A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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.
Violence & Scariness
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).
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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"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.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A friend of David's is seen smoking crack. Teen Margo smokes cigarettes, and there is some drinking.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Director James Foley 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. Foley had previously made some excellent, stylish films, including After Dark, My Sweet (1990) and Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), and his work with actors is always exemplary.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.