The WTF? Worst Films Extravaganza Presents: Chain Letter (2010)

Deon Taylor

Nikki Reed - Jessica "Jessie" Campbell
Michael J. Pagan - Michael
Cody Kasch - Neil Conners
Keith David - Detective Jim Crenshaw
Brad Dourif - Mr. Smirker
Noah Segan - Dante
David Zahedian - Brad
Cherilyn Wilson - Rachael Conners
Betsy Russell - Sergeant Hamill
Michael Bailey Smith - Chain Killer

Genre - Horror/Slasher

Running Time - 87 Minutes

In the town of Carlson, the so-called "technology capital of the world", someone has been stalking and killing local high schoolers - where many reports claim that modern technology is to blame for this situation. One night, a mysterious chain letter sent through e-mail is sent to a computer and video game addict named Neil (Cody Kasch). Neil wants to delete the chain letter, but his sister Rachael (Cherilyn Wilson) sends it to five friends - including Jessie (Nikki Reed), her boyfriend Dante (Noah Segan), and Rachael herself. The rules of the chain letter is to send it to five other people within 24 hours, or else something bad would happen. Unfortunately, several of the recipients delete the chain letter, which irks a behemoth blacksmith who enjoys using chains as his primary weapon to kill those who break the chain.

As teens begin dropping like flies, a detective (
Keith David) starts rounding clues and becomes close in figuring out the case. Jessie also figures it out, learning that the killer is an experienced hacker who placed a virus in the chain letter that allows him to track it anytime it's sent or deleted. How can they break the chain, or are they now forever linked to die?


I have three words for CHAIN LETTER:


- The gore. CHAIN LETTER is a pretty lame and stupid horror film that insulted my intelligence and membership in the horror film club. I'll get to why shortly. However, CHAIN LETTER does have some pretty good gore moments that make the film somewhat memorable. All the victims get murdered by chains in various ways. One death involves a girl being chained [by her legs] to two cars, which drag her out on the road and split her in half when both cars go in different directions. Another, and probably my fave, is a guy getting his face mutilated as chains grind into it after his Achilles heels have been cut. Another gets set on fire while being chained. One gets bludgeoned to death. And another gets hooks impaled through his throat and torso. Not the goriest film ever, but these death sequences are the highlight of an otherwise ridiculous movie.

- The acting. This was a struggle, because I wasn't sure where to put the acting. But realizing that they didn't have much material to work with, I felt the actors did the best they could with what they were given. None of them are close to terrible or annoying. Out of the teen actors, no one really stood out but Cody Kasch, best known for his work on Desperate Housewives. I thought he gave a strong performance, especially when the killings escalated. We also get cameos by horror veterans, like Keith David, Betsy Russell, Charles Fleischer, and Brad Dourif. No one these actors really add much, since the script doesn't let them, but they do add some credibility to this film. Each actor played their role as best as possible, so I can't fault them for that.

By the way - Bai Ling was credited to star in this film, yet she's nowhere in the film! I guess her part was cut out. Not sure if her presence would have added to the crap, or actually made the film more tolerable. I guess we'll never know.

- Good production values. I will give CHAIN LETTER credit - it looks damn good. This film had about a $3 million budget [which it lost $2.5 million of, as it bombed at the box office] and it shows. The picture looks nice and clear. The gore effects are done really well. It definitely looks and feels professional. I believe Twisted Pictures had co-production credits on this film [which strangely was erased from any of the credits]. It looks like a SAW sequel, which I'm sure was the intention. If you dig that look and style, then you'll probably like the look and style of CHAIN LETTER.

- The screenplay. And here's where CHAIN LETTER completely lost me for good. The screenplay, written by star Michael J. Pagan, director Deon Taylor, and Diana Erwin, is terrible. I'm not expecting David Mamet, Billy Wilder, or Ernest Lehman level of screenwriting here. But something that makes sense and has interesting characters are enough for me, especially in a horror film. When the script fails to do both, there's a big problem that I can't overlook.

For one, the characters are all interchangeable and uninteresting as hell. They are all stereotypes - nothing more, nothing less. We have the intelligent girl [which we know because she's the only girl in the film that wears glasses], the geeky guy [which we know because he's the only guy in the film that wears glasses], the token black guy, the slutty popular girl, the weird boyfriend, and the asshole jock. We know nothing about these characters at all. They just vary in levels of annoying. Hell, we barely see any of their parents in this film - only one character seemed to have any sort of parental guidance that was present. I guess CHAIN LETTER takes place at the same area as CHILDREN OF THE CORN!

