Fear (1996)

(On TV, September 2001) So rich-daddy’s girl Reese Witherspoon hooks up with Mark Wahlberg, who turns out to be not a sensitive guy but rather a full-blown psycho. Despite what you may want to think, this actually turns out to be a sociologically relevant teen thriller. Sure, it does start out as your average teen romance film, what with the overworked daddy, the bitchy stepmom, the annoying kid brother and the lonely female protagonist. A chance encounter with a nice boy evolves into something far more dangerous and pretty soon, we’re in every daddy’s best nightmare. Suddenly, the father-figure has been right all along about the creepy boyfriend and must actually physically protect his family. If that’s not wish-fulfillment, I don’t know what is. As a thriller, Fear is only average, with a lengthy start and a progressively sillier finale. But it’s when considered on a more abstract level that it becomes fodder for a master’s thesis on teen alienation and fatherhood representation in pop culture. Squint even more, and you’ll find a fable about the panic of first romance and the inevitable transfer of a young woman’s affection from one male figure to another. Not bad for a teen flick starring Marky Mark, right?

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