Fear (1996 film)

Fear is a 1996 American psychological thriller film directed by James Foley and written by Christopher Crowe. It stars Mark Wahlberg, Reese Witherspoon, William Petersen, Alyssa Milano and Amy Brenneman. It revolves around a wealthy family whose seemingly perfect life is threatened when their teenage daughter begins dating an attractive and mysterious young man.

Theatrical release poster
Directed byJames Foley
Produced byBrian Grazer
Written byChristopher Crowe
Music byCarter Burwell
CinematographyThomas Kloss
Edited byDavid Brenner
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • April 12, 1996 (1996-04-12)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$6.5 million
Box office$20.8 million

The film was largely derided by critics upon its release, but became a sleeper hit in the spring of 1996, grossing $20 million at the U.S. box office. It has since become a cult film, while at the same time launching teen idol status for its two young leads, who were romantically linked at the time of the movie's premiere.[1] Wahlberg was nominated for the MTV Movie Award for Best Villain.[2]

The film's executive producer, Brian Grazer, described it as "Fatal Attraction for teens" – a loose recollection in which Wahlberg and Witherspoon have the Glenn Close and Michael Douglas roles, respectively, while Petersen is in Anne Archer's.


16-year-old Nicole Walker (Reese Witherspoon) lives in the suburbs of Seattle with her father Steven (William Petersen), his new wife Laura (Amy Brenneman), and Laura's son Toby (Christopher Gray). At a bar with her best friend Margo (Alyssa Milano) and friend Gary (Todd Caldecott), Nicole meets David McCall (Mark Wahlberg), and instantly falls for his good looks and charm. Nicole falls in love with David, but Steven dislikes him, and grows angry with him when he disregards Nicole's curfew and, eventually, has sex with her.

David soon becomes possessive and jealous of Nicole, culminating in attacking Gary when he sees them hugging, beating him up and giving Nicole a black eye. As a result, she breaks up with him, but they get back together when David manipulates her into believing her father assaulted him.

David invites Nicole to a party at his friend Logan's (Tracy Fraim) house. At first, she declines but then decides to drive to the party, where she witnesses Margo smoking crack and, apparently, having sex with David. The following day, she confronts him about his infidelity, and also confronts Margo, who insists that David raped her. David then threatens Margo to convince Nicole to take him back. After seeing Nicole with Gary, David follows and kills him.

Nicole goes with Laura and Toby to the mall, where David corners her in the women's restroom. Meanwhile, Steven finds his car vandalized with an insulting note left by David. Furious, Steven breaks into the house David shares with Logan and vandalizes it. In retaliation for Steven's vandalism, David decides to break into the Walkers' residence with his four friends: Logan, Hacker (Gary Riley), Knobby (Jed Rees), and Terry (Jason Kristofer).

After Margo informs the Walkers of Gary's death, David and his gang behead Kaiser, the family dog, then make multiple attempts to break inside. Steven and Laura barricade the doors, and Laura injures Hacker with a drill, and he is then taken to the hospital by Knobby. Using a flashlight, Nicole sends an SOS to the Walker's private security guard, Larry, who arrives to confront the situation, but is killed by Terry.

David, Logan, and Terry take Steven hostage, forcing Laura to surrender. Toby escapes through a window and gets to Laura's car phone. After Terry finds him in the garage, Toby fatally runs Terry over with the SUV. Logan forces himself onto Nicole; Margo intervenes, but is knocked unconscious. David shoots Logan dead for attempting to rape Nicole. After Toby retrieves Larry's keys and releases his parents, Steven rushes at David and the pair get into a furious brawl. David gets ready to execute Steven but Nicole impales David in the back with a peace pipe (a gift from David himself). Steven then throws David through the bedroom window to his death. Moments later, police and paramedics arrive.



