Violent creepy-boyfriend thriller without helpful takeaways.
  • Review Date: February 2, 2011
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 1998
  • Running Time: 97 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

This movie has very little good to say about the nature of relationships. Nicole is a "good" girl, but she winds up trusting the wrong guy and pays a huge price for it. Margo is a "bad" girl, and she also ends up paying a price for her choices. Aside from Nicole's father, and her friend Gary, the men in this movie are violent and possessive.

Positive role models

Nicole is arguably the most upright character here, but despite a good head on her shoulders, she winds up becoming involved with a violent psychopath, often choosing to believe his lies rather than accepting her family's help. Nicole's father seems to be a good man, but he's often seen working, and/or preoccupied, instead of spending time with his family.


The David character beats up a teen, kicking him while he's down, and slaps the Nicole character when she tries to intervene. He murders both offscreen and onscreen, sometimes with a gun, and sometimes with his bare hands (neck-snapping). He also kills the family dog and shoves the severed head through the doggie door. Aside from that, he threatens and intimidates various characters. A fight breaks out at a dance club, and various weapons are used during the climactic struggle (including a power drill to the hand, and stabbing in the back).


David and Nicole kiss passionately, and often. He touches her between her legs. They have safe sex in a bed, while her parents are out (a condom wrapper is later discovered). Margo gives a grinding lap dance to her older boyfriend. Later, a horrified Nicole witnesses as David violently seduces her best friend Margo, grabbing her buttocks, and dragging her away for implied, offscreen sex. There's also a brief same-sex kiss and a brief view of a nudie magazine.


"F--k" is used several times, and "s--t" is heard at least once. Additional words include "boobs," "slut," "bitch," and "Jesus" as an exclamation.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A friend of David's is seen smoking crack. Teen Margo smokes cigarettes, and there is some drinking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Fear is a "creepy boyfriend" thriller in the Cape Fear and Fatal Attraction mode, but geared toward teens. It's filled with violence, including fighting, use of weapons, murder, and a severed dog head. Teens are seen kissing and exploring in a sexual way, and eventually having sex. Other sexual situations are not so safe. Language is strong, including several uses of "f--k." One minor character uses crack and a teen girl regularly smokes cigarettes. Teens might be interested in seeing younger versions of actors Mark Wahlberg (then about 25) and Reese Witherspoon (about 20), but the material is probably too strong for any but the most mature teens.

What's the story?

Teen Nicole (Reese Witherspoon) lives with her dad and her stepmom and goes to a normal high school with her friends Margo and Gary. Heading to an sleazy bar for lunch one day, Nicole sees David (Mark Wahlberg). Later, she meets him at a dance club, and they hit it off; he seems gentle and decent, and she begins to fall for him. They kiss and make love, but when David spots Nicole hugging Gary at school, he snaps and begins thrashing on Gary. Nicole tries to dump her new boyfriend, but he's very persistent, and it seems that he has a few dirty tricks up his sleeve. Not to mention that he has a terrifying dark side, and a murderous streak that eventually endangers Nicole and everyone around her.

Is it any good?


Director James Foley had previously made some excellent, stylish films, including After Dark, My Sweet (1990) and Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), and his work with actors was always exemplary. Here he gets just below the surface of his two leads and coaxes strong, believable performances from both Wahlberg and Witherspoon. They click onscreen together, and the mounting terror is emotionally believable. William Petersen (later on TV's CSI) is also excellent.

However, the movie as a whole never really rises above the conventions of this "creepy boyfriend" genre. There was more at stake in earlier examples like Fatal Attraction (1987) and Cape Fear (1962 and 1991), and this one feels too little, too late. It's a little too shallow and mean. Despite the strong performances, it feels made for naïve teens with no prior experience with this cliche of story.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the movie's violence. In what scenes is it thrilling and in what scenes is it terrifying? How does the movie accomplish these different moods? What would th emovie have been like without the onscreen violence?

  • Why does Nicole trust David? What message does the movie send about relationships? Does it seem an accurate message?

  • Is there anything more Nicole's father could have done in this situation? Is there any point at which Nicole would have listened to his advice, or did she need to learn this lesson on her own? How can parents protect their kids while allowing them independence too?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:April 12, 1998
DVD release date:October 27, 1999
Cast:Mark Wahlberg, Reese Witherspoon, William L. Petersen
Director:James Foley
Studio:Universal Pictures
Run time:97 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:strong graphic violence and terror, sexuality, language and drug use

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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written bywonder dove May 25, 2012
age 17+

Some people aren't who they appear to be!

If you like suspense and are a fan of the horror genre, you will likely enjoy this coming of age teen part-romance/part-thriller film. Starring Reese Witherspoon who plays 16 year old Nicole; she meets a "sweet" guy at a rave party when out with her best friend Margo. Their relationship becomes intense and they soon think they're in love despite how many times Nicole's father tries to tell her h'es not a good guy. Until finally one night Nicole discovers that David is cheating on her by forcing her best friend Margo to sleep with him. This is where the real fear starts and the story is just pure suspense from there with quite a bit of violence & some gore. There is also lots of strong language, some drug use and sexual content. This film is not recommended for anyone under the age of 18!
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Parent of an infant, 2, 4, 7, and 11 year old Written bylindsey678 February 9, 2011
age 17+

BAD PARENTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

IF YOU LET A KID 14 AND UNDER WATCH THIS MOVIE THEN ARE A BAD PARENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Parent Written byMoviegoer Mom July 28, 2011
age 17+

Unnecessary violence--waste of time

Very little plot or character development here. No redeeming qualities, just pure gratuitous violence, and creepy boyfriend behavior. Abnormal, adult-ish boyfriend. Teens would not behave like this and there is no sense allowing teens to watch. I agree with reviewer's suggestions of discussion questions if your child sees it anyway. Very glad we checked this movie out first and told our daughter "no" about seeing it. She's glad too, she said, when she heard a description. Kind of surprised R Witherspoon did this film, but realizing it was before she had children.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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