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Film / Fear (1996)

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Fear is a 1996 Psychological Horror/Thriller film directed by James Foley, starring Mark Wahlberg and Reese Witherspoon.

Nicole Walker (Witherspoon) is a teenage girl who, while at a cafe, meets a handsome and mysterious young man named David McCall (Wahlberg). The two end up together and within a couple of weeks, Nicole realizes that David is becoming possessive of her and ultimately breaks up with him. David tries everything to get Nicole back, but when that doesn't work, he and his group of friends break into Nicole's home by holding her and her family hostage, which leads to some nasty consequences.

The film costars William Petersen as Nicole's father Steven, Amy Brenneman as her stepmother Laura, and Alyssa Milano as her best friend Margo.

A TV series adaptation is in the works.

Fear provides examples of:

  • Action Dad: Steven realizes what's going on and eventually has a showdown with David.
  • And Your Little Dog, Too!: David decapitates the family's dog, which just adds more fuel to Nicole's rage.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Deconstructed. Even though Nicole lusts for David, it takes her a while to realize that he's a maniacal, aggressive sociopath who isn't even remotely fit to be beside her.
  • Badass Boast: David's note to Steven after trashing his car: "Now I've popped both your cherries!"
  • Bad Guys Play Pool: The first time Nicole sees David, he is playing pool.
  • Bar Brawl: The rave party quickly degenerates into a fight scene.
  • Basement-Dweller: Logan and his friends live at Logan's dads house (possibly without permission given comments about how they might get thrown out), while he's out of town.
  • Beard of Evil: Logan is just as slimy as David and has a scraggly beard.
  • Berserk Button: Margo goes into a frenzy seeing Logan trying to molest Nicole.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Nicole begins as one, blithely disobeying her father when it comes to David's behavior and insisting on instant gratification just because he turns her on. Subverted, as she actually comes to her senses later.
  • Car Fu: The youngest member of the family runs over a member of David's gang.
  • Carved Mark: David carves "Nicole 4 Eva" into his chest.
  • Cheerful Child: Toby, who is happy to help his mother in the garden, enjoys playing with the family dog and gets along well with Margo and Nicole.
  • Chekhov's Gift: The Peace Pipe David wins for Nicole at a fair is used to stab him in the back.
  • Commonality Connection: Exploited by David, who uses some gardening skills to get Laura to open up to him.
  • Cool Car: Steven's 1966 Ford Mustang and David's 1965 Chevrolet Corvair.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: David goes above and beyond this trope.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Nicole tells her stepmother that she got her black eye in gym class.
  • Darker and Edgier: This alongside Cruel Intentions are possibly the darker films that Reese Witherspoon was in.
  • Decoy Protagonist: While the movie initially focuses on Nicole, by the end of it, the real battle is between David and Steven, with Nicole as the prize.
  • Defrosting the Ice Queen: Laura starts out feuding with Nicole as much as the average Wicked Stepmother, but warms up to her a lot after the first twenty or thirty minutes.
  • Destination Defenestration: At the end of the climactic home invasion, David is fatally thrown out of a window by Nicole's father Steven.
  • Disappeared Dad: Toby's biological father never appears and apparently blows off the opportunity to spend time with his son to chase girls, with Toby seeming to view Steven as his real dad. Margo's father also isn't in the picture.
  • Drugs Are Bad: David and his cronies do crack in several scenes and are fairly sinister people.
  • Epic Hail: Toby getting outside to get at the car phone.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Averted. Kaiser the family pet likes David and licks him from the first time they meet.
  • Evil Orphan: It's eventually explained that David was an orphan who went from home to home and shelter to shelter because he was too crazy to take care of.
  • Fanservice: Reese Witherspoon and Alyssa Milano wear revealing clothes for a good portion of the movie; Milano is seen in a thong at one point.
  • Faux Affably Evil: David sure knows how to win people over. He doesn't even display any animosity towards Nicole while he's trying to rape her or murder her family.
  • From the Mouths of Babes: Nicole's stepbrother Toby has a line of this about his real dad.
    Toby: He doesn't really watch the games. He's too busy trying to pick up chicks.
  • Gender Flip: One of the few Fatal Attraction knock-offs where the psycho lover is male.
  • Gold Digger: Margo implies that her mother is this, commenting that she's seeing an unattractive man who promised to buy her a Ferrari.
  • Good Bad Girl: Margo, who seems to be an honest friend and confidant to Nicole despite her hard-partying attitude.
