Fear (1996): Retro VHS Collection [Blu-Ray]

In a decade filled to the brim with thrillers, James Foley’s “Fear” is one of my absolute favorites. It’s schlocky in certain instances, but it’s a satisfying twist on the “obsession thriller” by injecting it in to something of a young adult novel framework. “Fear” is one of the debut performances by Mark Wahlberg, who was previously known mainly for being a hip hop star. His take on sociopathic maniac David is much more in keeping with Wahlberg’s sensibilities and he’s able to bring to life a pretty terrifying villain.

When 16-year-old Nicole Walkermeets 23-year-old David McCall at a Seattle nightclub, she falls in love. David is exciting and charming, and despite the wide age gap, he wins over Nicole’s family — except for her workaholic father, Steven, who’s suspicious of David from the start. His concerns are realized when David turns out to be a violent sociopath who sees Nicole as his possession, and her family home a fortress to be invaded.

James Foley’s “Fear” is one of the better romance thrillers in that while it is a take on “Fatal Attraction” it’s also a movie with a fascinating mystery. It also relies a lot on the dynamic between William Peterson and Reese Witherspoon. The former is a father anxiously trying to keep his daughter away from Wahlberg, but he finds he’s a bit outmatched as David is conniving and clever. “Fear” begins as something of an ideal teen romance in the beginning, but descends slowly in to darker territory the more David is explored. He seems like the boy next door who seemingly knows how to engage with people.

Once it becomes apparent he’s fixated on Witherspoon’s character Nicole, he becomes so much more sinister and sadistic as the narrative progresses. Despite its shortcomings here and there, Wahlberg is very good as the film’s central villain; he’s never been an incredible actor, but his breathless Boston drawl works to his benefit here. Meanwhile the supporting cast of Amy Brenneman, and Alyssa Milano are memorable. “Fear” is filled with the usual turns in films of this ilk. People begin dying, there’s a heavy sense of psychological torture, and a la “Fatal Attraction,” someone’s pet ends up horribly maimed. Foley does put a twist on rising tension offering a more explosive and chaotic final act with a home siege a la “Straw Dogs.”

It amounts to a nail biting stand off that I think is great. That’s mainly thanks to the way William Peterson’s impassioned patriarch plays against Wahlberg’s more robotic psychopath. I’d never accuse “Fear” of being high brow entertainment, but it’s a fun nineties thriller in the league of fodder like “Crush,” “Poison Ivy,” and “Devil in the Flesh.” 

The Blu-Ray re-release from Mill Creek Entertainment does not come with any special features, or even a theatrical trailer. It is however packaged in the popular “Retro VHS Collection” packaging, which is a fun conversation piece, if anything.