DVD Review – Chatroom

Based on a screenplay by Enda Walsh, adapted from her play of the same name, Chatroom is a British thriller by acclaimed Japanese director Hideo Nakata. You may not recognise the name, but you will have heard of his famous Ringu horror series, better known in the West as The Ring. Considered amongst the best of modern horror movies, hopes were understandably high that Chatroom would provide some thrills and chills.Aaron Johnson, best known for his role as the titular Kick-Ass in Matthew Vaughn’s comic-book adaptation, plays a troubled young teen who spends his days hooked on the internet. William spends much of this time in chatrooms, setting up a room called Chelsea Teens. He makes friends with a handful of youths of similar age who stumble across his chatroom, each with their own issues.Troubled loner Jim has abandonment issues since his Dad left him. Mo is haunted by the feelings he has for his best friend’s under-age sister. Eva is a model tired of the fakery that permeates the circles she moves in, whilst Emily is just desperate for her parents to show her some love and affection. At first, the charismatic William appears to be their best friend, offering his heartfelt advice. It soon becomes obvious, however, that all is not as it seems. William is a mischief-maker, with an obsession with suicide. It is not, however, his own that is on his agenda…

Chatroom starts off with a very novel format. It would obviously be a little dull to see 5 kids sitting at computer screens, so the staging of the chatrooms as sets with the actors moving amongst them is a nice way to conceptualize their online interaction. The characters are given potentially interesting issues, and the film starts to explore them. Unfortunately, with five main characters, the director barely manages to scratch the surface of each one, resulting in most of the characters staying under-developed and strictly two-dimensional. If the actors had been better at their craft, they may have been able to elevate the material.

Unfortunately, the young cast come across for the most part as inexperienced, with a melodramatic stage school delivery. Johnson is probably the most adept at his craft, and is given most of the heavy lifting, but as we focus more on his actions and less on the other characters the story gets a little too bogged down. There are very little chills or thrills on offer in the end, and the whole exercise becomes almost a cautionary infomercial, more useful for showing in schools to illustrate the dangers of online activity than as a tool for home entertainment.

Chatroom was based on a play, and though the production values in this adaptation are obviously higher, not enough has been done to effectively adapt it for the big (or in this case small) screen. We all know the dangers of surfing the web, and there is not enough story here to make it a film worth 90 minutes of your time. It’s a bit of a shame, really. Not many British thrillers get made by respected Japanese horror directors, and considering the director’s pedigree I was expecting far more than was on offer.

Bazmann – You can follow me on Twitter at

www.twitter.com/baz_mann

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