(James Foley, USA, 1996)


Over a decade ago, talented director James Foley made a splash with a vibrant movie about a sullen teen hero (Reckless, 1984) and a much darker follow-up concerning a violently dysfunctional family (At Close Range, 1986). Fear has a sullen teenager, a dysfunctional family and violence, but this is Foley's saddest effort since Who's That Girl? (1987).

Fear is a pitiful rehash of all the stranger-danger thrillers of the '90s (such as Cape Fear, 1991), but it lacks any of the intriguing subtleties and suggestions characterising the best films in that cycle.

Nicole (Reese Witherspoon) is a bright, sweet girl living in a mildly troubled household. Her natural curiosities fix on the James Dean-like David (Mark Wahlberg, aka rapper Marky Mark).

The teen audience that sat around me groaned and squealed when Nicole made her first, over-trusting mistake: giving David the security code to her home. The morning after their first tryst, David begins revealing his evil psychoses. Once Nicole's father (William Petersen) decides to intervene, we are plunged into a series of confrontations that culminate in a Straw Dogs-style siege of the family home.

Mindless and hysterical, Fear has much in common with John Schlesinger's piece of slop, Eye for an Eye (1996). In particular, both films gleefully, paranoically demonise the working class. David is the ultimate white trash villain: he does not attend school, cannot spell properly, drinks beer, shoots pool, spray-paints his abode and even keeps a Child's Play doll in his room.

Still, for a dangerous nut, this guy oozes a certain charm. The splendid scene in which David masturbates Nicole as they ride a Big Dipper, and a cover version of The Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses" fills the soundtrack, managed to rivet me to the screen for one precious minute of this awful movie.

MORE Foley: The Chamber, The Corruptor, Glengarry Glen Ross

© Adrian Martin August 1996

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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