Hollywood loves to remake popular shows. When it is too soon to
do a remake, it likes to take a recent movie and reconstitute it with
slightly different ingredients. In director James Foley's FEAR, not to
be confused with Gregory Hoblit's excellent PRIMAL FEAR, writers
Christopher Crowe and James Foley take FATAL ATTRACTION and repackage
it with teenager lovers rather than adults and hope for an instant hit.
The romantic obsession part works marginally well, but the film's
commentary on teenagers and their relationships with their parents is
insightful and worth hearing. The huge downfall in the picture, is
that the writers run out of ideas, so they transform the last thirty
minutes of the film into a bad, tasteless, and frightening horror
flick. Most horror pictures you can ignore because they are so hokey
and unbelievable, but the tolerably good first part of the film sets
you up to care about the people in FEAR so the ending is much more
disturbing that any unrealistic blood and gore film would be.
As the film starts, beautiful 16-year old Nicole Walker (Reese
Witherspoon) is leaving for school. Her dad, Steve (William Peterson
from TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA and MANHUNTER), is concerned about her
wearing a short miniskirt, a revealing low-cut top, and four gallons of
make-up, but she tells him that it is none of his business. Thanks to
peer pressure, she, her friend Margo Masse (Alyssa Milano), and others
cut school go to a bar. While at the bar, Nicole sees a mysterious,
but All-American looking older boy named David McCall (Mark Wahlberg).
She sees him again that night at a rave. He is hanging out with some
Hell's Angels rejects which should have been a give-away.
When Nicole sees David's Corvair she remarks, "Isn't this the car
they stopped making because it blows up or something?" In a response
that telegraphs his later actions, David's responds, "Guess that's why
I got it." Her friend Margo, on the other hand, thinks Nicole should
just go sleep with David since he has a good body and so tells her, "Do
yourself a favor and don't think so much. It gives you premature
wrinkles." The film does a good job of showing what can happen to a
girl devoid of morals like Margo. Later when Nicole abandons Margo,
she cries in an effective scene, "Please Nicole don't do this. I need
you. You're my only friend." After hating this character, the
audience suddenly realizes how lost she is and begins to empathize with
Nicole, lives with her dad, her stepmom, Laura (Amy Brenneman),
and her younger stepbrother, Toby (Christopher Gray). The father is an
architect, and although overworked, is devoted to his kids, and thinks
David is bad news. He is either an overprotective father to be
despised or one who is naturally concerned about his daughter at a
vulnerable time in her life. The audience is provided with both views.
Laura thinks he should lighten up and tells him, "What's the big deal?"
Steve replies, "The big deal is the guy is crap, and girl is my
daughter." Nicole doesn't trust her parents much and believes that
"Everybody says one thing and does another."
One of main ingredients of the film is the massive musical
overscoring by Carter Burwell. The film reminds you of those cars that
drive down your street with zillion watt amps that rattle your prized
china so that you think it will all break. The sound is so loud you
almost need ear plugs and turning it down would not have been possible
since other parts of the film are quite soft. Moreover, the music is
so overly dramatic in parts as to be ridiculous.
FEAR runs 1:40. The film is correctly rated R for gory and
frightening violence, animal mutilation, crack smoking, some bad
language, a little sex, but no nudity. The horrific images are enough
to give you nightmares for a week. On the good side, I must be honest
that the movie does feature a genuinely erotic roller coaster ride.
Given the threatening level of violence against teens and their parents
I would recommend that no teenagers see this film although with the
teen heartthrob stars in it, I am sure they will. There were certainly
a lot of them in the audience. Based on the first part of the film I
was leaning toward a mild thumbs up for what the movie said about the
problems of teens and of relationships with their parents, but after
the ending, I can not recommend it to anyone, and I wish I had never
ever seen it. Disturbing. For the good first part, I am giving it
overall a * 1/2.
Copyright © 1996 Steve Rhodes