CHAIN LETTER is yet another movie that has languished in the sort of release hell that only a select group of films enjoy (THE POUGHKEEPSIE TAPES and ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE being two others of recent note that still have yet to see a decent release). The production was completed in 2007, it saw a very limited theatrical release in 2010, and it hit the home entertainment market just this year.
CHAIN LETTER is a basic slasher flick in which a group of kids are slaughtered one-by-one by a hulking disfigured killer. Where the movie falls apart is in its attempt to trying to work in a socially relevant message about our obsession with technology, such as the Internet and cell phones. No one has any privacy any more, we’re all connected 24/7, and so on, and this is the basic premise. One of the kids receives an anonymous chain letter on his computer that implies that if he doesn’t forward it to five friends someone will die. Lo and behold, people do die! And here is the kicker: the killer uses a chain to murder his victims. Clever, huh?
Despite the fact kids are being butchered left, right, and center, the adults seem to be doing little to protect them. Keith (THE THING) David’s detective character comes across as a one-man army trying to get to the bottom of things, aided very briefly by Betsy (SAW franchise) Russell’s journalist. Brad (HALLOWEEN) Dourif stirs up the paranoia as a school teacher (and provides probably the most enjoyable performance in this movie). However, these are all basically extended cameo roles, since the focus of the movie, as with any other slasher flick, is the teens. While none of them is too obnoxious, you won’t shed any tears when they die.
The killer is played by Michael Bailey Smith, who you may remember from THE HILLS HAVE EYES redux from a few years back, but to tell the truth, he could have been played by anyone. Don’t expect any answers as to why he’s doing what he’s doing, as this film doesn’t provide any.
Aside from the somewhat messy execution of ideas and plotting, there’s one area in which the film does succeed, and succeed well: the death scenes. These are gory, bloody affairs that leave little to the imagination, so if you’re going to rent or buy this movie, I suggest getting the Unrated version. I picked up the 2-disc release, which has both the Unrated and the R-rated versions and have no desire to sit through the theatrical version.
Whether you will enjoy CHAIN LETTER will depend entirely on your expectations. If you want a mindless gory slasher flick, then you’ll probably get a fair amount of enjoyment out of it. If you want a well-thought-out insightful look at the horrors of modern technology, prepare to be very disappointed. For me, it’s the sort of movie I’ll just stick in when I’m in the mood for gore and not much else. The film’s fairly well made, and, as I mentioned, the death scenes are fun. CHAIN LETTER may have sat in limbo for three years, leaving the main plot a bit dated, but there still is some fun to be had.