Director – Deon Taylor
Cast – Madison Bauer, Mark S. Allen, Phil Austin, Nikki Reed, Michael Bailey Smith, Michael J. Pagan, Matt Cohen, David Zahedian, Cherilyn Wilson, Cody Kasch, Noah Segan, Brad Dourif
Release Year – 2010
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I normally don’t “Redbox” flicks simply because most of the horror films at the Redboxes in my area are crap, but since I have a fair amount of viewers who must rely on Redbox for their horror I figured I’d get a couple of their current horror flicks out of the way, and Chain Letter is up. I had heard of this film previously, but never really had an interest in giving it a watch, and my gut-instinct proved true with this one. The story is one that I had yet to see despite it having strong similarities to other horror films, but the writing execution of this piece really makes for a poor experience only moderately saved by the film’s numerous amazing kill sequences.
When an anonymous chain letter claiming that those who do not forward it to at least 5 people hits the populous of a small town high school, some students brush it off as the usual spam nonsense, and others play into it over fear something may happen to them. However, this time the game has changed when a savage killer begins killing off those who do not play by the rules and forward the letter.
I had low expectations going into Chain Letter, but as usual I was hoping that it would turn out to be a good to maybe just decent watch in the end, and with a somewhat forgiving attitude I found enough joy in this flick for it to not be a complete waste of my time. The storyline was an interesting one because anyone associated with technology since the 1990s knows of chain letters and how darn stupid they are, but I had never seen this well-known element used in the horror genre until I came across this one. The idea of not complying with the rules and suffering untimely death is not a new idea though, brought to us beforehand by films like One Missed Call, Ringu/The Ring, and even Saw, but nonetheless I found this overall storyline to be pretty cool given those who broke the chain letter were killed off by a savage killer, although a supernatural killer/element (as with One Missed Call) to the deaths would have worked as well. Speaking of the deaths, the kills written into this piece were incredible and made for some of the sweetest kills I have seen in recent time. I enjoyed how a strong anti-technology element was written into the film, namely the partial reasoning behind the killings which included references to “Anonymous”. Unfortunately for the film’s three writers – two of which wrote Nite Tales: The Movie and The Hustle – the film’s biggest faults lie in its story. The dialogue is pretty bad and definitely reeks of an amateur effort scrapped together in a very short timeframe, and many questions are left unanswered and in unforgivable fashion. That is about all that is wrong with the storyline, but those two faults existed for pretty much the entire film.
Director Deon Taylor(Nite Tales: The Movie, The Hustle) did a decent job with this effort, giving us a well-shot film with seemingly good production value (especially for a DTV effort with no “names”) that suffers execution issues at times. I hated the quick shot editing used all throughout the film, which seems to be a constant element used in bad horror movies that directors can’t seem to abandon despite the knowledge that such tactics normally equal bad movies. The acting was decent at times, but sub-par on numerous occasions. There are certain cases where bad acting is forgivable in a horror film, but the acting in Chain Letter is not of that variety as I can tell that said actors were hardly making an effort. Thankfully, Deon Taylor gets something VERY right in this film, and that is the kill sequences. I was very pleased to see not only the heinous nature of the kills, but the kills coming in live-action fashion and with plenty of gory goodness. Taylor’s execution of the kills was great, giving us a full-frontal experience that had me laughing at loud at times over how awesome the kills were and how the actors simply served as cattle to slaughter. The usage of the killer was OK, with him just being used to deliver the good and never showing his face nor uttering a word, something that left me a bit unsatisfied in his character, but thankfully not the horror he delivered.
Overall, Chain Letter is a flawed effort whose story never delivers a positive end result and leaves us hanging for most of the film. Taylor’s direction was so-so overall, but the kills thrown into this film are phenomenal, as are the action sequences, which are pretty much the only reason why this film receives a mediocre rating at best.