You will be redirected back to your article in seconds


Thriller "Chatroom" tries to tap into anxieties about the online activities of contempo teens.

William - Aaron Johnson Eva - Imogen Poots Emily - Hannah Murray Mo - Daniel Kaluuya Jim - Matthew Beard Grace - Megan Dodds Si - Jacob Anderson Keisha - Rebecca McLintock Ripley - Richard Madden

Thriller “Chatroom” tries to tap into anxieties about the online activities of contempo teens, but the result is more likely to prompt auds to ROTFL than tremble in their seats. A second stab at feature-making in English after “The Ring 2” for J-horror maestro Hideo Nakata (the “Ringu” trilogy), pic has major bugs in its system, starting with the clunky script by Enda Walsh (based on his legit play) and running through to the cast’s shrill perfs. Nakata’s name and the presence of “Kick-Ass” star Aaron Johnson should help draw unique users initially at B.O., but traffic will be stronger on ancillary.

Pic’s most interesting device, amped up by crafty lensing and production design, is to unfold the story in two worlds: a stage-set virtual realm, which looks like a shabby-chic hotel where the characters meet when they’re online, and a “real” one using mostly London locations, where they actually live and spend most of their time typing on computers or thumbing their phones. Like “The Wizard of Oz,” it’s the imaginary space that’s more brightly colored and intense. In cyberspace, the characters even look and act differently, reflecting the way the medium allows users to improve their real personae.

It’s in this pseudo-dreamspace that disturbed teenager William (Johnson) sets up a chatroom granting access to four other troubled youngsters: Superficially confident model Eva (Imogen Poots) seethes with self-loathing and envy, mousy Emily (Hannah Murray) secretly hates her pushy parents, working-class Mo (Daniel Kaluuya) is wracked with shameful lust for his best friend’s 11-year-old sister, and terminally shy Jim (Matthew Beard) is a pill-popping wreck still nursing a childhood trauma.

As William manipulates the rest into exposing their deepest secrets and feelings, it gradually becomes clear that his sociopathic tendencies stem from yet another unhappy home. His mother (Megan Dodds) is the filthy-rich author of a “Harry Potter”-like kidlit series, who sowed some kind of pathological inferiority complex by naming her hero after William’s perfect older brother, Ripley (Richard Madden). Out of revenge, William makes stop-frame animated spoofs of the book (far too pro-looking to convince as the work of a lone teen, and deeply unfunny to boot).

Riffing on the ever-increasing volume of news stories about people who’ve committed suicide after being cyber-bullied, Walsh’s script crudely attempts to explore the sinister side of social networking. The problem is that the need for dramatic economy requires William to succeed in his puppetmaster machinations all too quickly to be plausible. One minute the kids are moaning about how their parents don’t understand them, and the next they’re smearing excrement on cars and acquiring guns.

Given that the only onscreen violence is self-inflicted, it would seem helmer Nakata is trying to transition from supernatural horror to psychological thriller. But clearly no one told his regular collaborators, including editor Masahiro Hirakubo and composer Kenji Kawai, because there are still plenty of shock cuts and creepy, scary movie music.

Cast seems similarly at sea, unsure of which level to pitch their perfs, resulting in a lot of irritating squealing to convey enthusiasm. Johnson, whose malleable features allow him to look completely different from one shot to the next, is consistently watchable, at least, as is the very striking Potts.

Production design in general reps one of pic’s strongest suits.



Production: A Film4, U.K. Film Council, WestEnd Films presentation, in association with Molinare, Universum, of a Ruby Films production. (International sales: WestEnd Films, London.) Produced by Laura Hastings-Smith, Alison Owen, Paul Trijbits. Directed by Hideo Nakata. Screenplay, Enda Walsh, based on his play.

