April 24, 2011

Filthy Review - Chain Letter

Chain Letter is yet another movie that has languished in some sort of release hell that only a select group of films enjoy. The Poughkeepsie Tapes and All The Boys Love Mandy Lane being two others of recent note that have still yet to see a decent release. Another one was Case 39, which did finally get to see the light of day fairly recently, and although it wasn't perfect it didn't turn out to be the complete failure that it could have been. Chain Letter though is a different kettle of fish altogether. The production was completed in 2007, it finally saw a very limited theatrical release in 2010 and hit the home entertainment market just recently in 2011. Now whilst the delay in release didn't harm Case 39, due to the fact that its story was not trying to fit in with the times, it has harmed Chain Letter.

At its heart Chain Letter is a basic slasher flick where you have a group of kids that one by one get slaughtered by a hulking great disfugured killer. Where the movie falls apart though is trying to throw in some sort of social relevance to society's obsession with technology such as the internet and cell phones. No one has any privacy any more, we are all connected 24/7 and so on, and this is the basic premise. One of the kids receives an anonymous chain letter on his computer which implies that if he doesn't forward it to five friends someone will die. Lo and behold people do die. And here is the kicker, the killer uses a chain to kill all his victims. Clever huh?

Now considering kids are being butchered left, right and center there does not seem to be much going on to protect them. Keith (The Thing) David's detective character seems to be a one man army trying to get to the bottom of things, aided very briefly by Betsy (the Saw franchise) Russell's journalist. Brad (Halloween) Dourif stirs up the paranoia as a school teacher, and is probably the most enjoyable performance in this movie. These are all basically extended cameo roles though as the focus of the movie, as with any other slasher, is the kids. Fortunately none of them are too obnoxious, although you won't shed any tears when they die, and director Deon Taylor does manage to throw in the odd surprise to hold our attention.

Aside from the somewhat messy execution of ideas and plotting there is one area that does succeed, and succeed well, and that is the death scenes. These are gory, bloody affairs that leave little to the imagination, so if you are going to rent or buy this movie I suggest getting the Unrated version. I picked up the 2-Disc releae which has both the Unrated and the R rated version and have no desire to sit through the theatrical version. The killer is played by Michael Bailey Smith, who you may remember from the Hill Have Eyes redux from a few years back, but to tell the truth he could have been played by anyone. Don't expect any answers or deep rooted analysis as to why he's doing what he's doing as this film doesn't really answer any questions. It starts with a bang and finishes almost just as abruptly.

As to whether you will enjoy Chain Letter will depend entirely what your expectation levels are. If you want a fairly mindless gory slasher then you will probably get a fair amount of enjoyment out of it. If you want a well thought out inciteful look at the horrors of modern technolgy you will be left very disappointed. For me it is the sort of movie I will just stick on when I am in the mood for gore and not much else. It is fairly well made and, as I mentioned, the death scenes are fun. Chain Letter may have sat in limbo for three years and dated the main plot but there is fun to be had here.

Review by Jude Felton

1 comment:

Koris said...

Lots of good points. I enjoyed Chain Letter. I looked into some other things Deon Taylor created and loved the Nite Tales shows, too.