Slapping a new-personal-technologies spin on routine slasher antics, B-horror pic “Chain Letter” yields few surprises, compensating with de rigueur false scares, unmemorable deaths and the kind of improbably exaggerated gore that requires bodies to tear apart as easily as bread loaves. Indie production opened on 400 screens Oct. 1; theatrical presence will be short-lived, but get-what-you-pay-for content and the presence of some genre-fan favorites in the cast should translate into solid ancillary trade.Six typically very-mature-for-their-age suburban high school students get an ominous email message ordering them to forward it to others or else. Those who don’t soon get an unpleasant visit from Michael Bailey Smith as a mute, hulking, chain-dangling man with a scarred, bandaged face (never explained). Concerned and/or sinister grownups include Brad Dourif’s teacher plus Keith David and “Saw’s” Betsy Russell as cops. Silly, sloppy screenplay by helmer Deon Taylor and thesp Michael J. Pagan exhibits a shrill panic over the privacy-invasion perils of email, cell phones, etc., that already feels badly dated; resolution is ludicrous. Perfs are understandably uneven, direction and packaging slick enough.
A New Films Intl. release of a New Films presentation of a Deon Taylor Enterprises and Tiger Tail Entertainment production. Produced by Deon Taylor, Michael J. Pagan. Executive producers, Robert Smith, Todd Slater, Nesim Hason, Roxanne Avent. Co-producers, Chad Cole, Ron Gell, Steak House. Co-executive producer, Steve Cubine. Directed by Deon Taylor. Screenplay, Taylor, Michael J. Pagan.
Camera (color), Philip Lee; editors, James Coblentz, Howard Smith; music, Vincent Gillioz, Marcus Blanchard; production designer, George Goodridge; art director, Sean Veale; set decorator, Lisa Marinaccio; costume designer, Chasia. Reviewed on DVD, San Francisco, Sept. 30, 2010. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 97 MIN.
Nikki Reed, Michael J. Pagan, Noah Segan, Matt Cohen, Michael Bailey Smith, Cody Kasch, Betsy Russell, Cherilyn Wilson, Brad Dourif, Keith David.