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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Chain Letter

So it's nearly the weekend, which means my next slasher finally arrived. Luckily, I've found some rare ones to watch on YouTube, so if BallBuster keeps pulling this "waiting a week before the DVD arrives" crap, I have a couple of choices to fall back on. Anyway, this week', we're watching Chain Letter, which sounds like it falls into the "urban legend" genre somewhere. As usual, there will be SPOILERS...

Right off the bat, the movie throws a quote at us..."Life is a chain of dark events." That's strange, because I thought it was like a box of chocolate. Great, another message just popped up: WE ARE ALL CONNECTED...Terrific. Now stop yelling, and start the stupid movie...

Okay, so after several annoying and random-seeming establishing shots, there's a reporter on a TV discussing a killing spree involving several teen victims. A woman is watching the report, but then we go to some anonymous person holding a syringe and pulling on a group of suspended chains. The movie then continues to alternate between the two, , until we see the chain fetish person tying someone to the chains by their ankles and wrists.

The woman is joined by her husband, who has made her some coffee. As the husband gets distracted by the news, the wife asks him to switch it off. Then we return to the person who was chained up, just as they regain consciousness. They can't yell or scream, though...the killer has secured their face with duct tap, leaving only room to breath through their nose, and a rectangle to see through.

The victim begins to panic, and realizes that the chains are attached to 2 cars in the driveway. The cars begin to descend the driveway, and the victim is painfully dragged through the closed garage door. Then both stop for other traffic.

During the pause, the husband decides to turn on his radio and crank up the volume. The wife, from her vehicle, sees the person chained to the cars, and rolls her window down to warn her husband. He doesn't hear her, of course, and takes off...killing the poor victim in the driveway. Then the credits start up.

During the credits, there are several more news reports. The first few are about an anti-technology group trying to infect and disable as many computers as they can, through the usual e-mail viruses and hacking attempts. Then the stories become about a soldier in Iraq who was tracked, captured, then tortured, all because the terrorists who nabbed him were able to find him using his cell phone signal. The final image in the montage implies that the tortured soldier is involved with the anti-technology group.

Then the movie plunges into Saw territory, showing someone held captive in a green room.

Well, apparently that was a scene from the wrong movie, because it ends as abruptly as it began. The NEXT random scene begins with a phone call between 2 teen girls, Jessie and Rachel. Jessie likes a boy they've been friends with since childhood, and Rachel reluctantly agrees to help her try to catch his eye. Is this still Chain Letter, or did I somehow begin watching Sweet Valley High?

At school, we meet Johnny and Mikey. They talk about another friend, Kevin, who was accepted by a college in Nebraska. Then Rachel shows up, and tells them that Adam dumped OH MY GOD WILL YOU JUST START HAVING A PLOT, YOU STUPID MOVIE???? Seriously, this thing's taking years off of my life with all of this inane chatter.

Well, apparently this movie wants me dead, because now we have a guy named Neil, who is Rachel's brother I guess. He yells at her for telling their mother about his masturbation habits, and half the school hears him. Then, as the scene finally comes to an end, a guy named Dan shows up, and gives Rachel a rose. I just don't care anymore. I hope they all die in one big earthquake together. Or I do, before the closing credits roll.

And now we get a dose of greatness, as Brad Dourif shows up in the movie. He plays a quirky(duh) professor, and he's delivering a lecture to the cast about how intrusive technology is in our lives. To prove his point, he taps a small device that emits an EMP, rendering the class textless. Good for him! I wish I had one of those every time I went out to the multiplex. Or, hell, anywhere.

He continues to insist that people are far too willing to give up their privacy to stay connected to each other 24/7, so Jessie raises the point that it makes the world safer to have so much open communication between devices. The teacher argues back that it also makes it easier for people to intrude on our lives, if we share too much of ourselves. Hmmm.....