Fear was released on April 12, 1996 in 1,584 theaters. It opened at No. 4 at the box office, making $6.3 million in its opening weekend. By the end of its run, the film earned $20.8 million in the US.[3]


  1. "Jessica" by The Allman Brothers Band
  2. "Green Mind" by Dink
  3. "Comedown" by Bush
  4. "Wild Horses" by The Sundays
  5. "Machinehead" by Bush
  6. "Something's Always Wrong" by Toad the Wet Sprocket
  7. "Animal" by Prick
  8. "Stars and Stripes Forever" by C.H.S Municipal Band
  9. "The Illist" by Marky Mark
  10. "Irie Vibe" by One Love.


The film holds a 46% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 37 reviews, with an average rating of 5.06/10. The site's consensus reads: "Fear has an appealing young cast, but their efforts aren't enough to consistently distract from an increasingly overblown - and illogical - teen stalker story".[4]

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."[5]

Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a positive review, further accrediting the comparisons to Fatal Attraction, writing: "Fear is a teen Fatal Attraction, and — surprise — it isn’t bad." He did, however, criticise the finale: "[Director] James Foley does a fine job evoking the sexual tensions between father, daughter, and rogue suitor, but he has less luck with the (inevitable) garish climax, which is so unconvincingly staged it never even makes it over the top".[6]

Gene Siskel gave the film a thumbs-down while Roger Ebert gave it a thumbs-up. Siskel called the picture "Predictable trash with an 'inspired' title, and with a third act which nosedives into pure mayhem...It's shocking that such a film was made by the same director who gave us At Close Range, Glengary Glen Ross, and After Dark, My Sweet; this one is not worthy of his talent. It should have been titled Who's That Boy." Ebert, however, claimed the movie "generates genuine psychological interest, with an effective and suspenseful portrait of a family under siege." [7]

Movie historian Leonard Maltin gave the picture 2/4 stars: "This passable slasher epic benefits from taut, stylish direction and from decent performances; still, it's awfully derivative -- especially the climactic showdown. Mark Wahlberg is menacing as the lovestruck hood, but he could benefit from diction lessons." [8]

Critical revaluation of the film has proved more positive than its initial reception, with Carter Burwell's score being especially well-received.[9] One critic has since stated that "although dismissed by some reviewers upon its release as a sensationalist, hysterical, formulaic piece, Fear has improved with age".[10] The film was placed as No. 19 on Bravo TV's "30 Even Scarier Movie Moments".


On May 23, 2019, it was announced that Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment would produce a remake of the film with Brian Grazer producing again, along with Karen Lunder as co-producer. Jonathan Herman will adapt Crowe's script for a modern audience. Amandla Stenberg will star.[11][12]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Vena, Jocelyn (December 29, 2010). "Reese Witherspoon's Love Life: From Ryan Phillippe To Jim Toth". MTV. Retrieved February 1, 2012.
  2. ^ "Mark Wahlberg movies, ranked from worst to best". Boston.com. Archived from the original on March 13, 2017. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
  3. ^ "Fear (1996) – Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 2, 2010.
  4. ^ "Fear Movie Reviews, Pictures – Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 12, 2010.
  5. ^ LaSalle, Mick (April 12, 1996). "Chilling 'Fear' Finds Its Mark". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved June 13, 2017.
  6. ^ Gleiberman, Owenb (September 7, 2011). "Movie Review: Fear". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
  7. ^ Siskel & Ebert @ the Movies: April 21, 1996
  8. ^ Maltin's TV, Movie & Video Guide
  9. ^ Romanek, Neal. "The Top 5 Carter Burwell Film Scores". Retrieved July 6, 2015.
  10. ^ Silver, Alain; Ward, Elizabeth; Ursini, James; Porfirio, Robert (2010). Film Noir: The Encyclopaedia. New York City: Overlook Duckworth. ISBN 978-1-59020-144-2.
  11. ^ https://www.comingsoon.net/movies/news/1070393-amandla-stenberg-to-star-in-fear-remake-for-universal
  12. ^ https://deadline.com/2019/05/the-hate-u-give-star-amandla-stenberg-joins-universals-fear-remake-1202621303/

External linksEdit