Directed by William Malone, starring Stephen Dorff, Natascha McElhone and Stephen Rea.

A troubled FBI agent (Dorff) and a beautiful health researcher (McElhone) team up to investigate a series of mysterious deaths in New York. So goes the plot of the supposed horror thriller that is 'feardotcom'. From an opening sequence that leaves you wondering when the joke will be revealed or if someone is about to step out of the shower after a bad dream, the movie progresses from pretty bad to really awful.

This is 'Seven'-lite, complete with the dark sets and a mismatched duo combing the scenes of linked killings. But in this case, film noir is aped to spectacularly underwhelming effect. Developing with an absolute lack of tension, while the audience desperately hopes for something, anything, to keep them interested, 'feardotcom' weaves its weary tale.

The story centres on a deadly website with hallucinogenic and ultimately fatal powers. Ooh, scary. Well, it could be if handled in less amateurish fashion. If the what-happens-next wasn't guessable at 50 paces or if the montage sequences were more than film school fetishism, all might be redeemed. But the violence is cartoonish, if distasteful, and the pertinent themes of voyeurism and technology are mawkishly rendered.

The talented cast seems to be operating with a communal hangover, oblivious to obvious plot points and their total lack of chemistry. Dorff is, by a margin, the best thing in the film with a 70% cardboard performance while McElhone and Rea must have agents with a grudge or serious bills to pay. Everyone else is utter caricature, from the grim-faced doughnut munching sidekick cop to the pretty aspiring actress working at a movie theatre box office.

'feardotcom' is dire and unrelentingly so. With its clichéd spookiness – a creepy blonde child, some nasty bugs and a villain with a wannabe-Lecter complex – it becomes more woeful at every turn. Those waiting for humour, irony or imagination will be kept waiting. This is a film which can't even be recommended as straight-to-video fare for a lazy, rainy Sunday afternoon. A howling, crashing disaster on every count.

Siobhán Mannion