Neil, our chronic masturbator, is seen playing an MMO by himself. Good to know that he can use more than 1 kind of joystick, I guess. Anyway, he's busy killing someone's online avatar, when a text message blocks his view of the game.

It turns out to be a message from our chain-loving killer, although Neil doesn't know that yet. The message says that he is "the first link in the chain", and then you get the usual nonsense about sending the mail forward to whatever arbitrary number the sender makes up, or else blah blah blah.

Before Neil can even finish reading the message, Rachel enters his bedroom. She insists that she needs access to his computer for a minute, because her phone went screwy or something. When she sees the chain letter, she quickly sends it to her friends, and then Neil adds her name to the list when she exits. So I guess the number was "5", in this case.

Oh, and there was something else that was dumb that I neglected to mention: Neil's computer has this magic ability to tell him if he has "mail" or "chain mail". I think I would keel over in shocked disbelief if I ever came across a Hollywood movie that understood how thing like computers and the Internet actually work.

When she meets up with her friends, Rachel discovers that some have received the chain letter already, and at least one was deleted. She leaves to use the restroom, but ends up out in an alley Quick, escape to a better film while you still can!.

Johnny, the guy who deleted his chain mail, meets up with Kevin at the gym. They discuss their plans for college(kind of "eh"), then Kevin decides to head back home. After Johnny runs on a treadmill, the killer knocks him out from behind.

Johnny wakes up as the killer is piercing his limbs with hooks, then attaching the hooks to chains. While Johnny cries and screams, the killer raises him off the grounds, then drops him again. Then the killer wraps numerous chains around his face, until he gets several disfiguring injuries. After several quick flashes of the killer torturing him, Johnny dies.

The detectives on the case(one of whom is scream queen Betsy Palmer) theorize that the killer must have drugged him when he got up from excercising to grab some water. The killer left no prints, so the cops look through the victim's locker for clues. They don't find anything relevant to the murder, but they discover that our dead jock might have been using steroids.

The funeral takes place in the rain, as movie funerals almost always do. Detective Crenshaw(the one NOT played by Betsy Palmer) shows up after the service to ask some questions. Despite his urgent tone, none of them can think of anyone who wanted Johnny dead.

More rain, and more generic rock music. Dan and a buddy are admiring the progress he's making on a car restoration project. The friend goes to the back to grab somer drinks, and Dan hears a noise from that general location.

When Dan investigates, he can't find his pal, so he returns to his pet project. Sitting behind the wheel, he fantasizes about how much fun the car will be, then he decides to look under the hood.

The engine block is hanging over the car on a chain(!), so Dan begins to fiddle with some bits and pieces. Unexpectedly, the chain loosens, and the engine decapitates Dan. The chain killer strikes again! Boy, that sure was an unexpected development!

More rain, more detective work. The investigators finally figured out that all of the victims were taking the same class, and were friends. If they had a Genius Trophy for sleuthing, this pair would be a shoo-in to get the thing.

Back in class, the teacher gives his students about 10 seconds to mourn. With all that bothersome human emotion out of the way, he then reminds the students that their midterm papers are due Monday. Wow, what a nice guy.

When he dismisses the class, the teacher asks Jessie to stay behind. He probably wants to dock her a letter grade for blinking or breathing too often, but it turns out that he wants her to have as much time as she needs on her paper. Douche. He even rubs her arm in a creepy manner when talking to Jessie.

Jessie does some research into the anti-tech wackos, and eventually falls asleep. In the meantime, Detective Crenshaw finds what looks like the killer's lair. He gets scared by a crusty old farmer instead, who recognizes a piece of evidence shown to him, a chain link. He's not sure where he saw it, though.

Jessie gets comfy, then does more online research. She eventually gets to a website showing gory chain-related crime scenes. She gets nervous and calls Rachel, but her friend is taking a biubble bath, and wearing ear buds for music. Jessie leaves a message, then calls Neil. He's at some internet cafe or bar, but leaves to check on Rachel when Jessie asks him to.

