Today: April 21, 2024

Chatroom Cinema

When the original Ringu eventually made it’s way to western audiences
it tore their concept of viewing apart. Horror films to this point had
been scary, but the physical and phsychological between you and the
carnage meant walking away generally unscathed. So when a dank long
haired corpse drags herself through a TV set right up close and that
perception of time and space is shattered, nothing will quite be the
same again.
Hideo Nakata took the divide between a scene and
it’s specatator and toyed with the idea that it could be breeched, and
that will stay with your a hell of a lot longer than a man with an axe
and some long life grudge.

When this name is linked to a low budget teen “horror” film set in
North London then you would naturally do a double take. This is the equivalent of Scorcese announcing he is directing This Is England.
But then you find this isn’t the sort of torment you would find in an
old abandoned building. Or a lighthouse or a school. This is horror that
in fact doesn’t take place anywhere you can touch or physically exist
in. This is a horror film based almost entirely online; a series of
events that take place in this other dimension that knows absolutely no
boundaries and consequently could be catastrophic. Not such a rogue
auteur afterall then.

To clear up now, marketing aside, this isn’t really a horror. This
isn’t a case of killing off a string of teenage cliches in a bloody
torrent of angst. It is sinister though, and interweaving highly strung tension with cat and mouse play, suicide and unhinged mentalities.

The driving force and puppetmaster of this game is Aaron Johnson’s
William. Not a happy boy, we join William amidst a torrent of blame,
which he chooses to channel with by locking himself away, interacting
only with faceless companions and developing an unhealthy enjoyment for
the sheer emotional destruction that can accomplished through online

Wanting to experiment a little for himself, William establishes his
own chatroom and befriends a handful of fellow teens, the cast for which
you will have rarely seen outside late night E4 dramas and similaraly
low budget British films. And so the games begin. People fall in love,
people write on cars in foeces, people lose friends, people lose grip on
reality. And … sits back and watches, giddy at the heights of his

The transcendences of this online universe to a form a watchable
reality is a fascinating thing to behold and is well done, from the
emotive deliverence of colloquilal web chat by our characters to the
perceptions of what these spaces would look like if they were to
actually exist. Nakata is not coy in this respect, using pop art,
photography and vintage inspirations to create a canvass for the kids to
play against. If that wasn’t enough Kubrick style framing and
muted filters keep this tilted universe askew and keeps you distracted
from what could be a very superficial platform of communication. Because
that is essentially the films biggest risk. The concept of the Chatroom
is that it’s faceless and pacey; quick fire conversation with
the ocassional divulgent rant, all to be received without any clear
interpretation or clue of who this person may be. And this is also
Chatroom’s disadvantage, as here lies the opportunity to create central
characters with a multitude of layers and personas. Instead Nakata opts
to keep his teens simple and barefaced with the obvious acception of
Johnson’s deceiptful ringleader.

It’s clear from the moment that we sink into the mindset of William
that all does not bode well for Chatroom’s members. Johnson is
intriguing to watch, a little over sulky in places but gripping in
others and you wish more time was spent hinting as to how he got to this
terrible place. In light of this however his young pawns are nothing
more than the consequences of his hate, bringing little to the story
than a fistful of problems and the need for a leader. Their stories serve as no more than filler before the real plot begins to cascade,
following William’s fascination with fellow member Jim’s mental
unbalance and his ability to distort these insecurities to an unbearable
degree. The final act is fantastically tense as reality overtakes and
Willaim must meet his victim face to face to accomplish a bloody reward.
This is a big plus for the rest of the film taking place online; until
now these people have acted solely on the instruction of an online
persona, what would happen if the situation did evolve from beyond a

Opening up a new genre in this latest rash of internet movies (The Social Network, Catfish
et al) Chat Room is a fresh take on the thriller/horror hybrid and the
collision between spaces. Johnson is an agreeable poster boy for self
destruction and whereas the support could do with a little more meat
you’re too distracted by the concept to care too much. Nikata is
combines conventional entrapment methods and a sincere vision of if
these chat rooms were ever to formulate to create an effective vision
that stands outside teenage audiences and paves the way for intellegent internet movies.

Marcia Degia - Publisher

Marcia Degia, who has worked in the media industry for more than 20 years, is the Publishing Editor of KOL Social Magazine. See website:

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