Fear (Blu-ray)

When Nicole met David; handsome, charming, affectionate, he was everything. It seemed perfect, but soon she sees that David has a darker side. And his adoration turns to obsession, their dream into a nightmare, and her love into fear.

March 7, 2023 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Movies are a very personal thing.  Odds are anyone reading this has a favorite movie that really means something to them and odds are, there are those out there that will disagree with you.  This is the case with me for Fear.  I’d just transferred to Kansas State University in the Spring of 1996 and had a dorm room all to myself.  These were the days when I still watched MTV and they were promoting the hell out of this film that starred Mark Walhberg and Reese Witherspoon.  At the time, Wahlberg was still known as “Marky Mark” but this role paved the way for what would become a very successful movie career.  Back to my point, though.  I think people enjoy a movie not so much for what it says, but maybe the time in your life you saw it.  Perhaps who you saw it with?  Maybe the movie is representative of a certain portion of your life?  I find I identify with a lot of the movies that came out around this time (White Squall, Happy Gilmore and Primal Fear to name a few).  And it doesn’t hurt that Fear is actually a pretty good thriller from the mid-90’s.

We meet Nicole (Reese Witherspoon), Daddy’s Little Girl in every sense of the word, who happens across David (Mark Wahlberg) at a local club.The two become romantically involved much to the dismay of her father (William Petersen), who’s instantly suspicious of David and everything he represents. Nicole’s friend, Margo (Alyssa Milano) is more of the ‘wild child’ and the men she chooses to hang out with are friends of David.  Steve (Petersen) decides to do a little digging into David’s past and discovers that he’s been lying about his past and is an orphan.  Naturally this doesn’t sit well with Nicole who thinks that he’s the perfect man.  As Steve and David continue their quarrel, David becomes more possessive and this leads us to the inevitable confrontation between father and “guy who has been dating Daddy’s little girl.”

There’s not a lot to the plot of Fear and, truthfully, it’s been done before.  The performances were good, this was a few years before Petersen landed the role of Gus Grissom on television’s C.S.I. and, as noted earlier, this paved the way for both Wahlberg and  Witherspoon (who won a Best Actress Oscar a decade later for Walk the Line).  Wahlberg’s breakout performance really came the next year with Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights, loosely based on the life of adult film star John Holmes.  Some might look at this movie as dated, tired and predictable but I’ve always found it a good movie and, for me, a peek at my past.  Director James Foley was really only known for his work on Glengarry Glen Ross a few years earlier, but I do admire his work here.  If you’ve never seen the film, give it a chance.  Universal has somewhat shunned it, but it’s now available on Blu-ray and I do know there are fans out there.

Video: How does it look?

It’s been a few years since I’ve seen this movie, but I’ll say that I’ve owned it on every format from VHS to LaserDisc to DVD and now (finally) Blu-ray.  The 2.40:1 AVC HD transfer looks good, more so than the previous incarnations of the film.  I caught right off the thin layer of grain that lingers through the majority of the movie.  There are some scenes of crystal clarity that really make the film pop.  However, this seems like a second-rate release.  Colors are a bit on the muted side (bear in mind this takes place in the Seattle area), flesh tones are warm and natural and contrast and black levels are nearly on target.  It’s a good effort and certainly the best the film has ever looked, but I think given the right budget and TLC, it could look better.

Audio: How does it sound?

The DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack is certainly an upgrade over the previous Dolby Digital 5.1 track from the DVD years ago.  While a bit dated, the grungy songs do bring the viewer back to a time when flannel ruled the world.  A few of the songs by “Bush” are prevalent with dialogue taking front and center.  Wahlberg tends to mumble his words and with his early work (and this is his first major film), it’s a bit hard to understand him at times.  The front stage takes the burden of the mix and while surrounds are present, they’re by and large not really too active.  It’s a nice mix, a step up from the DVD for sure but nothing too immersive.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Universal’s Blu-ray had a trailer. This loses that. So what we’ve got is a featureless disc.

The Bottom Line

As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, this film strikes a chord with me. Is it totally original? No. Was it a bit predictable? Of course. But if you’re looking for a good, mid-90’s thriller that helped launch the careers of Mark Wahlberg and Reese Witherspoon – here you go. Mill Creek’s disc looks the same as the previously-released Universal disc. So unless that “Retro VHS” packaging does it for you, I’d stick with what’s already out there.

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