Rachel's power goes out, so she gets out of the tub to see what's going on. After she assumes that Neil caused it, the killer leaps at her, swinging his chain like a club. She dodges and tries to hide in the dark, but the killer slams her against a mirror, then plants the chain in her forehead.

Crenshaw gets a call while investigating Neil's death...there's a profiler named Wiggins who wants to tag along with him. When he asks the remaining kids if Rachel had any enemies, they remember that an older guy had been stalking her online.

Back at his office, Crenshaw meets Wiggins the profiler, who seems like a squirmy bundle of nerves. As they discuss the cult and its leader, Wiggins yells "THEY DON'T LIKE TECHNOLOGY! THEY DON'T LIKE TECHNOLOGY!" Well, saying it twice totally solved the case for me.

Jessie sees something weird on her computer. She walks over to it, and looks closer, only to find that someone appears to have put a tiny camera on it to watch her. You'd think she would have seen that sooner.

Out in a crowd, Jessie gets an email on her phone from the killer. It's just more nonsense about forwarding the chain mail, and how every recipient is another link in the chain. Blah blah blah. In one hilarious sequence, though, she decides that the killer is in the crowd waqtching her. That prompts every weird-looking sleazebag in a 5-mile radius to begin staring at her.

At the end of the day, Neil, Jessie and Michael have a meeting in the park. They discuss how the killer apparently tracked each victim through a virus that was imbedded in the original chain mail. Neil goes crazy with grief, and decides to send the mail directly to both of their phones, which sends Michael into a voilent rage. They have a brief scuffle, until Neil pulls a gun. Tense and angry, the 3 head to their homes.

The killer then sends Neil a new chain letter. And another. And several more. Neil starts hyperventilating, and mutters that the killer should just come get him. A chain then crashes through his bedroom window, and does exactly that.

As Jessie and Michael freak out, Detective Crenshaw gets a call from that creepy farmer, Bradford. He remembered where he saw that style of chain before, on a neighbor's property. It's revealed that the neighbor's son was the tortured soldier mentioned waaaaaay back in the opening credits of the movie, the one whose phone signal got him captured.

Anyway, the chains were sold to a particular meat-packing plant, so Crenshaw decides to go check the place out. His partner tries to call him with a lead, but his phone is turned off. He arrives at the deserted plant, gun drawn, and begins to check it out. He hears yelling, and finds a young man named Kevin wrapped like a mummy in chains. Crenshaw promises to free him, and begins to look for anything nearby that might be useful.

Sadly, the killer arrives, and sets poor Kevin on fire. Crenshaw swiftly finds a place to hide, and calls HQ. He tells the cop on duty to send backup to his location, and patch Wiggins through on the line. The other cop informs him that Wiggins was murdered, and that the man who came to meet Crenshaw was an impostor, likely a member of the anti-technology cult.

After an annoying flashback montage repeating everything from the above paragraph about a dozen times, Crenshaw is captured and knocked out. Jessie is then seen destroying her own phone, after recalling sending the letter to Crenshaw. She then washes up and goes to bed.

During the night, Jessie hears a phone ringing. As she gets up to answer it,another chain flies through another window. Oops, it was a dream sequence. Jessie goes back to sleep. Then you get to more or less watch the opening sequence again, only this time showing Jessie getting captured and chained to both cars first. As her mother watches her get torn apart, the movie winds itself up. THE END.

What an odd movies this one was...a few good genre actors, some pretty memorable kills--but a pretty stupid story, and the dialogue was excruciating. Still, I've seen worse. 6 killer trees out of 10, for being above average yet dumb.

And What did I learn from Chain Letter?

-Well, apparently a select few people own computers that can tell you what kind of email you get, but can't detect a virus in that very same message.

-Facts don't sink in, unless you shout them. Twice.

-Couples who drive to work in different cars are lethal to their children.

Next up on my list is an amusement park slasher, called Dark Ride. Have a great week!