The only magnetism generated by ersatz black-widow “Fascination” is that perilous urge to slow down and peek at the roadside wreck. Glacially paced, self-consciously acted and narratively risible, this so-called thriller about a pair of step-siblings who fall in lust even as they work to uncover the murders that apparently led to their familial link comes to January’s googolplex graveyard after a less-than-stellar Teutonic bow last October, but will give the Lion little to roar about either theatrically or upon ancillary interment.
Following the mysterious, watery death of his fit, rich father Patrick (James Naughton), struggling twentysomething musician Scott Doherty (Adam Garcia) returns to the family compound in Florida to comfort his mother Maureen (Jacqueline Bisset, who flips her hair back a lot).
Mom scarcely needs the support, announcing her intention, after an off-screen cruise, to marry Euro-trashy Brit businessman Oliver Vance (Stuart Wilson). Thus does Scott inherit step-sister Kelly (Alice Evans), a slinky firecracker whose heavy-handed advances toward the impressionable young man lead to rain-drenched sex on a gabled roof as Maureen and Oliver take their vows below.
Soon there are clues, including some strange blood-pressure medication and an incriminating photograph, suggesting the newlyweds engineered Patrick’s death. And what of Oliver’s previous wife, who also died mysteriously? Goaded on by Kelly’s bright-eyed carnality and his own anger-fueled confusion, Scott discovers family secrets that even half-awake auds will have sussed an hour before.
The kind of movie where characters say things like, “Let me kiss you through the pain,” and flutes play during tastefully composed dolly shots of soft-core copulation, pic is clearly fascinated by such genre touchstones as “Out of the Past,” “Body Heat” and “Basic Instinct.” Regrettably, East German-born helmer Klaus Menzel fails to grasp the sense of foreboding inevitability that made them work, preferring a style that might best be described as shallow indolence.
To their credit, thesps appear to be trying. Bisset shows quiet grace in the most underwritten role of the quartet, though much of her work is undercut by Garcia’s often painfully self-conscious agitation. Though she’s no Kathleen Turner or Sharon Stone, Evans provides the pic’s focus as a femme fatale whose manipulative sexual energy would make Jane Greer blush; her third-act scenes with the appropriately oily Wilson hint at what the film might have been.
Fine widescreen work of d.p. Reinhart Peschke leads a tech package marred by Marc Grenville-Masson’s unconvincing production design and John Du Prez’ gratingly intrusive score. Pic was shot entirely in Puerto Rico in 2002.