The folks out at Image Entertainment sent over a copy of Chain Letter for us to review, and though I missed this in theaters–I was watching Case 39 when Chain Letter came out on the same day–I get a chance to recover it right now, and I look to take it. But was this a chance worth taking?
Chain Letter follows a group of kids who’ve run afoul of the phenomenon of the same name, adapted for the email generation and propagated through text messages as well. But when one kid breaks the chain, he finds himself running afoul of a whole new phenomenon–the Chain Man. And the Chain Man is out to kill anyone who breaks a chain letter–and he’s even using the very technology that spreads chain letters to find his victims.
Yes, it’s a typical slasher movie in most every sense, but then, we don’t get many “typical slasher movies” any more. And sure, it presupposes a level of hacker skill in a deranged serial killer that verges on the magical, but it’s actually still kind of interesting. It wavers between interesting and unpleasant–just when I’m convinced it’s crap, it goes and does something to redeem itself. And just when I’m thinking it’s interesting, it goes and blows it all by following into one of the many plot holes littering the landscape.
And throwing in the bit on Anonymous was clever enough. I’m not going to harp on the predictability too hard (Fox News did it first, and frankly, Anonymous really doesn’t fit in with the plot), but let them have the credit for doing something a bit unexpected.
That’s the worst thing about Chain Letter–it does something unexpected, just as you’re finally getting in a position to denounce this movie once and for all. It has an absolute gift for snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, and it will do that several times through the movie. Of course, it will get really, really close to the jaws of defeat every time, so that doesn’t make this a very good movie, but since it never truly fails, it’s still halfway decent.
Special note–there are literally geysers of gore going on in here, so if you’re not the type to suffer splatter lightly, you’ll want to stay well away from Chain Letter. And if you’re not into ham-fisted social commentary, also stay away, because there will be plenty of that here too.
The end result is a halfway-decent, mostly watchable title that will riff hard on technology and social media, but won’t do much new for the genre. You’ve likely already seen this one a couple times–you just don’t recognize it.
The Screenhead Ten Scale, meanwhile, gives Chain Letter a six out of ten for doing a passably good job, but not much more than passably good. The commentary is thick with debacle and the plot is laden with holes, but aside from that, it’s all right.