Fear - * * 1/2*

Surprisingly good entry in the overworn “____ From Hell” genre. This time around, “Boyfriend” fills the blank. William Petersen is an overworked architect who has his hands full trying to cope with his rebellious 16-year-old daughter, Reese Witherspoon. And that’s before she starts hanging around with a creepy boyfriend, Mark Wahlberg aka Marky Mark. The daughter, on the other hand, sees her dad as too interfering, and her new boyfriend seems sensitive and caring (except for those periodic explosions of violence). Dad can’t convince her of the truth until the relationship has gone too far, and her new boyfriend won’t back down. Perhaps this movie works better than the others of its ilk because it taps into an existing, realistic fear rather than creating a false one (I mean how many people are really afraid of rampaging evil secretaries, for example; whereas many fathers worry about their daughters dating the wrong guy). And while Fear does push some of the stereotypical buttons (several doomed characters almost wear “Kill Me” signs), it has enough originality and suspense to actually pull out a thrilling climax. Director James Foley deserves credit for pulling the best out of what could have been a truly awful film. Wahlberg and Petersen deliver strong performances as the film’s rivals, while Witherspoon doesn’t get to do much except pout and act foolish. Amy Brenneman adds some nice touches as the concerned, but unrespected stepmother. The film is a bit too predictable at parts, but on the whole, it is a refreshingly enjoyable thriller.

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