  • Good Parents: Steven is a devoted, reasonable, and loving father to Nicole. He's also willing to call her out on her nonsense and take steps to protect her if she gets out of line. This also gets deconstructed during the midway point, as even Laura makes clear that he can't break up David and Nicole all by himself. And sadly, even when Nicole finally understands what an untrustworthy scumbag David is, he ends up going off the deep end and nearly murders her entire family.
  • Hate Sink: David McCall is an Ax-Crazy sociopath who believes himself deserving of total ownership of Nicole. He starts out engaging in relatively minor rebellious behaviors, but escalates when he beats up Gary for hugging Nicole and hits her in the process. Once he wins her back over, he proves himself to be just as detestable as ever, stealing Margo away from her boyfriend to rape her and threatening her when he suspects she told Nicole. Later, he murders Gary, and he and his gang break into Nicole's house with the intention of killing her entire family and Margo, then taking Nicole with him.
  • I Gave My Word: Earlier, David told Nicole that he'd kill any guy who'd dare touch her when he was explaining to her why he went crazy over her and Gary hugging. He keeps his word and kills Logan when Logan tried to rape Nicole.
  • Gut Punch: The film starts off as a typical teen romantic drama. Then David sees Nicole hugging Gary and David reveals his true colors, after which the tone just keeps getting darker.
  • In the Back: David gets stabbed with a peace pipe in that area.
  • Implied Death Threat: David's speech to Gary comparing him to a wall (since Gary's standing between Nicole and himself).
    David: Did you know I grew up in a lot of different places?
    Gary: Uh, no. Actually, Nicole told me that…
    David: Oh, yeah. Bridgewater, Spaford, Rikers, you name it. You know what they have in common?
    Gary: No.
    David: Weak walls. Actually, that's why they moved me around so much. I'd pound on the wall, it'd break. They'd move me to the next one and the next one… until finally they got sick of buildin' walls and showed me the door. Pretty useful upbringing it turned out, though, Gar. There's always walls. Usually the moist, fleshy kind that try to get in the way of me and it, whatever it may be. Silly, silly people, though. They're only to be knocked down. (knocks Gary to the ground, who runs away from him) Gary!
  • Mid-Life Crisis Car: Steven's Cherry Red Mustang.
  • Missing Mom: Nicole's biological mother is out of the picture.
  • The Modest Orgasm: Nicole has one while getting fingered by David on a roller coaster.
  • Moral Myopia: Oh, sure David, you rape your girlfriend's best friend thinking she won't find out, but when she rejects you, it's perfectly acceptable to kill her friend and try to murder her family.
  • Mr. Fanservice: David being shirtless before sexing it up with Nicole.
  • Neck Snap: David does this to Gary after the aforementioned Implied Death Threat.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Steven vandalizing David's house in revenge for his attacks motivates David's housemates to help him attack the family.
  • Not Good with Rejection: David, to say the very least. The entire climax of the film is a consequence of Nicole telling David off.
  • "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: David completely brushes off how much he hurt Margo when he sexually assaulted her at the party and claims to her face she wanted it to happen.
  • Papa Wolf: Steven never forgives David for his violent attack on Gary during which he also gave Nicole a black eye. And he turns out to be right, as David's apologies and attempts at making up with Nicole are shown to be patently insincere.
  • The Precious, Precious Car: Steven's cherry red Mustang gets absolutely trashed by David.
  • Police Are Useless: Played with; the security guard for the Walker family is smart enough to stop the thugs and disarm them, but one sneaks up behind him.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: David's friends Nobby and Hacker take off after Hacker gets his hand hurt and they lose their nerve.
  • Slut-Shaming: Early in the film, Laura comments that Nicole looks like a slut with all the makeup she's wearing for her date with David.
  • Stalker with a Crush: David, to a horrifying level.
  • This Is a Drill: One of the thugs attacking the house gets drilled in the hand and immediately leaves for the hospital.
  • When She Smiles: Laura has some moments of smiling dazzlingly considering how serious or irritated she usually is. Such moments include when she and Steven talk about going to their honeymoon hotel or she's having fun by the pool.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: David punches himself in the chest and blames it on Steven to have Nicole confront him about it.
  • Yandere: David is seriously possessive of Nicole, and follows the archetype of starting out as a sweet guy before revealing how unhinged he truly is to the letter.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: David shoots his friend Logan in the head right before the final battle due to him trying to rape Nicole.

Alternative Title(s): Fear