Movies, Reviews, scraping the barrel

Scraping the barrel – Chain Letter

Recently I was contemplating the postmortem implications of social media. Could a FaceBook page using timed content create the illusion of virtual life after death? Could you live on like Videodrome’s Brian O’Blivion in YouTube clips? Could a ghost haunt twitter like they do TV in Poltergiest?

This is the sort of stuff that occurs to a horror fan when their mind is idling. I tried to think of some good examples of social media horror. Unfortunately the one I remembered was an execrable slasher film called Chain Letter.

Chain Letter (18)

Dir: Deon Taylor

Cast: Nikki Reed, Keith David, Brad Dourif,

You make one good horror film, it’s a hit, then you have to make the sequels. Once the come out, then come the rip offs. When the rip offs start to pale they start breeding with the rip offs of other horror franchises. Each generation away from the original you get, the worse the film. On and on and on it goes until every millilitre of lifeblood is squeezed out of the original concept. Then, and only then, do you end up at a film as dull, listless and flat out boring as Chain Letter. This is a runtish cross-bred mutt of a film, the result of combining the DNA of two already clapped out and overdone noughties horror fads. In a bargain 2 for 1 package you get not only a barrel scraping Saw clone, but a pale imitation of the endless cycle of killer communication device J-horror remakes.

Chain Letter is about a scarred, tattooed, maniac who sends txt and e-mail chain letters out to teenagers, and then tortures, kills and mutilates them if they do not send the chain letter on to another five teens. The killings are investigated by a detective played by a slumming it Keith David (his casting itself a pale imitation of Danny Glover in Saw). David’s detective is the special type that only exists in movies, who crash funerals to gather witness statements, rather than simply doing them at the station. Brad Dourif turns up for a couple of scenes as a communication studies teacher just to underline that mobile phones are bad, m’kay. As the carnage progresses there is the vague implication that all this atrocity is being carried out by an anti-technology terrorist group. This of course makes no sense at all, as: a) The killings are predicated on the use of technology in a way so sophisticated as to be practically magical, b) no one can figure out the point they are trying to make, and c) when they do figure it out, they kill them before they can tell anyone.

If you’re interested, there as plenty of gore and some gratuitous nudity, but frankly, who cares when then the film is this shitty? There isn’t a single solitary moment in this entire movie that shows one spark of a glimmer of a fraction of a ghost of an original idea. It’s suspenseless and so mind-numbing it took me three sittings to get through its 80-odd minutes.

This review was previously published on


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