Note: I had trouble titling this post, because the titles I wanted to use, such as “Atrocious Review of the Week” or “Shitty Reviews: Chain Letter” sounds as though I’m describing the quality of the review, not the movie. I’ll think of something more clever and direct. Oh, not that I haven’t written crappy reviews before; I have. I just usually don’t publish them.c
Well, I hate for the first review of the year that I post to be negative …on the other hand, I hate this movie more. Complete dogshit that I wanted and continue to want people I care about and fellow horror fans to avoid. Sometimes after I watch something really atrocious, I’m mad at myself for going against my better judgement and renting it anyway, my rationale usually being, well hey, you never know. Other times, I am sorry to report, my rationale includes and it IS supposed to be really, really gory and sick. Then I add “what the hell is wrong with me?” to my usual “what the hell was I thinking?” reaction after the movie.
I grew up in the 80s, so trust me, I know mindless horror fun when I see it. This is not one of those movies.
Then there’s times when I’m mad at myself and REALLY mad at whoever was responsible for ruining what could have been a better movie, or at least not one where I think of all the better, more productive and/or entertaining ways I could have spent 90 minutes. I don’t even think I was mad at myself much at all after watching Chain Letter. I’d read some good reviews, at least two from sources that I usually trust. Not only was this review satisfying to write, I actually felt I was doing something positive – maybe one or two people would decide, “nah, sounds like I may want to pick something else to watch”.
For what it’s worth, here’s the trailer. If watching it tempts you in the least to see this movie, please read the following review. My (tidied-up) review originally posted to the IMDB follows the jump. Oh, and it had a spoiler warning flag I added, but trust me, Chain Letter is already spoiled.
Mean-spirited, Boring Mess of an Excuse for a Horror Movie
Just in case you could not grasp the subtle undertones of my review title above…
My recommendation in a nutshell: NO. I guess to justify the one star I left, I could credit it to Keith David and Brad Dourif doing their best even when the material to work with is utter crap. Both are the only ones in the movie who made my interest perk up when they were on screen. You may have heard talk about the show-stopping opening. Not only do I want to point out that it hardly qualifies as ‘show-stopping’ quality in my book, but it SHOULD have stopped the show. The credit sequence to follow was an eyesore. It all goes clumsily and rapidly downhill after there.
You want a longer explanation? Okay, then. First, I cannot believe I actually read a few fairly good reviews on horror sites. All of them included a phrase along the lines of gorehounds out there will not be disappointed! This was possibly due to some of the gore I rattle (har-de-har) off below. Yes, the movie has a nasty, mean-spirited, creative dismemberment before the title credits. Actually, the entire movie is very mean-spirited, not just the gore. Here is some but not all gore included (I saw the unrated version): victim’s arms being dislocated/Achilles tendons cut, then the face sort of scrubbed off slowly with 2 chains (yes, this all happened to the same poor guy, arguably the ugliest demise in the whole firm), hook through jaw, upper body crushed w/heavy object, giant hook through shoulder, heat split open by chain …now that I’ve started, I changed my mind –I don’t even think it is worth the use of my brain to recount them all. In at least one scene I got this specific creepy feeling I get while watching a horror film that usually causes me to classify it as ‘torture-porn’: getting an icky vibe during a drawn-out torture scene that someone involved in the making of the movie got off on it. Some creepy duct-tape and/or mutilation fetish or something– bleh, I don’t want to think about it any more. I’m pretty sure if I searched the IMDB I’d find that a frequent tag associated with CL is “Torture Porn”, but that is NOT a recommendation …at least I hope to God it isn’t!
Where oh where to begin with the bad? Here’s some. ‘Teenagers’ in high school that appear to be portrayed by actors in their mid-twenties at youngest, and some closer to pushing thirty. In fact, I’m well over thirty, and I look younger than a couple of them. Keith David didn’t get to be bad-ass enough. He was one of the few good things about the movie, don’t get me wrong, but if you cast someone physically imposing, consider possibly re-working a couple traits. Characters (all of them) that the “writers” did not even TRY to give the flimsiest of personality traits or a back-story to, so you could not care less who lives or dies. A couple of the ‘highschoolers’ did their best, but you can only go so far with a boring, sloppily-written script. One 18-year old character’s mother looks 30 years old, tops, so I guess she got knocked up when she was a Freshman in high school.
Not enough reasons to avoid? Allow me to add these! No real ending. The reason for similar screenplays is usually a toss up between “aiming for a sequel” or “uh-oh, it’s taking more than ten minutes to figure out how to end the movie” (I actually hope to God it’s the latter). They try to convey a message about technology and that those who give up their privacy in trade for the newest, most convenient, “cool” tech/apps don’t deserve safety, but that message only would have been original or effective 10 years ago (and a LOT has happened between now and then). We get hit over the head with this message so much it gets insulting to most people’s intelligence, and far before the movie is over. Motive for killing is very vague, and there’s only so many ways you can kill a person directly involving a chain and keep it “new”. Not passing on a chain letter gets you slaughtered, fine, stop there. Following the line of thought that brought the writers to this choice is enough to piss me off. No, let’s have the killer’s weapon be a chain. Now that will add some depth by having a title with a clever double meaning! Just forget that a clever double meaning shouldn’t hit you five minutes into the film or before you even see it because hey, this is a horror movie, and anyone who’d see a horror movie needs things really dumbed-down …because horror fans are, for the most part, complete morons. Right, guys?
Avoid! If you rent it just to see the gore, don’t do it. Want to see the gore? Try youtube. No, scratch that– try another movie; don’t even bother at all. You’ll hate yourself before the movie even ends, take my word for it!
Also–and I hope people are through having to pay money in a theater to see CL and now going for rental only- my DVD had no subtitles, not even CC for the hearing impaired (when I used the standard TV CC settings). Bare bones for the special features. In fact, I don’t even recall if there was a trailer. NO back-story on the killer, even though he has one distinctive (but unoriginal) feature, it isn’t explained, and could have added a teeny bit of depth.
Don’t get me wrong, I never set out NOT to like a movie. I don’t rent them out of spite; life and my funds are too short. I’ve seen more horror movies just over the past couple years alone than most people see in decades. I know what mindless, fun, entertaining horror movies look like. I grew up in the 80s, so trust me, I know mindless horror fun when I see it. This is not one of those movies. Want some movie that is a gory blast to watch, has some scares or at least very creepy moments, and that you could keep up with plot-wise even if you had a few drinks in you? Try, oh, any of the Evil Dead series, the 80s remake of The Blob, Planet Terror, 2001 Maniacs, Dead/Alive, Feast …and those are just off the top of my head. No wonder Fangoria didn’t bother to cover this train wreck to do a piece on it.
Finally, another BIG minus is the fact that this had a lot of potential. I had a little hope before I saw the movie, since the plot, and even some of the buzz, was along the lines of what could have been another Final Destination franchise. Now I sincerely hope a sequel does not happen, but I think they were trying (and WAY too hard) to be the next Saw or FD. Not even close.
Avoid! If you rent it just to see the gore, don’t do it. You’ll hate yourself after, take my word for it!