Crew: Camera (Deluxe color), Benoit Delhomme; editor, Masahiro Hirakubo; music, Kenji Kawai; music supervisor, Matt Biffa; production designer, Jon Henson; supervising art director, Patrick Rolfe; art director, Gareth Cousins; set decorator, Robert Wischhusen-Hayes; costume designer, Julian Day; sound (Dolby Digital), David Lascelles; supervising sound editor, Paul Davies; re-recording mixers, Richard Davey, Chris Treble; animation, Daniel Stirrup; visual effects supervisor, Simon Carr; visual effects, Molinare (London); stunt coordinator, James O'Dee; assistant director, Marco Ciglia. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard), May 14, 2010. Running time: 97 MIN.

With: William - Aaron Johnson Eva - Imogen Poots Emily - Hannah Murray Mo - Daniel Kaluuya Jim - Matthew Beard Grace - Megan Dodds Si - Jacob Anderson Keisha - Rebecca McLintock Ripley - Richard MaddenWith: Matthew Ashforde, Dorothy Atkinson, Matthew Fenton, Elarica Gallacher, Nicholas Gleaves, Karin Ichihashi.

More Film

  • Atlantics

    Netflix Snags Worldwide Rights to Cannes Winners 'Atlantics,' 'I Lost My Body'

    Mati Diop’s feature directorial debut “Atlantics” and Jérémy Clapin’s animated favorite “I Lost My Body” have both been acquired by Netflix following wins at Cannes Film Festival. “Atlantics” was awarded the grand prix while “I Lost My Body” was voted the best film at the independent International Critics Week. The deals are for worldwide rights [...]

  • Stan Lee, left, and Keya Morgan

    Stan Lee's Former Business Manager Arrested on Elder Abuse Charges

    Stan Lee’s former business manager, Keya Morgan, was arrested in Arizona Saturday morning on an outstanding warrant from the Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPD’s Mike Lopez confirmed that the arrest warrant was for the following charges: one count of false imprisonment – elder adult; three counts of grand theft from elder or dependent adult, [...]

  • Moby attends the LA premiere of

    Moby Apologizes to Natalie Portman Over Book Controversy

    Moby has issued an apology of sorts after writing in his recently published memoir “Then It Fell Apart” that he dated Natalie Portman when she was 20 — a claim the actress refuted. “As some time has passed I’ve realized that many of the criticisms leveled at me regarding my inclusion of Natalie in Then [...]

  • Bong Joon-ho reacts after winning the

    Bong Joon-ho's 'Parasite' Wins the Palme d'Or at Cannes

    CANNES — The 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival wrapped with jury president Alejandro González Iñárritu announcing the group’s unanimous decision to award the Palme d’Or to South Korean director Bong Joon-ho for his sly, politically charged “Parasite.” Following last year’s win for humanistic Japanese drama “Shoplifters,” the well-reviewed Asian thriller represents the yin [...]

  • Invisible Life Brazilian Cinema

    Cannes Film Review: 'The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão'

    A “tropical melodrama” is how the marketing materials bill “The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão.” If that sounds about the most high-camp subgenre ever devised, Karim Aïnouz’s ravishing period saga lives up to the description — high emotion articulated with utmost sincerity and heady stylistic excess, all in the perspiring environs of midcentury Rio de [...]

  • Best Movies of Cannes 2019

    The 10 Best Movies of Cannes 2019

    The Cannes Film Festival is too rich an event to truly have an “off” year, but by the end of the 72nd edition, it was more or less universally acknowledged that the festival had regained a full-on, holy-moutaintop-of-art luster that was a bit lacking the year before. It helps, of course, to have headline-making movies [...]

  • Aladdin

    'Aladdin' Soaring to $100 Million-Plus Memorial Day Weekend Debut

    Disney’s live-action “Aladdin” remake is on its way to a commendable Memorial Day weekend debut with an estimated $109 million over the four-day period. The musical fantasy starring Will Smith and Mena Massoud should uncover about $87 million in its first three days from 4,476 North American theaters after taking in $31 million on Friday. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content