Chain Letter Review

Technology is bad, m’kay? See, people can track you when they send a chain letter, and when they find out you didn’t forward it to another 10 people, they really do kill you. That stuff isn’t just a myth, or so says Chain Letter.

This is a movie about the horrors of technology, a film that wants you to believe in all the nasty things the explosion of connectivity has brought us, like DoBlu.com. However, it has no idea what it’s doing. Jessie (Nikki Reed) searches the internet and stumbles across a website that says “click to enter.” She types something we don’t see and enters the site. It’s like she actually types “click to enter.”

It’s about as basic as it gets, stuff your grandmother would understand, and Chain Letter can’t get it right. How are you supposed to be fearful about something when it obviously doesn’t even have a basic understanding of what it’s warning the world about? Oh, right, the chain guy.

This is your typical slasher, filled with over age high school kids being picked off by a maniac muscle head. His weapons of choice are all chain related (get it? Yeah, it’s not funny), picking off his victims because they won’t forward his heavily compressed JPEG image of some old document. Seriously, the thing is barely legible on screen when it’s revealed, but e-mail programs recognize it though. The AOL mail guy knock-off announces “You’ve got a chain letter,” as if programs now identify each piece of incoming content.

Chain Letter has to revel in its violence, a couple of splatter skills the only thing worthy of its genre inclusion. One of the deaths is quite bothersome, but not in the glorified violence sense. One of our soon-to-be teen but not teen victims is investigating a hanging car engine. It falls, crushing the poor individual beneath it. Before a single cop is introduced, it’s ruled a murder and the news is posted online. Seems like an accident, right? There are no witnesses, and no indication that a serial killer is on the loose yet.

That’s the type of jumpy logic that permeates this one during a drastic amount of dull downtime, the concept neither interesting nor entertaining enough to handle those lulls between kills. To top it off, you have a confusing, jump-cut happy ending that seems to come from nowhere, and only repeats the introduction as a means of making it to feature length. Nothing is given closure, and the mystery remains, meaning the whole thing was a waste of time. That’s not fun.

Movie ★★☆☆☆ 

There’s no real information out there on how Chain Letter was shot. However it was done, the grain, real or digitally added, is a mess. Despite a high enough bitrate for this AVC encode, walls, backgrounds, and even faces are smothered in digital artifacts, not a natural resolved film grain. Hardly a scene goes by where the image takes on some clean properties, instead forced to sit behind this very digital wall of noise.

As such, detail is at a premium. Close-ups never resolve an outstanding amount of detail, the whole thing marginal in this regard. Focal softness is a constant, not distracting but natural and creating a filmic effect. Elsewhere, the sharpness falters, a couple of exteriors and a nice view of a city at night the only times things tighten up.

Black levels are of even larger concern, pathetic in their depth and richness. What starts off as tolerable takes a turn for the worse in little time. When a meeting is underway between a criminal profiler and Jim Crenshaw (Keith David), they’re all but lost. Noise creeps in here too, a nighttime kill inside the Connors’ home really nasty in this regard.

Color is diluted, settling into a cool palette for much of the running time. The underground lair of our sporadic killer is bloated with bright oranges, and never fear as some teal seeps in to contrast it from time to time. Overall, the look is appropriate if not eye-popping, suited to the dreary material. Even the gushing blood pouring from our victims is subdued. If any other problems exist, they are limited to the opening credits some heavy interlacing during the montage that introduces the film.

Video ★★★☆☆ 

A DTS-HD effort kicks off early enough, delivering some real punch as the title screen slams into view, the 11 letters each greeted with one heck of a thud. The various faux news reports have their audio pushed into every channel as it spins around, a fine little effect created through excellent positioning.

The rest is fairly standard material. There’s a lot of thunder which rips through the soundfield, if not much in the low-end. That’s saved for those ominous, throbbing bursts that signal danger. Chains rattle in specific channels, and there’s a nice unseen helicopter at 54:45 that revolves around the entire scene. Concerning is the dialogue, mixed a bit lower, especially if you make adjustments after that bombastic opening logo. Clarity and fidelity are perfectly natural, while the volume kind of flounders.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

The only extra on the menu is a trailer.

Extras ★☆☆☆☆ 

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.