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Case Number 20541: Small Claims Court

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Chain Letter

Image Entertainment // 2010 // 96 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // January 21st, 2011

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All Rise...

Judge Brett Cullum is a Nigerian prince who would like you to wire him $5,000 now...OR DIE!

Editor's Note

Our review of Chain Letter (Blu-Ray), published February 18th, 2011, is also available.

The Charge

Pass it on before it is too late.

The Case

A half dozen teens receive an e-mail chain letter that says they need to pass it on to five friends before a day passes or they will die. They do what anybody in their right mind would do and delete it immediately. The only trouble is, now a serial killer with a penchant for chains and technology is stalking them. He's mean, he's angry, and he's out to put them in Saw style traps that punish them for not forwarding his missive in time. He uses their computers and their cell phones against them, becoming a sort of Michael or Jason with built-in GPS. The batch of attractive teens include Nikki Reed (Twilight), the inept police officers are headed up by Keith David (Platoon), and to lend horror credibility Brad Dourif (Child's Play) shows up as teacher telling the kids that technology is evil.

This is a "by the numbers" horror flick that mixes all the familiar elements that find teens getting picked off one by one in inventive gory ways. I will give the film props for at least introducing a little bit of novel methods to die by sticking strictly to the chain theme. Oh, and do they hammer the chain thing again and again! Chain letters, chain mail, chain link fence, anything chain related pops up. The only thing missing is a remake of Fleetwood Mac's hit "The Chain" by an ironic death metal band. Director Deon Taylor just does the predictable at every turn, and he doesn't bend the genre into anything more than what is required. To be fair he made this film back in 2007, and it sat on a shelf for years before being released. Nobody ever seemed to have much faith in it. The problem with this languishing though is all the technology looks dated. These kids deserve to die because they still use flip phones! The killer must be Steve Jobs angry that they have not switched over to the iPhone.

DVD Verdict was sent a screener of this release, so no idea on final product. Basically we just got a minimally okay transfer of the film on a DVR. But from what I could see and hear, the feature should look and sound just fine.

The best part of this whole mess is the gore. Death by chain is never pretty, and to that end we do get some inventive and satisfying gruesome stuff. Too bad the plot and entire concept has a "been there, done that" laziness to them. It's not very witty, but it is plenty bloody. None of it is scary though, and that in the end makes Chain Letter not memorable. It feels like it was made about twenty years ago when we had the height of '90s horror. It is I Know What You Did Last Summer mixed with The Ring. I think this chain letter was sent a long time ago on better stationary. But if you yearn for the days of stupid pretty twenty-somethings playing doomed teens with clunky phones this is the DVD for you.

The Verdict

Guilty of breaking its own chain.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 76

Perp Profile

Studio: Image Entertainment
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• None
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Horror
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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