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Feardotcom Reviews

A detective and a medical investigator join forces to investigate a string of deaths associated with a website that's somehow connected to an elusive serial killer. New York City detective Mike Reilly (Stephen Dorff) is still smarting from his failure to capture "The Doctor" (Stephen Rea), who murdered women online and still sends Mike taunting letters. Mike is called in when a man named Polidori (Udo Kier) is found dead in the subway, bleeding from the eyes and clutching a copy of his own book, "The Secret Soul of the Internet." Two bloody-eyed corpses later, the Health Department's Terry Houston (Natascha McElhone) suspects an Ebola-like virus, but investigation turns up no pathogenic agents. Her own boss (Nigel Terry) dies next, and computer whiz Denise (Amelia Shankley) discovers that all the victims visited a website, feardotcom.com. Mike and Terry learn from Polidori's co-writer (Michael Sarrazin) that Polidori believed the Internet could both absorb and emit energy, and after Denise falls victim to feardotcom's evil influence, both Mike and Terry log on in search of clues. The key to its malevolence seems to lie with the Doctor's first victim, model Jeannine Richardson (Gesine Cukrowski), and now he's torturing another young woman (Anna Thalbach) online. Can Terry and Mike save her before they succumb to feardotcom's curse? Shot primarily on Luxembourgian and French locations and marred by weak performances — hamstrung by American accents, Irish actors McElhone and Rea deliver what may be the worst work of their careers to date — this intensely derivative mishmash owes its creepiest images and conceits to other films. The notion of energy ghosts escaping the internet drove the eerie Japanese thriller PULSE (2001). The flaxen-haired, little-girl ghost with the white ball comes from Mario Bava's KILL BABY KILL (1966), and was recycled in Federico Fellini's segment of SPIRITS OF THE DEAD (1968). Terry's underwater sortie in an abandoned factory recalls the submerged ballroom of Dario Argento's INFERNO (1980), and the spirit whose purpose must be fathomed on a lethal deadline is strongly reminiscent of RING (1998). Even the Doctor and his online torments are prefigured in the low-rent STRANGELAND (1998). There's a germ of an interesting idea here, but it's smothered by gloomy cinematography a la SEVEN (1995) and grating implausibilities, like the fact that everyone lives in the kind of cavernous, dankly art-directed dumps that only Internet millionaires and trust fund twinkies can afford in the real New York.