Fear (1996)

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Release Date: April 12, 1996

Director: James Foley

Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Reese Witherspoon, William Petersen

Runtime: 97 min

Tagline: Together forever. Or else.

As far as stalker flicks go, they can be great experiments in cinema or they can ultimately fail. Some good ones include Fatal Attraction, Disturbia or Cape Fear. They can be awful like The Roommate or; they can be missed opportunities like Obsessed or; and they can just be mediocre, like this one.

Nicole Walker (Reese Witherspoon) is an innocent, pretty little 16-year-old gal who dreams of making love to the sound of “Wild Horses” by The Sundays. All of this happens when she meets a polite and charming boy, David (Mark Wahlberg). They soon fall in love, and everything’s a picture perfect relationship, until David shows his psychopathic side. As David sees it, the only thing standing in the way of their love is Nicole’s overbearing father, Steve (William Petersen).

Fear is a formulaic stalker feature that goes through the motions, but it is slightly fresh. This apparently is considered a horror flick, but the only scary thing about it is the realistic concept of all creepy stalker features. The performances are solid and the thriller kept me on the edge of my seat for the most part.

It is fresh because Nicole has a tight-knit relationship with her soon-to-be-stalker, and it starts out as an innocent romance. One of the creepiest things of a stalker feature like this, is that it can really happen to anyone. As a young person, many are just looking for the one, or a way to have fun. No one can know the person well enough within a week, and their charming side might just be a cover. That’s one of the only fresh things that it has going for it, however; it is also a piece of the recipe in all other creepy stalker movies. There’s always one dreamer of a gal who’d fall for a guy like that, the charmer with a thoroughly dark side. And screw up her family life by, oh I don’t know, give the boyfriend the alarm code to the house… (Seriously, you dumb, gullible pretty little thing, why didn’t you tell your parents sooner?!) The ending sequence feels reminiscent of Straw Dogs, but it gives it a modern thriller edge. With more silly characters, especially Alyssa Milano’s Margo Masse.

Screaming your damn head off really defeats the purpose of turning off all the lights in the house. You don’t want the baddies to detect where you are in the home, and a high-pitched scream is a pretty big give-away. You silly woman, Margo! There’s also one silly cliché where a character walks into the forest, as if saying “Oh David, I welcome you to kill me.” How ever silly some protagonist characters may be, the antagonist is made challenging and psychopathic. He isn’t brilliant because he does do dumb things, but Wahlberg does a fine job of making him chilling. He challenges the father mostly, because he sees him as a main thing that stands in his way of happiness with Nicole. He doesn’t comprehend that Nicole merely sees him as bat-shit-crazy. I didn’t think Wahlberg could be this insane, and it’s worth the watch for his performance as a fairly brutal psychopath… Especially in his post-Marky Mark days, serenading a twenty-year-old Witherspoon with a naughty good time, perhaps on a car or on a rollercoaster.

The thing with stalker features is we know exactly where they’re going. This did often keep me on the edge of my seat, especially in scenes of suspense or when David was displaying his dark side. Sometimes I couldn’t take the feature seriously, because it’s just unintentionally funny to me when “Wild Horses” is playing on the soundtrack while they’re getting it on…

In a nutshell: Fear is a traditional stalker feature with silly characters, some unintentionally funny moments, and a fairly chilling turn from Walhberg.

Did you know? The rollercoaster featured is called “The Coaster,” one of the biggest attractions at Playland, in Vancouver, British Columbia.

60/100