Plot:A group of teens are disposed of in various ways by a serial killer who uses chains as his weapon.
Cast:Michael Bailey Smith,
Michael J. Pagan,
My Thoughts:Good offering from Deon.
Review:Deon Taylor is quietly becoming one of the good up and coming filmmakers when it comes to making small-budgeted horror films. His first work was the horror/anthology "Nite Tales", which had it's moments I'll admit. But his latest offering "Chain Letter"...is far superior in every facet. The movie stars genre familiars Nikki Reed (Twilight), and Michael J. Pagan (See No Evil), as two in a group of techno-driven teens who get the surprise of their lives when they receive a sinister-looking piece of chain mail. Some of them refuse to forward it, others do. The ones that don't however...end up receiving a visit from a slasher type called "The Chain Man".
A hulking bandage-wrapped maniac who uses chains to take out his victims. Now...a local cop has to take this madman down before he claims more lives. "Chain Letter" works for a number of reasons. The first of which being tolerable characters. People have no idea how important this is to a horror film. Your characters must not drive me or any other viewer up a wall with annoying dialogue, character traits, or attitudes. These kids were for the most part, pretty cool. Even the Malibu'esque blond wasn't too irritating.
And I have to give Taylor credit for managing to pull that one off. Reed does a good job carrying the film as the attractive female lead. Her character basically is the most cliche one of the group, yet still manages to come off as likeable. And when I say cliche, I don't mean the character...I mean what the character is put through in the film. She has the displeasure of arriving at the scene just as her friends mangled bodies are being wheeled out on a stretcher.
She gets the dreaded "hey...whatsername" is dead" cellphone call from her still-alive friends, and she also gets those moments where she feels like she's being watched by the films creepy but bad ass, killer. So she's definitely built up as the films heroine. Only Taylor takes an interesting twist direction with Reed's character later on in the movie. Another thing that makes "Chain Letter" so great. Brad Dourif also makes an appearance as a professor in the film. A character who is kind of edgy, and has traces of his character from "Pulse" redux back in 2005. For those of you who forgot...coffee shop scene, check it out.
Anyways, Dourif has some good dialogue in the film, and actually by the time the movie reaches the end, he actually ends up possibly being a link in these horrific murders. But is he a good link or a bad link? Not gonna spoil it for ya, but it does pose some intriguing questions. But what makes "Chain Letter" work the most, is the directing job. The film is shot in a gothic/rainy Friday evening kind of film-method. And reminded me of "Urban Legend", "Stay Alive", "Strangeland", and "They".
I really liked the directing in this movie, and the directing...mixed with the urban backdrop, which had it's own gothic look going on...gave the film a nice, crisp slasher movie feel from beginning to end. And did I mention the kills? While they aren't extremely gory, they are very, very bloody, and are mixed with a bit of flashy editing ala the "Saw" films...to give them that unsettling after-effect. Very well done I must say. If "Chain Letter" has any weakness, it might be the ambiguous ending.
I like an ending that leaves questions or a question, unanswered. But this film might have left one question too many unanswered. A highly ambitious move by Taylor. But you have to remember, "Chain Letter" got a small release just like "Hatchet 2" did back in October. And considering a sequel wouldn't necessarily be "in the bag"...I fear that there may never be a followup to nip some of these dark, unanswered questions in the bud, so to speak. I hope there's a sequel, but you never can tell with small-budget/limited release movies.
The ending is certainly exciting, edge-of-your seat, solid, strong, and carries impact. But the problem is...just too much is left hanging. And while that doesn't ruin the ending entirely...it does do some damage to an otherwise strong as hell, finale. The DVD has a great visual transfer, crisp look, and great widescreen transfer. But the sound isn't very great, and you only get one optio as far as the sound-track is concerned.
So you'll have to turn this one up eally loud, or have a surround sound system attached to your tv to get the full-effect of the movie. "Chain Letter" though, as a slasher film, shows that Deon Taylor is certainly getting better at this filmmaking thing. It's leaps and bounds better than "Nite Tales". And I am excited to see what Deon has cooking in the future. Hopefully...it's "Chain Letter 2".
Positives:Great directing, likeable characters...even for a slasher film, the two cop characters played by veteran actors Keith David and Betsy Russell...were likeable also. Again...another rareity. Awesome kills, and good scoring.
Negatives:As I said...the DVD sound isn't perfect, and the ending leaves too many questions unanswered for a film that hasn't been assured a sequel.
Overall:Three and a half stars out of four.
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