Fear (1996 film)

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Promotional film poster
Directed by James Foley
Produced by Brian Grazer
Written by Christopher Crowe
Starring Mark Wahlberg
Reese Witherspoon
William Petersen
Alyssa Milano
Amy Brenneman
Music by Carter Burwell
Cinematography Thomas Kloss
Edited by David Brenner
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • April 12, 1996 (1996-04-12)
Running time
96 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $6.5 million
Box office $20,831,000

Fear is a 1996 American thriller drama film directed by James Foley (who co-scripted without credit). It was written by Christopher Crowe, who created the TV series B.L. Stryker, The Watcher, B.J. and the Bear and (with his brother Zachary) Seven Days. Originally titled No Fear (without bearing any connection to the same-named line of sporting apparel). It is not a remake of the 1917, 1946, 1965 or 1990 films, despite having the same title and Mark Wahlberg was nominated for the MTV Movie Award for Best Villain.


Nicole Walker (Reese Witherspoon) is a fairly innocent teenager with a rebellious streak. Having been kicked out of her mother's house, she now lives in the suburbs of Seattle with her well-meaning but overbearing father Steven (William Petersen) and his new family: second wife, Laura (Amy Brenneman) and Toby (Christopher Gray), Laura's preteen son from her first marriage. At a rave, Nicole meets David McCall (Mark Wahlberg), who has borderline personality disorder and antisocial features, she is swept off her feet by his sweet, polite nature. When Steven meets David, he mistrusts him immediately and becomes angry, when Nicole violates her curfews to spend more time with David. Eventually, while Steven and Laura are on a business trip, Nicole and David have sex at her home, flagrantly disobeying a house rule about unsupervised guests. One day, David scares Nicole by assaulting her friend Gary (Todd Caldecott), upon seeing them hug each other. He shoves Nicole to the ground when she tries to stop him, giving her a black eye. Nicole ends things with David, leaving him crushed, but her father's now-intense opposition to David paradoxically drives her to accept David's apologies. The suspicious Steven checks into David's background and learns that David spent his early life with various foster families, until getting arrested and institutionalized. When David turned 18, he was released from foster care.

Steven confronts David on a street corner and tells him to leave Nicole alone. One night, Nicole witnesses her best friend Margo Masse (Alyssa Milano) being raped by David. She misinterprets it as a consensual act and breaks up with David again. The next day, when David tries to surprise Nicole, she pushes him away. Gary also tells David to leave Nicole alone. Nicole also ends her friendship with Margo, despite her pleas for forgiveness. When David finds out why Nicole dumped him, he violently threatens Margo, unless she patches things up between him and Nicole. David becomes violently obsessed with Nicole, tattooing "Nicole 4 Eva" into his chest. He sees her hugging Gary again and gets furious. Nicole goes with Toby and Laura to the mall, they invite Gary along, but he has to get home. As Gary walks alone through the woods, David lethally breaks his neck and also vandalizes Steven's prized Mustang and leaves a taunting note to him: "Now I've popped both your cherries". Steven breaks into David's house, where he finds an obscene shrine that David has built for Nicole, along with a box containing: a vandalized bracelet, which read "Daddy's Girl" but has been changed to "David's Girl"; a pair of Nicole's underwear; a defaced family photo that finds Steven's head replaced with David's. Steven angrily trashes the house. David returns home and promptly concludes that Steven has been there. He determines to break into the Walker residence, with the help of his equally gang: Hacker (Gary Riley), Knobby (Jed Rees), Logan (Tracy Fraim) and Terry (Jason Kristofer). A distraught Margo goes to Nicole's house and informs the Walkers that David has killed Gary.

