confidence in his leads. Moretz and Huppert are on fire as they match wits onscreen. Huppert’s Greta turns from a sweet older woman into a mild annoyance before evolving into a menacing terror. Seriously, I had my hands shaking during some of the more intense and tightly plotted scenes. Jordan’s film oozes with tension in large part to Huppert’s performance.

Greta’s filled out nicely with solid performances from Maika Monroe (It Follows, Tau) as Frances’s friend Erica, a woman who is a bit more focused on fun than fear, Colm Feore (Chicago, TV’s The Umbrella Academy) as Frances’s father, who is attempting to rebuild a relationship with his daughter after the loss of his wife, and especially the terrific turn from Stephen Rea (V for Vendetta, Black ’47) as the private investigator who is hired to find out more. It’s amazing how much Rea can do with so little screentime.

Greta is pure cheese at times, but I didn’t mind it because I was so entranced and tense during my experience in the theater. The trailers give away a bit too much but overall, this is a very fun and creepy stalker thriller that kept my nerves tight the entire time. I highly recommend seeing this one in the theater this weekend.



-Kyle A. Goethe



For my review of Neil Jordan’s Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, click here.

[Happy 20th Birthday!] Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994)


Director: Neil Jordan

Cast: Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Antonio Banderas, Stephen Rea, Christian Slater, Kirsten Dunst

Screenplay: Anne Rice

123 mins. Rated R for vampire violence and gore, and for sexuality.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Art Direction – Set Decoration
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Music, Original Score


I always find it intriguing when a non-genre director of merit gets involved in a horror film or something with supernatural elements, as if Martin Scorsese got up one day and decided to direct the next Star Wars. When Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, Byzantium) decided to direct the adaptation of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, I’m sure it shocked some people. After all, this doesn’t happen often, but I think he proved that when it does happen, it can be a magical thing.


Interview with the Vampire follows Louis (Brad Pitt, Inglourious Basterds, Fury) a man of means and a wonderful family back in the 1700s. When Louis is bitten and turned by a vampire named Lestat (Tom Cruise, Top Gun, Edge of Tomorrow), he learns the details of his life from his new sire and, through his recollection of the past to patient listener Daniel Malloy (Christian Slater, True Romance, Nymphomaniac Vol. 1) in present day 1994, he recounts the tragic details of his 200 years of death.

Damn, such a great movie, and twenty years haven’t hurt it. It still looks stunning, in part due to its tremendous set design, for which it was nominated for an Oscar. Tom Cruise is at his top form here as the infamous Lestat. This is the kind of role that Cruise should go for more often. I find that much of his work harkens back to Mission: Impossible style action-thrillers (which work sometimes) but I feel like taking chances offers up some pretty amazing work. Brad Pitt as Louie is another performance where you actually forget who is playing the role, but I think the big winner here is Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues) as Louis’ new sire Claudia, forced to live forever in the body of child. She just steals those scenes where her mind has developed but not her body. She is forced to watch as her partners Lestat and Louis practically salivate at the sight of a nude woman in all her sensual glory.

That’s the reason someone like Neil Jordan would take on a project like this. It has depth. Its characters are not presented as one-dimensional flat cardboard cutouts. These are really people, or undead beings, portrayed by those who have learned the craft, and Jordan takes these talents and puts them to good work, showcasing a veritable Forrest Gump of the undead. This is a film with wit, charm, blood, and sex. It has a lot of things going for it, including a great script from the novel’s author Anne Rice, who “adapts” her novel instead of just putting the same story on the screen. Rice understood where changes need to be made, and she did.


Watch this movie if you love horror movies. Watch this movie if you don’t. In case I need to be clearer, watch this movie. Please.



-Kyle A. Goethe

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