In the mold of the psychological-sexual thrillers of the late ’80s and early ’90s, James Foley’s Fear is a gender-reversed Fatal Attraction, with a strong measure of Cape Fear thrown into the formulaic mix. In his biggest screen role to date, Mark Wahlberg plays the Glenn Close character: a sexy intruder who becomes obsessed with a naive, sexually yearning girl and in due course torments her entire family.
The wonderful Reese Witherspoon plays Nicole Walker, an attractive teenager living with her architect father, Steve (William Petersen); stepmother, Laura (Amy Brenneman); and stepbrother, Toby (Christopher Gray). Her ideal man seems to materialize in the figure of David (Wahlberg), a sexy charmer she meets at a ‘rave’ party she attends with Margo (Alyssa Milano), her thrill-seeking best friend.
It doesn’t take long for David to reveal his darker, psychotic side. All along, Nicole’s dad senses that something is wrong with David, who’s not in school and appears to have no past.
In the first hour, the story perceptively explores tensions that might plague ordinary modern families. But after the initial ground-laying, the film follows the familiar path of its genre, with shrewdly if also predictably planted twists and turns. Foley’s stylishly elegant and efficient direction is at least a notch above the material’s level.