David and his gang behead Kaiser (Banner), the Walkers' German Shepherd. When Hacker tries breaking into the kitchen with an axe, Laura injures his hand with a drill. Knobby escorts Hacker to a hospital. Terry attempts to get inside from upstairs, but Nicole knocks him to the yard below with an umbrella. Nicole signals Larry, the Walkers' private security guard, by flashing "SOS" with the light in her room. Larry arrives to confront David and Logan, as Steven comes outside to do the same. Terry guns Larry down from behind. The trio pummel Steven and take him hostage, then force their way into the house after commandeering Larry's handcuffs and pistol. They cuff up Steven and Laura, taping their mouths shut. When Logan forces himself onto Nicole, Margo intervenes but is coldcocked. Toby escapes through another window, getting to Laura's SUV and uses her car phone to dial 9-1-1 (since David's friends cut the phone lines to the house). Toby starts the engine to make the phone work, Terry notices this and shoots out the windshield - just missing Toby, who runs Terry down with the SUV. David brings a bound and gagged Steven into Nicole's room to "say goodbye" to his daughter; he also shoots Logan dead from raping Nicole. Toby re-enters the house, gets the keys to the handcuffs and frees both his parents. David gently tells Nicole, "It has to be this way," and asks her if she wants to go with him. To save her family, Nicole agrees to go and pretends to reciprocate his affection. Steven rushes David, but he gets pistol-whipped upside the head. Nicole prevents David from executing Steven ("You will forever hold your peace!"), by stabbing David in the back with a "peace pipe" letter opener (which David himself won at a carnival on a previous date with Nicole). Steven saves Nicole, by pouncing to disarm David from behind and throws him out from a window to his death. The family and Margo reconcile, while the police and EMTs arrive.



The film received mixed to negative reviews from critics, holding a 39% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 31 reviews.[1]

Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle said, "Fear is hard to resist. On one hand it's a shameless thriller that makes up for the inevitability of its story by consistently being bigger, faster and more appalling than you might expect. On the other hand, it contains enough truth about fathers, teenaged daughters and young lust to distinguish it from most thrillers and ground it in vivid emotion. It is a nightmare fantasy for fathers. Director James Foley and screenwriter Christopher Crowe keep raising the stakes all the way to a finish that's something out of The Straw Dogs. It's a maddening, satisfying, junky, enjoyable picture." [2]

Fear opened at #4 with $6,312,240 upon its opening weekend recouping 97% of its budget (4/12-14). By the end of its run, the film earned $20,831,000 domestically.[3] The film was perceived as a moderate success, since its gross tripled its budget.

The film was placed as #19 on Bravo TV's "30 Even Scarier Movie Moments".

The dramatic and tense score by Carter Burwell was praised and well received.[4]

Songs used in the film[edit]

  1. "Jessica" – The Allman Brothers Band (played in Steve's car while he is chatting with Nicole about an upcoming James Taylor concert)
  2. "Green Mind" – Dink (contains samples from "Friendly Fascism"; played at the rave where David hooks up with Nicole, and also used in the film's theatrical trailer)
  3. "Comedown" – Bush (played over montage of David picking Nicole up from school to play billiards and go on a subsequent date)
  4. "Wild Horses" – The Sundays (played over now-notorious rollercoaster-sex scene, and also used in the film's theatrical trailer)
  5. "Machinehead" – Bush (played over montage of David wondering how he's going to make peace with Nicole, after she dumps him for beating up Gary)
  6. "Something's Always Wrong" – Toad the Wet Sprocket
  7. "Animal" – Prick (played at David's party where Nicole secretly observes him cheating on her with Margo)
  8. "Stars and Stripes Forever" – C.H.S. Municipal Band
  9. "The Illist" – Marky Mark (written by Mark Wahlberg, Fabian Cooke)
  10. "Irie Vibe" – One Love (written by Mark Wahlberg, Fabian Cooke; played at the pool hall where David and Nicole first encounter each other)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Fear Movie Reviews, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-02-12. 
  2. ^ Nick LaSalle, "Chilling 'Fear' finds its Mark, Wahlberg stars in lustful teen thriller." San Francisco Chronicle, Apr. 12, 1996. http://www.sfgate.com/movies/article/Chilling-Fear-Finds-Its-Mark-Wahlberg-stars-2986174.php
  3. ^ "Fear (1996) - Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2010-02-12. 
  4. ^ Neal Romanek, "The Top 5 Carter Burwell Film Scores." http://www.nealromanek.com/top-5-carter-burwell-film-scores/

External links[edit]