Teen Love Gone Horribly Wrong: Realistic Horror in Fear

The movies that depict true events, or events that could happen, are definitely the epitome of the horror film. At least, in my opinion. That’s the kind of horror that’s harder to process or block out, long after the TV’s been turned off. The gore of zombies and werewolves and other such things aren’t easy to stomach either, but the safe haven in that kind of horror movie is this: they’re entirely fictional.

David standing before her, apologizing to Nicole, who stares ahead looking hurt and angry in the driver's seat of her Jeep, in Fear

Now, films like Dream House, or in this case, Fear, are another kind of beast altogether. Both films could really happen, and both films find the home lives of the characters upended and invaded, threatening the cocoon of safety they’ve built for themselves. It isolates them and ensures there is no safe place for them throughout the film—at least until it’s somehow resolved. Nevertheless, both films have endings which would cause trauma for the characters that remain.

It’s films like these that are underrated. Perhaps because they could really happen, and no one wants to remember them, so they don’t get the attention that the Halloween or A Nightmare on Elm Street franchises receive. In which case, I don’t blame audiences. Still, they’re important lessons, and Fear bore many red flags that, if heeded, could have avoided the disastrous teen love that took place.

“All The Time In The World”

This seems to be one of David’s (Mark Wahlberg) signature moves to get what he wants—more time with Nicole (Reese Witherspoon). He simply moves the hands of a clock and declares that then, he and Nicole have “all the time in the world.” In the beginning, David is a charmer, and Nicole falls for it. She’s young, attracted to the handsome and somewhat rugged David, and is naive to David’s true intentions. David takes advantage of that, and Nicole doesn’t even realize it—she actually perceives him as sweet, when really, his clock trick, among other things, are red flags.

David turning Nicole's watch back, holding her arm with both his hands, in Fear

The clock trick shows that David is willing to push Nicole beyond her comfort zone, and not in a good way. Plus, he doesn’t respect her curfew or the fact that Nicole’s family will worry when she fails to return. It’s all about him and his selfish desires. It’s his way—or no way.

His “apology” to Nicole for beating up Gary (Todd Caldecott) is another major red flag, as well as beating up Gary in the first place. He claims he didn’t realize it was Gary at the time; he just wanted to protect Nicole from being taken advantage of. Little does Nicole know, David is preying on her vulnerabilities as he makes his apology to manipulate her into agreeing to be with him again, which obviously is him demonstrating his selfish needs once more. Nicole’s a little too trusting and seemed to miss the keywords, in that he’d “kill” any guy that ever did anything to hurt Nicole. Red flags were sprinkled in David’s apology, but all Nicole heard from him was remorse, which, unfortunately, wasn’t genuine. As if those alarming factors weren’t enough, David going after Nicole when she was alone at the mall, and normalizing an insane situation, obviously ignoring Nicole cowering in fear and attempting to call for help, is definitely time to get the police involved.

Nicole 4 Eva, carved onto David's chest by David himself, in Fear

David carved “Nicole 4 Eva” into his skin as well—another warning bell. His behavior becomes increasingly deranged, the more attached he gets to Nicole. He comes to think of Nicole as his, and only his, alienating anyone that’s close to her. He kills Gary and rapes her best friend Margo (Alyssa Milano), and by committing the latter, he’d likely wanted Nicole to be hurt by the infidelity and break off her friendship with Margo, and even threatens Margo to ensure she convinces Nicole to take David back—though he was too late in his threat, as Margo had already told Nicole it was rape. He does all these insane things and normalizes it in his mind, thinking it’s all necessary for the goal of having Nicole to himself. His desperation, however, begins to increase, finally breaking the barrier so that Nicole sees just who David is and what she’s gotten herself into.

What happened to make David the way he is? He has no family, and obviously doesn’t have a real connection with his friends—he killed one without remorse when said friend was trying to rape Nicole. The thing is, I don’t believe David killed him to protect Nicole, but rather as a way to mark his territory, in which Nicole was his, and only his, and that anyone that dared to mess with that be warned. Perhaps David was obsessed because he wanted love so badly that that need developed into something twisted and totally unhealthy, and he was too far gone to realize that.

That’s the scary thing about David—he’s unpredictable. You never know what he’ll do to get, and keep, what he wants. He does awful things and is either falsely apologetic or completely dishonest with Nicole about his actions. He puts a new emphasis on dangerous, and, in a way, his character reminds me of Ted Bundy, in the sense that both Bundy and David are handsome, intelligent, and charming—it makes them less likely to be seen as the monsters they really are.

Twisted Love

Nicole hasn’t had much experience with love. David takes advantage of her in several ways. He pushes her to do things before she is really ready, and he alienates her from her friends and family. She becomes more rebellious because of him, especially with her father—at least, before she finds out who David truly is. David takes advantage of the fact that Nicole’s father left her years before, and is now trying to reconnect with her—David thwarts those attempts and in a way drives Nicole to resent her father, forcing feelings onto her that are not her own, or capitalizing on what’s already there. I think part of Nicole’s initial attraction to David has to do with his desire to protect her and take care of her, probably two things she lacked from her absentee father.

Nicole is a teenager, too young to deal with the real-life horrors bestowed upon her, courtesy of David. The worst is near the film’s ending when David and his posse attack Nicole’s home. They behead the family dog, and they force Nicole, Margo, her father, her stepmother, and stepbrother to come up with innovative means to get help and fight back. Luckily, they’re all fighters, and thus survive, with Nicole’s father sending David to his death. The thing is, that kind of trauma won’t go away overnight—especially for Nicole.

Nicole against the stall, David's hand covering her mouth, the other hand on her temple, as he stands before her and she cowers fearfully in Fear

She thought she truly loved David. She was innocent the entire time, manipulated, and used in the worst ways. She lost her virginity to him. He killed one of her friends and raped another. Nicole probably perceives all these tragic events, at one point or another, as her fault, because David’s fixation on her meant misery to her friends and family, the people she loves. She probably carries guilt of varying degrees because of what her friends and family went through, and that’s the kind of burden no one deserves. It’s really not her fault—David was the monster—but with him gone, she’ll have to figure out how to move on and heal, and she’d undoubtedly want to help her family and friends to do the same.

Not only must she deal with that, but she must also deal with her own judgment. How could she not see that David was a monster? How could she love such a man? How would she be able to tell the difference between love, lust, and obsession? How would she be able to love again without suspecting her future dates being like David? The solution starts within herself, of course, because not all men are like David. It would take her time to be able to trust and to love again. The worst part is that her first love was a nightmare, and it’s a scar she has to live with. All she can do is learn from it, and it’s no doubt improved her ability to spot a lie or red flag. Nicole is a fighter, a survivor. She is brave, and she is wiser for her experience, and because of these qualities, I believe she found love again—a healthy, functional love.

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Written by Kacie Lillejord

Kacie is a freelance writer versed in various forms. She loves pop culture, screenwriting, novels, and poetry. She has previously written for The Daily Wildcat, Harness Magazine, Cultured Vultures, and Screen Rant, with 25YL being her newest writing venture.

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