Chatroom

Director: Hideo Nakata

Notable Cast: Aaron Johnson, Imogen Poots, Matthew Beard, Hannah Murray

Rating: R

Review:  How this film can even be classified as horror on VOD (Video On Demand for the nOOblets) is beyond me. Well, how this could even be classified as a watchable film is what’s actually beyond me.  Created by the man who brought us the original Ring films, Chatroom is a play on the socially irresponsible use of the internet.  You can find anything on the internet these days, and teens are becoming more and more dependent on this massive database.   Nakata wanted to use the internet to create tension, and toy with the notion that anyone can hide behind a computer.  But the problem is Chatroom only stays clever for all of five minutes, before submerging into a dull and lifeless plot.  Chatroom is a bore from start to finish, and is an embarrassment to Nakata’s name.  Spoilers to follow, but you really shouldn’t care.

William (Johnson) is an enthusiastic participant in the online community, and his newest adventure is creating a chatroom called Chelsea Teens!.  Not sure of what will become of it, four more people join the group, and all the characters agree not to let anyone else in. The group starts to get more and more intimate, getting past the shyness and into uncovering secrets.  But as the teens get deeper and deeper into each others lives, they start to encourage each other’s bad behavior.  The teen’s motives start to become questionable, and the chatroom starts to become less of a safe haven.  With speculations rising, the teens attempt to uncover each others underlying motivations, to see who really is who they say they are.  The only problem is, can they accomplish that task before someone gets hurt in real life?

At least the film tried to stay fresh by depicting the chatrooms as real physical rooms…

So let’s throw Chatroom a bone and say the whole idea of using real people in rooms to represent the internet cha rooms is at least a tad bit refreshing.  This actually gives multiple custom settings to a film that would have somehow managed to be even more boring by having a bunch of people sitting around on computers typing to random strangers while they jerk off to their own lonely tears (probably).  It gives the movie more tension and drama, putting the characters in the same room, but then becomes laughable when the film itself forgets the people aren’t really physically there.  In what was supposed to be a gripping chase scene, William is running behind two of the other participants down a long hallway lined with doors for other chat rooms.  Right, so, the entire time William is “chasing” the others, what the hell are they doing in real life?  I mean the tension is dropped immediately when you remember “Oh wait, they aren’t even really there.  Why are they running away if they don’t exist?  What can even happen to them if ‘caught’?” I couldn’t help but laugh while I tried to figure out this jumbled logic, and it felt like Nakata himself forgot what the hell he’d really established to that point. The story gets lost in what is real and what isn’t, stressing instances that don’t even matter.

Along with that, Nakata misses the boat on Chatroom altogether.  The main character William is a whiny emo bitch with a bad case of “mommy loves my brother more than me” syndrome.  Played by Aaron Johnson (Kick-Ass), Willam was a piss poor character and half of his freak outs look like spastic ballet moves.  William was the least menacing, least charismatic, least creepy, and least impressive “villain” ever to grace the screen.  I hate to think the actor I loved so much as Kick-Ass could give such a garbage performance, but the facts don’t lie.  From an audience perspective, it’s hard to really care about what happens to “poor” William, even if Nakata wants us to pity the mentally unstable child.

As for the twist, which is the big reveal that William enjoys convincing people to kill themselves and then record it, there was NO payoff.  More than anything, Chatroom was a psychological thriller about conning people into doing what you want them to, in this case offing themselves.  But as a horror film goes, there were no fun kills, no interesting gore, and certainly no scares.  As I stated before, the evil force in the film was an emo douche, so it’s hard to be afraid of someone who’s more likely to kill themselves than you. But again, you remember it’s a bunch of kids hiding behind their computer screens most of the film, so you never get that sense of danger in the first place.  It’s not like William could have physically hurt any one of the group members, so a large piece of the tension puzzle was seriously missing.  Even when the kids do meet in real life though during the final conclusion, it’s very apparent that William won’t actually hurt anyone, rather seeing them hurt themselves.  So again that wild card element is gone, tarnishing that thought where in the back of the mind you’re hoping William goes crazy and starts slitting throats.  I would have taken anything for that matter actually.  Even William performing the must mundane and recycled horror kill would have still spiced up Chatroom to the point of at least being a recognizable film.

Call it a social commentary on cyber bullying, call it a psychological technological thriller, call it “horror,” but I’m going to stick with calling it an utter piece of unwatchable shit. The worst thing about Chatroom though is that it’s a ruse.  The whole thing is just to fool you into thinking there’s an aura of drama and tension.  Most of the film, there aren’t consequences for actions, as it tries to distract you from the fact that the characters are in the safety of their own homes.  It’s clever, making them appear to be in the same room, but ultimately nothing but a cheap ploy.  And a bad one at that.  Get out from behind the computer, have William start stalking and slaying the other group members, and then you have my attention.  Until then though, if I want to watch some punk kid harass people over the internet, I’ll just do it first hand myself.

Final Rating: 3 dumb internet addicted teens out of 10

Tainted youth at its worst…

-Natobomb

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About Matt Donato

I love all things film. I'll watch any genre, any actor, at any time. This whole film critic thing is a passionate hobby for now which I'm balancing with working in the business world, but hey, someday, who knows?
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2 Responses to Chatroom

  1. Pingback: Worst of 2011 Horror | Cinema Scrutiny

  2. Pingback: Demons Never Die | Cinema Scrutiny

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