What a better time to review CHAIN LETTER than today (Feb. 1st) the day it hits DVD and Blu-ray everywhere. Usually, if a film starts to generate some buzz based on early, or limited screenings, I go out of my way to remain willfully ignorant of it's contents. “CHAIN LETTER” is something that I begun hearing buzz about in early 2010. Apparently it did a short theatrical run earlier in the year...
The buzz was all about the gore, and how insane the gore was, and gore this, and that. Don't get me wrong, I love gore, but after “A SERBIAN FILM”, it's not something I get worked up over. I am a huge proponent of practical effects, so I definitely give kudos when filmmakers go that route, but other than that, I just want a good film. “CHAIN LETTER” deliver?
The short answer is no, but allow me to articulate for you, the reason that watching this film made me wish I were watching “TWILIGHT”. The film lacks a logical premise. I see what they were aiming for-they were trying to exploit the success of both the “SAW” franchise, as well as “FINAL DESTINATION”. The problem is, they were so obvious in their attempt at a cash-in that it becomes insulting to the viewer's intelligence. The script is practically non-existent. It's almost as if they gathered a cast of attractive characters together, sat them in a room “CLOCKWORK ORANGE” style and forced them to watch aforementioned franchise films, and told them to get out there and improvise, based on a few shady details.
Basically, Neil (Cody Kasch), the token nerd character of the film, receives a chain e-mail message that threatens death to all that refuse to forward the message. Neil forwards the message to all of his friends, and those that deleted the message without passing it on begin to die. That's basically the entire premise, and it never gets fleshed out any more, not that it would have helped. The writers try to trick the viewer, by hinting at some semblance of social commentary, but they fail at making any sort of connection to what is actually unfolding on screen. We get it, cell phones and technology in general has become so prevalent in our society that we can't imagine a world without these advances. If you're not going to connect the dots, why even suggest it as a plot device?
To create the "SAW" aspect of the film, we're introduced to hard edged Detective Jim Crenshaw, played by Keith "Never mess with another man's fries" David. Jim is your average raspy voiced detective who tends to let his work consume his entire life. His investigation never goes anywhere, nor is the character written with any level of common sense. He shows up, asks a few questions, insists, even after learning that everyone that received this chain letter are dropping like flies, to have the letter forwarded to his email address, and that is that.
To quote a major horror website who were blurbed on the front cover of the film, "CHAIN LETTER" is boasted to contain "Insane gore". I'm not sure which version of the film that reviewer watched, but the gore was pretty ho-hum by any standards. There were a couple of scenes of what could have been presented as extreme gore, but it was handled so poorly that it just came off as laughable, and not in the throwback sort of way like you'd see in an Adam Green film. The on-screen violence is bland, uninteresting, and adds absolutely nothing to the overall experience. I'll admit that I'm very particular about the blood in films, at least when I know that the crew had the resources to do better. The blood in "CHAIN LETTER" is that super-thin brownish blood, that almost looks like dirty water. It's not attractive, and it definitely diminishes the intended effect.
One of the most disappointing things about this film is that they had some real talent on-screen had they just utilized it. With the genre favorite Noah Segan, and the legendary Brad Dourif, there's no excuse other than incompetent writing. Segan and Dourif do the best that they can with the source material, but ultimately, neither of their characters are fleshed out. Their names have basically been attached to attract their fan base. Neither one of them have enough screen time to warrant the price of admission.
On top of all of it's other faults, there is no real ending to the film to speak of. It's basically a montage of ridiculous kill sequences, and a completely nonsensical plot that builds up to absolutely nothing. Characters begin to blend together until you're not really sure who is who. Who has been killed? Who is still alive? Do we really care? To sum this film up in a nice neat package-a chain e-mail is sent, some people die, bad acting is displayed by most involved, and then the credits roll with no resolution in sight. This is the first movie in a long time that actually challenged me to make it through to the end. This is easily the worst film I've seen so far in the year 2011.
If you suspect me of being hyperbolic in my analysis of this film, by all means find out for yourself. Though I would advice to maybe add it to your Netflix queue, rather than purchasing the disc. It doesn't get more vanilla than this presentation, and it's definitely not worth the asking price. "CHAIN LETTER" hits the streets today February 1st via IMAGE Entertainment.
Written by HorrorBid columnist and review specialist - Shawn Savage
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