Even the killer's motivation is vague. Supposedly, there's a subplot about some deal with the occult and how chain letters originated from witches and cults. Not sure if this is even legit, but I would have gone along with it. Why didn't I? Because it's never fuckin' explained or even followed upon after the mention! Also, the killer was supposedly against technology, which is why he inserted a virus that tracks the recipient's every move on the web, to kill anyone who broke the chain. Um...what? This is never explained either. He's anti-technology, yet uses it to hurt people? Makes no sense! And this killer seemed to be around the victims even before they deleted or ignored the chain letter - always hiding from the characters like a ninja, even though he looks like a behemoth. I hate being ignored too, especially when I took the time to send people something. But this dude was just bonkers. And why? I couldn't tell you. I'm all for mystery, but at least give me a hint so I would want to figure it out. All I knew about him is that he used chains to hurt and kill people, while branding tattoos of chains on his body. Oh, he's a blacksmith as well. The fact that no one in this small town had any idea who would be obsessed with chains is pretty funny. So a killer with no background killing teenagers without any depth - how am I supposed to care again?

I guess CHAIN LETTER is supposed to be a commentary on how our culture has become obsessed and addicted to modern technology in the form of computers, phones, video games, and so on. Even Brad Dourif's character, Professor Smirker [what a name!] has a lecture about technology to these very teen characters, discussing that as good technology is, there's also the bad side as well. And while this killer using the chain letter to track these characters is obviously the bad side of technology, it feels pretty one-note. I'm not going to lie - the premise and the message behind it are extremely good and would make for a great horror film if better screenwriters were handling it. But it just plays out like any modern horror film rather than something of substance. It reminded me a lot of ONE MISSED CALL and how that film used technology as something bad rather than good. Luckily for CHAIN LETTER, that film was way worse.

- Released too late. CHAIN LETTER was meant to be released in 2007, but for some reason, it wasn't released until 2010. I don't blame the filmmakers for this. I blame the distribution company for keeping on the shelf. Because of this wait, the film is already dated by the time of its release. In this film, MySpace is the social network of choice and there are barely any smartphones anywhere to be seen. Ironically, CHAIN LETTER was released in theaters the same day as THE SOCIAL NETWORK - a film about Facebook. It doesn't really hurt the film, but for a 'modern' horror film, it's already obsolete.

- The direction. Deon Taylor's direction isn't the worst I've seen. It's just derivative, unoriginal, and adds nothing to the film really. While the gore scenes are shot well for the most part and there is hints of style, there's nothing much going for it. The pacing is all over the place. When it starts to flow, it's interrupted by something less interesting. The quick edits and over-the-top shooting remind me of every SAW sequel that has been released. There's no tension or suspense. Characters are introduced for whatever reason, not doing much for the narrative in the long run. The picture looks nice and it has some moments, but the visuals don't bother to compensate for a weak script. In that case, Taylor doesn't fully succeed visually with what he intended. It was flat.

 - Rachael ratted her brother out for jerking off. They never had this issue in FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC.

- If there's a good side to technology, then there's a bad side. No shit. That's how Justin Bieber was discovered and now we're stuck with him.

- Rachael wants to send Neil's chain letter to five people, afraid something bad will happen if they don't. I don't believe in that crap. That was part of those catchy "Rumours" Fleetwood Mac sang about in 1977.

- Keith David and Betsy Russell are the lead detectives on the case. Who better than to solve crimes of homicide than a guy who fought aliens, and a woman who was married to Jigsaw after she went nuts at CHEERLEADER CAMP?

- Rachael was attacked by the killer, bleeding on her shoulder and back. How inconsiderate of him! It was already her "Time of the Month". Hasn't she bled enough?

- Neil was impaled by hooks through the throat and torso from above his room. The killer must not been a fan of Desperate Housewives...

I really wanted to enjoy CHAIN LETTER more than I did. It had a solid premise, an interesting cast [who did the best they could with the material], and some pretty decent gore. But the screenplay is just terrible, and the direction is unoriginal and doesn't improve upon the narrative. CHAIN LETTER is obviously inspired by SAW [it was co-produced by Twisted Pictures - although their name was taken off the credits for some reason], but it'll only make you want to watch those films for a better narrative and more interesting gore. With a tighter and more in depth script, this film could have really been something. If you ever come across this CHAIN LETTER, you wouldn't miss all that much by deleting it.

1 Howl Outta 4


  1. I am impressed you made it through the whole thing. I ended up losing interest 30 minutes in.

    1. I don't blame you. I've seen so much crap the last few years that I guess I'm tolerant to it now.


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