‘You should have allowed nature to take its course…’
You don’t get many teen thrillers. Probably because the elements that make up the traditional thriller format don’t sit well in the world of adolescents. And so it transpires with Fear. This does make Fear a grittier film than some of its peers and in the third act, it makes a pleasing and surprising pivot into outright horror. Let’s dive in…
When preppy high school girl Nicole Walker (Reece Witherspoon) begins seeing David, McCall (Mark Wahlberg) an older kid from the wrong side of the tracks, it appears that Nicole’s controlling father Steve (William Petersen) is being overprotective. In a revelation that will delight fathers everywhere, it turns out that he’s absolutely right. David is bad news.
Fear overcomes its terrible title mainly due to a pair of commanding performances from Witherspoon and Wahlberg, both of whom seem assured and charismatic despite their tender years. The former makes for a convincingly bratty teenage girl whilst the latter always does better when playing a heel (see Departed, The). The supporting cast fares worse, however, although Petersen does his best with a poorly written character. How are we supposed to root for a guy who openly ogles his teenage daughter’s best friend?
Fear is the archetypal yuppie nightmare (an outside influence from a lower class ruins everyone’s perfect existence), but it’s far from boilerplate. I was absorbed throughout and the sheer competence of the two leads ensures that Fear is worth seeking out. It also has the most ’90s soundtrack ever (Bush! The Sundays! Toad the Wet Sprocket!). A solid film.