A literal and figurative virtual antidote to the worshipful Stockholm Syndrome leaning accolades currently being tossed at the egghead thriller The Social Network, Chain Letter’s revenge on cyberspace likewise irreverently subverts horror genre expectations in a gruesome while giddy twin parody. And sets in motion the idea that the digital revolution has the potential to drive its opponents crazy.
In mischievous rebellion against the invoked nirvana of Internet bonding conversely conceived as a mantra to the tune of you’ve got mauled, Chain Letter takes exception to the neo-conformist notion of wired up online as an interconnected bondage, substituting chains instead. And if The Social Network is gleefully into killing the competition, Chain Letter relishes homicidal compulsions directed at the consumer in cyberspace.
Nikki Reed is Jessie in Chain Letter, a combo laptop/cell phone junkie at a suburban high school, designated here as the technology capital of the country. And whose circle of friends gets caught up in a lethal series of communiques, after one of them receives a transmitted request to forward an email to everyone else, or die.
At the same time, scary high school teacher Mr. Smirker (Brad Dourif) delivers classroom rants against digital gadgets in general and ‘youspace and mytube’ specifically, as having compromised privacy, individual identity and genuine human communication. And to ensure that his disinterested students are a captive audience, he brings a device to class that electronically zaps all their cell phones for at least an hour, much to their collective dismay.
Meanwhile, Jessie’s friends who disobey the digital command to forward the chain email, begin to turn up deleted, or rather dispatched to the afterlife in horrifying ways, however creatively mutilated. It eventually comes to light that too much information techie terrorists are suspect, in old school opposition to the digital revolution and not into the new century or its mass communications electronic devices.
This invasion of privacy cyber-thriller unleashing apocalyptic Internet haters, more than effectively turns Blackberries and cell phones into weapons of mass destruction. As it simultaneously sets about igniting a freaky web of demented eavesdropper digital counter-revolution paranoia.
And though engaging in an overindulgence of cheesy gore, African American basketball hoop star turned writer/director Deon Taylor does a devilishly unpredictable switchup as to who usually gets assigned victim status and who doesn’t. While stylishly conjuring an unfinished business setup for sinister sequelization.
New Films Cinema
2 1/2 stars
Watch the Chain Letter trailer: