VOD film review: Chatroom
James R | On 28, Nov 2015
Director: Hideo Nakata
Cast: Aaron Taylor Johnson, Imogen Poots, Hannah Murray, Daniel Kaluuya, Matthew Beard
Oh, the wonders of the Internet, which allows you to be who you want to be, say what you want to say, and do what you want to do. Luckily, online chatrooms exist to bring to life their most vivid dreams. Unluckily, Chatroom brings them to life in a way that feels 10 years out of time.
That’s the main problem with Hideo Nakata’s thriller: everything feels so dated. Picturing the Internet as a corridor full of rooms is a little old-hat, but covering it in faded wallpaper and coloured lights ages it further in a way that’s intentional yet unfortunately apt. It’s hard to believe this is directed by the horror maestro who brought the world Ringu. The use of VHS there gave things an eerie, old-fashioned feel. The use of a chatroom here just feels old.
Pity poor Aaron Johnson, then, as William, a screwed up individual who takes sadistic pleasure in steering other teens towards suicide. He’s got a good group to choose from: there’s Jim (Beard), who mumbles a lot and depends upon anti-depressants, Emily (Murray), the do-gooder who wants more love from her parents, Eva (Poots), a spoilt wannabe model, and Mo (Kaluuya), who fancies younger girls.
Adapted from Enda Walsh’s play by Walsh herself, Chatroom is a little bit of a mess. There are interesting ideas floating in cyberspace (if you ignore the contrived dialogue), but most are lost in the web of over-staged boredom. Small moments – such as the forced suicide of a young boy amidst a group of shouting tormentors – are effective and unsettling, but a young man who preys on other’s insecurities? It doesn’t feel like the revelation about online bullying it wants to be.
You can’t help but think they should have kept the original script’s length of 60 minutes, instead of padding it out to a fluffed 90. Everyone involved is better than this, especially Enda, who wrote Hunger before this. Compared to that, this is like a feature-length outing for that woman off the AOL adverts.