Sunday, April 14, 2013

#972. Chain Letter (2010)

Directed By: Deon Taylor

Starring: Madison Bauer, Nikki Reed, Brad Dourif

Tag line: "If You Don't Forward It, You Die"

Trivia: The movie bombed at the box office, losing approx. $2.5 million of its estimated $5 million budget

Chain Letter, a 2010 horror film directed by Deon Taylor, concerns a group of teens who receive a “chain e-mail”, telling them that, unless they forward the message to five people, they’re going to die. Naturally, some of them don’t take the warning very seriously, that is until one of their number, Johnny (Matt Cohen), who ignored the e-mail, is murdered by a chain-wielding psychopath in a mask (played by Michael Bailey Smith). Following the death of her best friend, Rachel (Cherilyn Wilson), who met a similarly horrific end, Jessie (Nikki Reed) turns to the police and Det. Jim Crenshaw (Keith David) for help. Can the authorities track down the killer in time to stop him, or will more innocent blood be shed?

With its tale of a masked assailant who targets teens, then finishes them off in as grisly a manner as possible, Chain Letter was clearly intended as a throwback to the slasher movies of the ‘80s, and, for the most part, it’s entertaining. The kills are fairly gruesome (one I found particularly disturbing involved gym equipment), and the fact that the stalker also has a specific weapon of choice, in this case a large metal chain, was a nice touch. What’s more, Chain Letter opens with a bang; in the very first scene, we see a young victim, her head wrapped in duct tape, lying on the floor of a garage, with each leg chained to the back of a different car. Just then, the girl’s parents enter the garage, and, not knowing their daughter is there, prepare to drive off to work. And even though the payoff for this scene isn’t shown until much later in the film, it’s a tension-filled sequence all the same.

Chain Letter definitely has its weaknesses. First, the film’s anti-technology message is anything but subtle, with the filmmakers hitting us over the head with it time and again. Also, the movie’s two “name” stars, Keith David and Brad Dourif (who plays a school teacher) are woefully underused (especially Dourif, who only appears in a couple scenes). Still, if it’s a decent modern slasher you’re after, then Chain Letter will certainly do the trick.

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