Frightening Fridays: 20 Year Later, Is Fear (1996) Still Scary?

 

What a truly terrible trailer for a frightening film. For anyone who missed the 1996 cult classic, Fear tells the story of 16-year-old Nicole Walker and the psychotic David who will stop at nothing to have her.

After meeting David at a rave, Nicole begins a relationship with the older man. He woos her effortlessly with sweet nothings and gentle touches. Despite Nicole’s dad disliking of David (or maybe because of it), Nicole spends a lot of her time with David, even losing her virginity to him. But when Nicole catches David drugging and having sex with her best friend, Margo, she ends the relationship.

Only David refuses to leave Nicole alone. He stalks her at school, attacks her friends, and even goes so far as killing her dog. He obsesses over her to an unhealthy degree, including writing her name on his chest.

fear -to edit

As the story is primarily told from Nicole’s point of view, the audience is left wondering if she’ll survive the ex from hell.

 

Cast

Mark Wahlberg and Reese Witherspoon shine as David and Nicole. Fear was the breakout role for these critically acclaimed actors, and it shows in their delivery. The dialogue can be campy at moments, and while Wahlberg can be a little melodramatic at times, his performance is real and believable. He plays the caring boyfriend-turned-psycho without flaw, hitting his marks nearly seamlessly. The scene where he demands to be allowed in Nicole’s house is eerie and made me clench my fingers in worry.

 

David_McCall let me in the fucking house

Witherspoon, who was 19 during filming, portrays the idiosyncrasies of a teenager perfectly. She fights with her dad, disobeys his orders without a second thought, and explores her sexuality without becoming sexual. Witherspoon doesn’t play the role overly innocent or naive, but as a girl learning how the world works. When Nicole recognizes that David is dangerous, she tries to escape him. She owns up to her mistakes and doesn’t shy away from taking action when it’s needed. Witherspoon displays her acting chops, and Fear paved the way for more leading roles.

reese

Rounding out the cast include acting powerhouses Alyssa Milano, William Petersen and Amy Brenneman, all of whom deliver intriguing performances that keep the viewer interested in the film.

 

Verdict

Twenty years later, Fear still sends a chill down my spine because, while the story may not be based on true events, it happens every day. All of the editors of Buck Off Magazine have a story of a guy who got creepy and didn’t understand the words “leave me alone.”

Violence against women is one of the biggest social issues America faces. In the time it’s taken to write this blog post, a 16-year-old girl has gotten threatening messages from a man who wouldn’t think twice about hitting her.

The horror in Fear stands out because it’s psychologically relevant. Since the film relies on the performance of its actors and not special effects, it has aged to a fine thriller – perfect for a midnight showing.

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