You kids today might not remember the joy of internet chatrooms. (Yes, yes, yes: I know that they still exist, but methinks that they’re not quite the same as they were back in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.) In many ways, that’s where the whole problem with anonymity and the Internet truly started as anyone with the right software and a modem could log on, join a chat, and spout off damn near any thing without suffering a consequence in the slightest. Occasionally, a moderator would kick some blowhards out – or freeze them out – but more often than not folks just dropped off and went into a different room, leaving the proliferation of idiocy up for grabs to anyone who wanted to discover it.
A good many pictures – both telefilms and theatrical releases – tried to tap into the phenomenon, but none of them really found major success in any lasting way. The same could be said for today’s Social Media culture; though films like Searching (2018) and the more recent Missing (2023) have staked out solid thriller territory, I don’t believe either has found the kind of critical acclaim and/or commercial success that will make them long-term contenders to the throne. Still, those two pictures are head-and-shoulders above a little something called .Com For Murder (Dot Com For Murder), which really only revels in the sleezier aspects of online chatting by giving some web-based psychopath a bit more skills than the average Tom, Dick, or Harry had back in the day.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the film’s IMDB.com page citation:
“A woman suspects that the person she encountered on the Internet is a killer.”
Now … if it had clocked in under ninety minutes – a timeframe once lauded to be desirable across all genre entries – then I might not have felt that most of it was a big waste of time. That – and given the fact that as a thriller this kind of thing has been done before ad infinitum – pretty much destined this one to the trash heap of dead cinema. Maybe it should’ve stayed there, instead of getting such a primo release from the great and reliable Arrow Films. How this thing fell onto anyone’s radar and just why said ‘expert’ thought it desired a contemporary makeover will likely end up one of life’s greatest mysteries.
The film’s saving grace is that writer/director Nico Mastorakis stole from the best: clearly, he (and the others who contributed to the script) sought to ‘contemporize’ one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best feature. 1954’s Rear Window pitted recuperating photographer L.B. Jefferies (played by Jimmy Stewart) and his ‘gal Friday’ Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly) against neighbor Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr) whom they suspect has not only murdered his ailing wife but also did unspeakable things to her dead body. The bulk of the action takes place entirely in Jefferies’ apartment as they watch and reflect on the lives of everyone they see through that ‘rear window,’ an activity that nearly costs them their mortal coils.
Dot Com mirrors Window to a large degree, what with gal pals Sondra (Nastassja Kinski) and Misty (Nicollette Sheridan) stumbling into what appears to be a series of online affairs gone awry. (FYI: Sondra is even confined to a wheelchair, perhaps as direct an intentional nod to the source inspiration as Mastorakis’ wanted to include.) When Sondra believes she’s tapped into an inappropriate relationship between her gone-for-the-weekend husband (The Who’s Roger Daltrey, in a curious cameo), she inadvertently sets in motion the series of events that leads to a hacker/killer named Werther (Jeffery Dean) setting his sights on more than ‘you’ve got mail.’ He wants blood, and he’ll stop at nothing to get it.
Well, the biggest problem here – as I see it – is that Natassja Kinski is certainly no Jimmy Stewart, and Nicollette Sheridan is no Grace Kelly … though I will admit that she’s arguably just as good to ogle. (I’m full-blooded male, and I suffer the usual full-blooded male curse.) These two make for affable chums, but they don’t have the chemistry required to really elevate this story beyond its dull pacing and predictable circumstances. Inspiration does strike like a bolt of lightning in the final reel, but I’ll leave that alone as I do try to avoid spoiling plot details for those who may wish to discover this film all on their own.
.Com For Murder (aka Dot Com For Murder) was produced by Omega Entertainment. DVD distribution (for this particular release) is being handled by the good folks at Arrow Films. As for the technical specifications? Though I’m no trained video expert, I thought the sights and sounds were, mostly, very good, though I’ll admit that the flick’s overall cinematography was a bit jumbled in places: clearly director Mastorakis wanted to capture this trendy yarn with a certain flourish, and I’m just not entirely certain that was the best approach.
If you’re looking for special features, then buckle up! This is Arrow Films, after all, and they never disappoint, even with some tepid flicks as this one is. Stars Roger Daltrey and Huey Lewis are on-board with some archival interviews. There’s a new featurette wherein the director revisits his time working on the film. There are also making-of shorts, image galleries, and the theatrical trailer. The provided advertising materials also boast that the packaging includes some artwork along with a collector’s booklet, but as I was only provided a pre-fab copy I can’t speak to the efficacy of those inserts.
Not really recommended. .Com For Murder (aka Dot Com For Murder) plays more like a direct-to-cable bit of shlock. There’s really no narrative beat that heightens the tension precisely the way even a passable film should. Given the fact that there’s no performance in here that swings for the cheap seats, it’s hard to find any compelling reason to encourage folks to look it over … unless you need a Huey Lewis or Roger Daltrey quick fix.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Arrow Films provided me with a complimentary screener/copy by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.