Fascination (2004) (DVD)

Desire. Deception. Deadly obsession.

From the world of the filthy, stinking rich comes a tale of power, lust, and suspicion. Set amid gigantic mansions, luxurious yachts, and private islands, it’s a tale of murder most fascinating.

After his father dies in an accident while swimming, wealthy young composer Scott (Adam Garcia, Wilde) is shocked when his mother (Jacqueline Bisset, The Deep) quickly announces she’s getting re-married. When his new stepfather (Stuart Wilson, Crossworlds) moves in, he starts to suspect foul play. Also coming to visit is wicked stepdad’s sexy daughter Kelly (Alice Evans, 102 Dalmations). She and Scott begin an intense romance behind their parents’ backs, all while exploring the possible murder of Scott’s dad. As time passes, more secrets are revealed, more swanky parties are attended, and everyone gets all shirtless and sweaty.

“O, what a rash and bloody deed is this!”
—Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 2

It’s too bad old Willie Shakespeare still isn’t around, otherwise, he could’ve sued the creators of Fascination for its blatant take-off his classic Hamlet. Sure, if the filmmakers were here, they would probably say they’re paying “homage,” or call this an “update” or a “re-imagining” of the timeless play. But any way you slice it, Fascination is Hamlet all over again.

Now, you might think that’s a good thing, considering Hamlet is one of the greatest pieces of literature ever created. Sadly, Fascination doesn’t benefit from Shakespeare’s great dialogue or insights. This is strictly paint-by-numbers screenwriting. Anyone who’s ever seen an episode of Murder She Wrote or Magnum P.I. will probably be able to figure out the murder-mystery parts of the story rather quickly. Similarly, Scott and Kelly’s declarations of love for one another are cliché-ridden beyond belief. The “erotic” aspects of this erotic thriller are fleeting, leaving a “rich-people-being-naughty” plot to hang the rest of the movie on.

Adam Garcia might look hunky with his shirt off, but when the film relies on him to carry the entire story, he’s not quite up to the task. Bisset might have top billing, but she disappears for large chunks of the movie so the other characters can plot against her. Just as Hamlet had mommy issues, the same might be true here, because Evans not only bears a passing similarity to Bisset, but she also delivers a similar type of performance. Whether this was intentional is uncertain, but it’s there on the screen.

So although the story and acting aren’t up to speed, what good can be said here? The visuals are appropriately lush, given the upper-class setting. We have gigantic ballrooms, beaches at sunset, and lovemaking in the summer rain. Everything on screen is so expensively posh that it’s unfortunate the plot can’t keep up with the lavish setting.

Along those same lines, the anamorphic widescreen transfer here is a good one, with bright colors and rich details. The 5.1 sound is just as good, with robust music and sound effects, especially with the numerous shots of waves crashing against the beach. The disc includes a brief featurette with interview snippets from the director and cast, as well as long clips from the film itself. If you’ve never heard the phrase “storyboard artist” before, you might enjoy the “From Page to Screen” featurette, which gives the basics of what storyboards are and how they’re used. An included alternate ending is far more ambiguous, and yet would have been oddly more satisfying than the original one. Rounding the extras are two TV spots and a handful of trailers for other recent MGM films.

It’s a fairly tame erotic thriller that’s not terribly erotic or thrilling. The potential is here for a great film, but, to paraphrase a certain playwright, the potent poison of mediocrity o’ercrows its spirit.

The Verdict

Fascination just isn’t that fascinating. Guilty.

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