“Life is a dark chain of events.” That’s how this movie opened and I suspect this quote struck home to the filmmakers as they wonder where their own lives are going. After watching Chain Letter, I would wonder that myself as nothing about it worked. There’s no suspense, the editing is manic, the characters are cardboard cutouts of every B/C-horror movie ever made and the story makes little sense even when the director tries to make a big Usual Suspects-like deal, out of the twist.
Image Entertainment | Unrated – 89 min. – $27.97 | February 1, 2011
Directed by: Deon Taylor
Writer(s): Deon Taylor & Michael J. Pagan (written by)
Cast: Nikki Reed, Brad Dourif, Keith David
Theatrical Release Date: October 1, 2010
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: Widescreen 1.78
Subtitles: English, Spanish
THE MOVIE – 0/5
Deon Taylor’s Chain Letter is just the latest in a slew of torture porn flicks that have mutated from the Saw franchise and it’s a no-brainer as to why. Like any other horror movie, they’re relatively cheap to make, you can get some writer and/or director gung-ho just to get behind the camera and a plethora of young talent willing to ingest red-dyed corn syrup for a starring role. For the studio, it’s cheap to release directly to video and the rewards of the many horror fans shelling out the $15-20 price tag allows them to recoup the limited cost.
Ok, the plot goes like this (no needs to get into names, it doesn’t really matter): a teenage dweeb/slightly social outcast is playing a game online when he receives a chain letter mail pop-up that states he needs to forward it to five friends in 24 hours or else the chain is broken and you die. Well, his sister barges in because her computer froze up and she desperately needed to send an e-mail (can’t she do that with her phone?) and pushes her bro out of the way, sees the chain letter and decides to forward it. The friends one-by-one get it, a couple decide to ignore and delete it while another passes it on. Guess what happens to the ones who delete it? Well, one experiences a gruesome and horrific death while others seem to get off a tad easier but still parish.
Later, and for no apparent reason, while working on a project about privacy in the world of technology, another “teen” girl (NIKKI REED) puts together the clues of what’s going on and tries to stop the killings before its too late. Meanwhile, the lead detective (KEITH DAVID) on the case also figures out the killings are being done by a man that was a part of some anti-technology cult active back in the 1990s. I should note he has a partner, who really doesn’t do a whole lot so she could’ve been cut out completely, played by Betsy Russell known from Saw III-VII.
Can either Buffy the Bandaged Face Anti-Technology Guy Slayer or our fearless detective put the puzzle together before it’s too later? Honestly, I couldn’t have cared less because around the half-way point I was counting down the time before the pain would finally end.
I don’t mind a good splatterhouse flick with gallons of fake blood being splashed, some TNA for the guys to enjoy and maybe a good mysterious back story to keep everything together on some level. While Chain Letter does have plenty of fake blood, not close to gallons, however, but the other elements aren’t even close to being there. Apparently filmmakers think if you disgust the audience, as much as parts of the Saw sequels have, it’s all that is needed but I for one need more. I loved the original Saw because of the mystery about how the two characters got chained in that bathroom. I loved the twist at the end but with Chain Letter, they try to duplicate the dark atmosphere and mysterious elements with no success and in fact caused me to ask more questions while I also was perplexed at some of the directorial decisions such as shaking the camera before the killer strikes. Does the killer have telepathy? I’m all for suspension of disbelief as I’ve given other movie serial killers a pass (see the Scream movies) but here it’s asking for too much.
But it got to the point where I stopped asking questions and merely accepted that this was a bad movie, a bad movie that despite the best efforts by the only two actors who seemed to give a damn – Keith David and Brad Dourif in their limited roles – nothing works. It was more confusing than suspenseful and worst of all, so boring because I’ve seen similar things time and again from the awful One Missed Call to the numerous Saw rip-offs.
Just don’t bother with Chain Letter. It may only be 87-minutes long, but it’s one of the longest 87-minutes I’ve had the displeasure to watch in a long time and truly one of the worst movies I’ve seen this year.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 0.5/5
All we get, thankfully, is a trailer (2:01) and previews for Gun and The Killing Jar.
VIDEO – 3.25/5
The film is presented with a 1.78 widescreen aspect ratio. The close-ups don’t look too bad but the background objects or people are heavily pixilated. Colors are pretty even and don’t look oversaturated while the darker scenes do expose more pixilation.
AUDIO – 3/5
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is OK and gets the job simply enough. The center channel gets the most use with the blood-curdling screams and the boring old dialogue while the front channels manage to get the “creepy” score that seemed to be stolen from “CSI”.
OVERALL – 0/5
“Life is a dark chain of events.” That’s how this movie opened and I suspect this quote, from German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, struck home to the filmmakers as they wonder where their own lives are going. After watching Chain Letter, I would wonder that myself as nothing about it worked. There’s no suspense, the editing is manic, the characters are cardboard cutouts of every B/C-horror movie ever made – save for the hot sex scenes ramped in the 1980s – and the story makes little sense even when the director tries to make a big Usual Suspects-like deal, out of the twist. In closing, avoid this film like the plague… or a nasty deadly chain letter… err… e-mail… oh like it matters.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman