Chatroom DVD Review
Directed by Hideo Nakata
Written by Enda Walsh
2010, Region 2 (PAL), 97 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 25th April 2010
Aaron Johnson as William
Imogen Poots as Eva
Matthew Beard as Jim
Hannah Murray as Emily
Daniel Kaluuya as Mo
Think of Hideo Nakata, the man behind Ringu, Ringu 2 and Dark Water, and you’ll most probably be imagining spooky Japanese horror movies featuring white-faced female ghosts. You might not immediately think of a bunch of dysfunctional teenagers from London, but that’s exactly what you get with his latest offering, Chatroom.
William (Aaron Johnson) is a troubled teen. He’s just finishing up a round of therapy to emotionally reconnect him to his long-suffering parents. Most of his free time is spent online and, while his virtual persona is sociable and outgoing, he has much darker plans in mind. He creates a chatroom called Chelsea Teens! and sits back to see who turns up to chat. His prey comes in the form of Eva, a fashion model with a vicious streak, Jim, a medicated neurotic, Emily, who craves the attention of her upper-class parents and finally Mo, a teen troubled by his attraction to his best friend’s 11-year old sister.
Going by Nakata’s past works, this is an entirely new direction. Gone are all traces of supernatural elements and in their place are the undeniably evil abilities of the human mind. William is a classic sociopath; every action he takes is carefully orchestrated to cause maximum suffering for his victims. As the gregarious and charming leader of the group he bides his time, weeding out the weakest and most susceptible character (Jim) and targeting him. Along the way he’s happy to cause trouble for Emily, Eva and Mo, but none endures the torment that Jim does.
What makes Chatroom so chilling is the fact that cases like this have been documented. Some in urban myth I’m sure, but many similar scenarios have actually unfolded in the dark underbelly of the internet. There have been internet-based horrors and thrillers in the past (My Little Eye, DeathTube etc.) but most opt for the outlandish pay-per-view-snuff scenario, whereas Chatroom feels entirely real.
An excellent cast of young actors has been assembled for the movie, but Aaron Johnson is the most prominent name on the bill. His past work has included a number of films I’d have to describe as “typically British”, with the notable exception being the superhero wanna-be romp Kick-Ass, where he took the lead role. That character is a complete contrast to William, his role here, which he plays superbly, having exactly the right mix of charm and malevolence with the ability to turn either on when required.
The film is visually impressive too. Rather than take the option of shooting endless scenes of the characters typing away at computer screens, Nakata has created an entirely new world to represent the chatroom. When the characters are online, they inhabit an aged but colourful building, somewhat like a hotel. While many ‘chatters’ gather in the lobby, there are countless doors off into different rooms where any and every whim is catered for. Most of what we see is, on the face of it, harmless, but in later scenes we begin to witness the more sinister corners of these communities. The contrast between the online and offline worlds is handled magnificently; when logged on, the characters and their virtual surroundings are presented in vivid colour, everyone is handsome and well-dressed, outgoing and friendly. Once disconnected, the film’s colour palette shifts to one that is pale and drab, reflecting the characters’ true lives. Only when they live online do they live in a perfect world.
Chatroom is a new experience for me. It is a film that has no supernatural elements, but still manages to chill to the bone with the pure evil of the human condition. See it, and then think about what your kids might be getting up to when messing about online.
Video and Audio:
Video is clear with no signs of any problems. Colours vary between rich and powerful, to pale and subdued depending on whether the characters are online and off, and every scene matches the mood perfectly. Presented in anamorphic 1.85:1 The audio is similarly solid, although not much is asked of it by the story. A good, full sound field puts the viewer in the middle of the crowded lobbies of the chatrooms.
Special Features on both DVD and Blu Ray are as follows:
- Cast & Crew Interviews
- Behind the Scenes B-Roll
- What is Chelsea Teens?
- Enda introduces the characters
- Cast & Crew Diary
- Cast song
- Pimp my Trailer
- Deleted Scenes