Chain Letter (2010)

Chain Letter (2010)

If you don’t forward it, you die

A group of technology-addicted teenagers find themselves being stalked and killed one-by-one when they refuse to forward on a mysterious chain letter sent to them via email which stated “break the chain, lose a life.”

 

Chain Letter is a post-Saw slasher. Not only content with following the tried-and-tested rules of the slasher, these modern efforts now see fit to throw in some Saw-esque moments of outright brutality, ingenious traps or simply copy the editing style to make everything look as slick as it can be. Unfortunately everything is so preposterously done that the film becomes funny. It’s a shame because the film does look really polished in everything except its presentation of modern-day technology. It’s got the look of a big budget cinematic release and belies its clear low-budget roots.

The trouble with films which tackle technology is that they’re already outdated by the time they get released. Chain Letter was made a couple of years ago anyway so it’s well past it’s view-by date and its name-dropping of things like MySpace is a bit daft (does it even exist anymore?). It doesn’t help that the killer’s reasons for killing the teen cast must rank up there with the silliest of all time.

The script doesn’t go to any great lengths to flesh out any of the characters. Some of them have minuscule amounts of screen time so when they’re getting their bodies ripped apart by the ‘Chain Man,’ it’s a case of “huh?” Even the main heroine played by Nikki Reed spends most of her screen time looking at screens – be it of her mobile phone or a computer. These one-note characters, not even worthy of stereotyping, add nothing to the film except more targets for the Chain Man to kill. It’s a real a chore to sit through most of the film when the killing isn’t taking place and the lack of any proper story is chief culprit. At the end of the film, the writers seem to have boxed themselves in with their lack of any proper story or characterisation – we literally know nothing about anyone or of the Chain Man….literally of anything of note. The script then just vaporizes as the films ends abruptly, coming full circle with a ‘twist’ ending which seems solely designed to stun the audience and make them forgot about any sort of proper resolution.

Quite what Brad Dourif, Keith David and (to a lesser extent since she isn’t as well known) Betsy Russell are doing in this is anyone’s guess. Dourif gets a pointless role as a slightly-barmy college professor (presumably to throw in a red herring), David gets the token cop schtick and Russell (most famously known as Jigsaw’s wife from the Saw films) is there as his colleague. None of them are in the film much and none of them do anything of note, perhaps becoming one of horror’s most pointless investigating duos of all time. Slapping their names on the front cover to provide some star power is the only reason I can understand their casting. It’s almost as if the cast were signed up to the project before a script was done and then the writers had to come up with something for them all to do.

Chain Letter does do a couple of things really well: the villain and the kills. The Chain Man is a hulking, menacing brute with an awesome physical presence and he wields the chains like Indiana Jones cracks a bullwhip. From hooking teenagers from the roof of a house to breaking through bathroom walls, this guy is one mean monster you wouldn’t want to mess with. The chains are somewhat overused throughout the film but the kills are nasty when they come. From people being crushed in half from falling car engines, teenagers getting their faces torn off with chains or being strung up and then burned alive, the film succeeds in getting some kicks out of the gore. Not only are the kills inventive and violent but they actually look realistic too so credit to the effects team who slap on a load of old make-up effects and fake blood to great effect. Michael Bailey Smith does a great job of intimidating everyone as the Chain Man and I hope to see him again in future horror films as one of these big-hitting monsters.

 

Chain Letter looks good and has some effective kills for gorehounds but you’ll need a heavy dose of caffeine before you try and get through this sluggish slasher. It may look good but there’s no substance at all to any of the style on display. This is one chain letter you should definitely ignore.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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