Film Reviews

.com For Murder (2002) – Blu-ray Review

The early 2000s was a strange age for technology. The Internet as it exists now was just entering its infancy, with regular people becoming able to jump onto the world wide web, access chat rooms, buy and sell goods, and even date online.

But, this was a time where relatively little was known about it for the average person, and as such the Internet was also surrounded by an air of mystique, and even fear. Films and television of the era began to explore computers and the Internet more, and hacking, online meet-ups, and the dark web were used in a lot of thrillers. The biggest issue with that was that the people making these projects knew very little about the technology, and as a result you get films like .com For Murder, which ends up becoming more fantasy than realistic thriller in today’s light.

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.com For Murder follows Sondra (Nastassja Kinski), a woman who has recently injured one of her legs and is having to stay at home to recuperate. When her partner, Ben (The Who musician, Roger Daltrey) leaves town on business, Sondra decides to have a look at what he’s been doing on his computer and finds out that he’s part of an internet dating chatroom. It’s here that she comes across Ben’s secret lover, as well as a man who becomes obsessed with the woman. Pretending to be Ben, Sondra tries to intimidate him, and earns his ire. Sending her frightening messages through the chatroom, she and her friend Misty (Nicollette Sheridan) start to worry that the man might be dangerous.

Later that night they’re sent a link to a live camera feed from a headset the man’s wearing as he breaks into the woman’s house and kills her in her bed. Realising that they’ve just witnessed a murder, and played a small part in it, the women try to figure out what to do, but little do they know, the killer has now turned his sights on them, and is heading for their home next.

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On the surface the plot for .com For Murder isn’t completely awful, and this is in part due to the fact that director Nico Mastorakis is borrowing a lot of inspiration from some more well known thriller films, particularly the work of Alfred Hitchcock. Mastorakis admits this himself in the ‘making of’ special feature, though it’s not hard to pick up on some of these elements. Rear Window and .com For Murder both feature a lead who is using a wheelchair due to having a broken leg, and witness a murder, though one is through a literal window, the other a figurative one via the Internet. The film’s title also give a slight nod and a wink to Hitchcock’s other film Dial M For Murder.

Sadly, the rest of the film fails to imitate Hitchcock in any ways that matter – chiefly in quality. In the behind the scenes features that the Blu-ray provides from the time the film was made, the narrator informs us that Mastorakis is a good pick to make a film about the Internet because he’s spent ‘hundreds of hours’ on it, visiting ‘dozens of sites’. If that’s all the criteria needed then every one of us should be directing films. Despite this lofty claim that he’s spent a lot of time online, Mastorakis seems to not know much about it. Every website featured in the film has voice activated commands, and every piece of text that appears on the screens gets read out by a robot. When the hacker starts messing with his victims he’s able to alter a simple chat room into a red and black screen filled with creepy writing where a CGI snake attacks the camera, before it returns to normal. I’m far from a tech expert, but I’m pretty sure that’s not how the Internet works.

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But as I said earlier, this was made in a time where a lot of people had no idea how the Internet worked, so in this film it’s kind of treated like magic, where if you want to be able to do something through the computer you can with just a few clicks or voice commands. Any kind of visual trickery can be done within seconds, reprogramming entire pieces of software into something completely different with a click and a few commands. And in the latter part of the film where the AI-controlled house Sondra lives in (because of course that’s a real thing in 2002) she’s able to get around his programmed restrictions by yelling at him and pressing delete several times. Because shouting and pressing one button enough is the way to get a computer system to know you really mean it when you tell it to illegally electrocute someone.

To go along with the either ridiculously broken or achingly dull script is acting that is average at best. The two female leads have difficulty really selling the emotions of most of their scenes, and the moments where they’re watching people be killed seems to give them little more trauma that them finding out they’re out of coffee. These performances are miles ahead of the male leads in terms of quality though. The main villain of the piece, played by Jeffery Dean, is apparently aiming to be some kind of super-intelligent intellectual who quotes literature and is able to hack into any computer system with ease, but actually comes across as a parody of a modern incel. He fails to be anywhere near threatening, and most of the time he seems fairly bored with being on the screen. The two other male leads aren’t even played by actors, with Mastorakis admitting in the behind the scenes stuff that he wanted to hire musicians instead, resulting in Roger Daltrey and Huey Lewis being in the movie. Whilst neither is offensively bad, you can tell that acting is not their chief profession.

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The film, which is only 90 minutes long, ends up feeling like it’s more than two hours of dull back and forth, exaggerated misrepresentation of what the Internet is, and bumbling characters. It even fails to deliver a satisfying conclusion. Usually Arrow Video releases come with some great extras to accompany their movies, but in this case there’s little included here to help improve the viewing experience. There’s a trailer for the film, and a couple of archival interviews with Daltrey and Lewis, along with some behind-the-scenes features. One of these was made when the film first came out, and has early 2000s DVD-extra quality to it. It speaks to a number of the people who made the film, and shows some behind-the-scenes moments. But some of the feature feels off when Mastorakis spends parts of the extras talking about how enjoyable it was to film naked women, and how one of the women in the film who appeared without clothes looked like a young boy, but was still attractive.

These creepy and misogynistic themes get echoed in the ‘interview’ with Mastorakis made for this new release. I put interview in quotes, because it’s really, really not. This interview says it’s produced by Mastorakis himself at the end, so it might explain why it feels wildly different from what Arrow normally provides, and ends up leaving a foul taste. Of the 28 minute run time, 22 minutes are given over to footage of naked women. Mastorakis explains how he shot different openings to the film that feature women being killed. He shows one where a woman is killed in the shower, but complains that she was too voluptuous, and so then shows the footage used in the final film, though a longer cut of it. This is the woman he says looks like a boy to him, yet allegedly still arouses him. Mastorakis doesn’t really provide any extra info, and just lets the footage play, with attention given to all parts of the woman’s body.

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The special feature then moves onto the sex site footage that Mastorakis made for the film, where we get several large breasted, scantily clad women dancing in front of a blue screen. Mastorakis talks about how nice it was to direct women to strip, and we then get 15 minutes of various women undressing and caressing themselves as you can hear Mastorakis telling them what to do in the background. These things add nothing to the experience of learning about the film, and Mastorakis barely talks in them, instead just giving the viewer 20 minutes of soft-core porn and a man saying how nice it was to make. The last segment of the extra then turns into a power-point presentation of Mastorakis explaining how there’s a conspiracy against him where people are buying bad reviews for his films to be put onto IMDB. This part is not only baffling to listen to, but the quality is like something you’d expect to see from a weird YouTube channel. The whole thing is baffling, gross, misogynistic, exploitative, and makes the entire release feel like a bad joke. This is miles away from the quality that I’ve come to expect from Arrow, and is frankly awful.

.com For Murder is a film that some may remember from when it was first released as a decent enough thriller film, but the change in how people understand technology has aged this worse than milk left out in a heatwave. It’s hard to look at the film with any level of seriousness, and this coupled with mediocre at best acting creates a film that you’re probably not going to want to watch again. Add in the extras that seem to have been thrown on with no real thought or quality control, and this might be one of the worst Arrow releases to date.

.com For Murder is out on Blu-ray on 6th February from Arrow Video.


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