Chain Letter -- Film Review



Any remaining moviegoers not scared off the Internet by "The Social Network" will find more fuel for their Luddite tendencies with "Chain Letter," a by-the-numbers example of torture porn whose chief gimmick is its villain's anti-technology bent. Let's ignore the fact that he chooses to contact his victims -- a typically photogenic group of suburban high-schoolers played by significantly older actors -- by e-mail.

The perfunctory screenplay, co-written by director Deon Taylor and actor Michael J. Pagan, centers on an electronic chain letter promising its recipients that unless they pass it along to five other people, they will suffer an unfortunate fate. And so they do, in tedious processional fashion, as one after another is brutally murdered by a horrifically scarred, bandaged madman -- what, he couldn't buy a hockey mask? -- who uses, as you might have guessed, a heavy chain as he goes about his duties.

Adding heavily to the unintentional laugh quotient is the presence of such B-movie vets as Brad Dourif, effectively channeling his wild-eyed, "Cuckoo's Nest" persona as a creepy teacher, and Keith David, as a detective who for some reason insists on interrogating witnesses only during heavy downpours (the story must take place in the rainiest part of California ever).

Although one has to admire the audacity of a horror flick that opens with a quotation by Nietzsche right before its obligatory female nude shower scene, "Chain Letter," which opened nationwide Friday without being screened in advance for critics, is quickly bound for the video hell suffered by so many others of its ilk.

Opened: Friday, Oct. 1 (New Films International)
Production: Deon Taylor Enterprises, Tiger Tail Entertainment
Cast: Nikki Reed, Michael J. Pagan, Noah Segan, Matt Cohen, Michael Bailey, Smith Kody Kasch, Betsy Russell, Cherilyn Wilson, Brad Dourif, Keith David
Director: Deon Taylor
Screenwriters-producers: Deon Taylor, Michael J. Pagan
Executive producers: Roxanne Avent, Robert Smith, Todd Slater, Nesim Hason
Director of photography: Philip Lee
Production designer: George Goodridge
Costume designer: Chasia
Editors: James Coblentz, Howard Smith
Music: Vincent Gillioz
Rated R, 96 minutes