When James Foley’s Fear was first released 21 years ago on April 12th, teenage girls everywhere swooned at the sight of former Calvin Klein model and Funky Bunch member Mark “Marky Mark” Wahlberg seducing innocently sexy Reese Witherspoon. There was no denying that the sexual tension between these two blazed through the screen and sent teens swarming to the nearest amusement park roller coaster. On the other hand, the parents of these bags of romance and hormones saw Fear for what it really is – the story of a naive young girl who falls head over heels for a dangerous young man, despite her father’s (William Peterson) desperate attempts to try and stop it. Take a ride back in time to 1996 and remember what made Fear such a fatally seductive film.
Let’s start with the video above. If you knew nothing else of this movie except the steamy scenes in that YouTube clip, you’d think you’d stumbled on some teenage melodrama where gorgeous, perfect people fall in love and do erotic things to each other in the low light. Remember the roller coaster scene? Yeah, that roller coaster scene. If you’ve seen Fear and you recall nothing else, the roller coaster scene will stand out in your mind as one of the hottest, most tantalizing pieces of non X-rated cinema to come out of the ’90s. If you’re dying for a full-fledged refresher, who am I to stop you?
Fear was filmed in late 1995 when Wahlberg and Witherspoon were in their twenties. Despite their physical maturity, the two actors played their teen characters with a tender, adolescent charisma that resonated with adolescents and drew them like iron fillings to a magnet. David McCall was a charismatic bad boy who knew how to turn on the charm when it would get him what he wanted. Nicole Walker was the smart girl next door who seemed to have no idea just how beautiful she was. Every girl wanted to be Nicole and every guy wanted to be able to draw a woman in like David did.
However, Fear was not all about star-crossed lovers meeting in the night. Although David showed Nicole that she was a special girl who deserved to be loved, he also made it clear that she was his and his alone. He wouldn’t stop at 99% – she had to be his full tilt and nothing more. A sociopath on par with Darrien from The Crush (1993), Hedra from Single White Female (1992) and even Esther from Orphan (2009), David would stop at nothing until he had what he wanted, and he was ready to kill anyone that got in his way. Teens, parents, teachers, cops – no one intimidated him and they all felt the unleashed mania of his love for Nicole. The final confrontation between David, Nicole and her father was intense and way over the top, but that’s just another thing we love about this film.
A few fun facts about Fear: The movie was directed by James Foley (Glengarry Glen Ross 1992), written by Christopher Crowe (The Last of the Mohicans 1992) and had a beautiful score composed by Carter Burwell (Fargo 1996). Steven Tyler’s daughter Liv, a major face in the teenage scene back in the early ’90s, was asked to play Nicole but turned the role down. In 1993, Peterson and Witherspoon both had parts in the TV mini-series Return to Lonesome Dove.
Before this film, both Witherspoon and Wahlberg were relative unknowns in the movie making business, but have both become quite popular in Hollywood cast lists since. William Peterson, however, had already made a name for himself in the prequel to Silence of the Lambs, 1985’s Manhunter, as well as To Live and Die in L.A., but after Fear, his big screen career took a bit of a hit, although he did find fame again as Gil Grissom on the TV series CSI.
The sexual tension between Nicole and David was not all acting – Mark and Reese were dating at the time of the premiere. Not surprisingly, Wahlberg was for Best Villain during the 1996 MTV Awards. Fear was actually inspired by the 1993 Indian film called Darr: A Violent Love Story. The song being played during that knuckle-chewing roller coaster scene was a cover of The Rolling Stones’ Wild Horses by the band The Sundays.
There’s no denying that Fear is an emotional ride through the nightmares of both teens and parents alike. Even after over two decades, this film still holds up as one of the sexiest, most dangerous films of the early ’90s. Do yourself a favor and watch it – you know you want to.