Title: Chain Letter
Directed by: Deon Taylor (Terminated)
Starring: Nikki Reed (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1), Noah Segan, Keith David, Brad Dourif (Deadwood), and Michael B. Smith
There are people today who believe technology will be the downfall of humanity, and New Films International’s newest horror film, ‘Chain Letter,’ happily plays on that fear. Lead by popular horror actress Nikki Reed of ‘Twilight’ fame, ‘Chain Letter’ aims to scare some respect of other people’s privacy and anger towards the evolution of technology into its audience. But trying to push such a moral lesson onto audiences through a horror movie seemed to have backfired.
The movie follows several teen friends, including Jessie Campbell (played by Reed); Dante (portrayed by Noah Segan of ‘Cabin Fever 2’); and Rachel Conners (played by Cherilyn Wilson, who appeared in ‘The Social Network’) and her brother Neil (portrayed by Cody Kasch of ‘Desperate Housewives’ fame), who fight to stay alive after Neil received a chain letter while playing an internet video game. After Rachel follows the letter ‘s instructions and sends it to five other people, those who deleted it without passing it along themselves start dying. Detective Jim Crenshaw (played by Keith David) and Sergeant Hamill (portrayed by Besty Russell from the ‘Saw’ series) look into the teens ‘ brutal murders, and start to question if they were the work of one man or of a group that hates technology, as the teens are tracked through their cell phones.
‘Chain Letter’ starts off to a redundant start, lacking in any original backstory or character development. Taking cues from other horror movies about the downfalls of technology, including 2006’s ‘Pulse,’ as well as the numerous torture-porn films that have risen to popularity during the last decade, including the aforementioned ‘Saw’ series, ‘Chain Letter’ simply fuses the two together. While fans of gore will be happy to see that three of the teens are killed right away, one after the other, many viewers will find it hard to empathize with the remaining characters ‘ grief, as not much is revealed about anyone.
It’s also questionable why director Deon Taylor, who also co-wrote the movie with Diana Erwin and Michael J. Pagin, followed typical high school-themed movies and didn’t feature the teens’ parents, except briefly in a couple of scenes. While most high school students try to stay away from their parents as often as they can, it seems logical that the parents would want to keep their children safe at home to protect them while a mass murderer is on the loose. It’s questionable why Taylor didn’t include that aspect.
However, the suspense does start to pick up around the mid-way point of the 85-minute film, when Jessie and Detective Crenshaw start to really look into if the murders are related to the chain letter. Not only will the audience start to feel that Detective Crenshaw is really serious in linking the letter to the murders and wants to find out who the killer is, Taylor made another right decision to show Jessie’s pain and determination to protect the rest of her friends who are still alive. At this point, audiences will surely forget that they ‘re watching Rosalie from the ‘Twilight Saga’ on the screen, and instead focus on Jessie ‘s fight for survival.
While ‘Chain Letter’ isn’t the most thought-provoking, original horror movie ever made, its wide release was unfortunately scraped, after it opened in limited release on October 1 in such cities as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Detroit and Atlanta. The movie opened at number 34, raking in only $138,788 on 402 theaters against a $3 million budget. Even though it’s rated R for strong bloody sadistic violence throughout, language and brief nudity and would likely appeal to numerous horror fans, ‘Chain Letter’ won’t be passed on and seen by many more people during its theatrical release.
Written by: Karen Benardello