Director: Deon Taylor
Starring: Nikki Reed, Keith David, Brad Dourif
In an age of online grooming and cyberpredators, there's surely an intelligent and disturbing movie to be made about the perils of sharing increasing amounts of personal information on the web. Unfortunately, the low-budget horror Chain Letter not only fails as a parable, but also manages to be deeply patronising to today's tech-savvy youth. It follows the thoroughly uninteresting members of a US high school as they are picked off one by one by a mysterious attacker for refusing to forward a spooky chain letter-style email to their friends. But the film's writers don't seem to have grasped how smartphones, social networks or even email actually work, making its central conceit not just implausible, but painfully contrived. Owing more than a little to the Saw franchise, there's gore aplenty as the killer devises new ways to dispatch the teenagers using steel chains (a lazy riff on the film's title). The killings are certainly bloody, but hardly inventive and there's little in between to build fear or suspense. The film's best idea - that death could spread like a viral video or email - owes a debt to the Japanese horrors Ring and Pulse, but it is undermined by the killer's moronically low-tech murder methods. Slasher movies may not be known for thoroughly developed characters or detailed plotting, but few seem to value them as little as this. Even the brief appearance of Dourif does nothing to raise the stakes in a film with all the excitement and intensity of Netscape Navigator loading a page circa 1995.
* Oliver Good
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