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Big-screen blind spot: 'Fear'

Once in a while, a movie slips under your radar. For about, oh, 20 years. In 'Big-screen blind spot,' we sit down with those 'classic' movies everybody but us has seen and give them the nostalgia critic treatment.

Confession: Until recently, I had never seen “Fear,” the 1996 thriller in which Mark Wahlberg REALLYNEEDSTOBELETINTOTHEBLEEPIN’HOUSE! In less shouty terms, he plays David, a brooding, muscular castaway of the foster care system who brings unforeseen menace to his relationship with 16-year-old Nicole (Reese Witherspoon). But he’s so dreamy, and who cares what her dad (William Petersen) thinks anyway?!

Had I seen it in 1996 at the age of 13: Well, seeing as I was an expert at relationships and not at all skittish about intense movies/onscreen maniacs at the time, I’m sure “Fear” wouldn’t have registered with me at all. Um, no. I would have blushed at David and Nicole getting frisky on a roller coaster—get it, they’re rising toward the peak as she … ya know—and marveled at how David and his cronies systematically intimidate Nicole, her family and her best friend (Alyssa Milano). Jeez, they put a dog’s decapitated head through the doggie door.

Now: It’s awesomely lame for David to give himself a tattoo reading “Nicole 4 Eva” with ink from a pen, and I laughed when one of the villains suffered a drill to the hand and immediately ran off, saying he had to get to a hospital. You know what, though? Ignore the now-dated technological issues (home phone lines are no longer the key to reaching the authorities) and “Fear” remains a tense movie about teenage rebellion and parents’ struggle to protect their kids during rites of passage. In his first leading role, Wahlberg’s appropriately creepy, playing David just charming enough to fool his squeeze but transparently sinister enough for Nicole’s dad to justifiably freak out about this dude putting the moves on his daughter. Fortunately, I’m sure no teens since have ever misguidedly fallen for the bad boy.

Must be noted: When there is a fringe character like Nicole’s friend Gary who exists only to provide occasional support and unintentionally make the crazy boyfriend jealous, he’s probably going to die. Always.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

 

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