By Lisa Schwarzbaum
Updated August 28, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT

In Fear Dot Com, a mesmerizing website drives those who log on to deaths that incorporate their worst fears, and it’s up to Stephen Dorff and Natascha McElhone, as New York’s least believable cop and health investigator, to click the Off button — if they can find it. Which maybe they could if only someone would turn on a light in this ornate, empty, and low-watt horror flick. The film squanders every opportunity (and international-coproduction cent) on by now imitative Nine Inch Nails-video-style visual Goth-goo, and, scarily, forgets to input a plot or script that makes any sense.

Before the Internet, wasn’t it TV, movies, and radio that warped the minds of techno-junkies? What could have been a pointed little chiller about the frightening seductiveness of new technology loses faith in its own viability and succumbs to joyless special-effects excess. Most excessive of all: ”The Crying Game”’s Stephen Rea, looking utterly (and understandably) miserable, plays the sadistic scientist who invents the site in the first place.

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