Thursday 14 April 2011


Now on DVD and Blu-Ray is this thriller from Hideo Nakata, the director of The Ring. Watch the trailer and read my review, next...

Looking to find some friends online, a group of angst ridden youths decide to meet up in a chatroom called 'Chelsea Teens'. Run by troubled teen William (Kick-Ass' Aaron Johnson), he soon tries to take control of the lives of his online friends to feed his pre-occupation with death. When the rest of the group realise what William's up to, is it too late to stop him from hurting them?

Obviously, a steady stream of pointless information is hardly the most exciting thing to watch (if you need further proof just check me out on twitter), so instead the information super-highway has been transformed into a dingy corridor, off of which stands a Dogville-type room where all the main actors can interact more easily. Which of course leads to Aaron Johnson trying to liven things up a bit by jumping around the room doing handstands and generally making a bit of a fool of himself.

Rather than a free exchange of ideas, the internet has been typecast as a haven for cyber-bullying, paedophilia and hatred, the latter of which Aaron Johnson's main character doles out aplenty. William is a tremendously unlikeable character, obsessed with death and full of unnecessary anger towards his wealthy parents. You're just hoping they'll take his computer away and tell him to stop being such a spoilt little bastard. The other main characters all have their own issues to deal with, but as William starts to use them like pawns in his big mopey game of death, their stories get pushed to the sidelines.

It's a big 'yoof culture' mess, and those characters who aren't seemingly based on ones from Skins are played by actors who once were in Skins. It's a shame as there is a talented young cast here, but this attempt to appeal to a young audience comes across as a crass talking down to. As for the gimmick of recreating the online experience with garishly decorated rooms, a nice piece of set design it may be, but it really doesn't work on film. Based on Enda Walsh's play of the same name, I can see how the setup would have been a necessity on one stage, but given the control and power that cinema has given us (basic editing, really) it just seems a bit of a daft trick.

The fact that this film comes from the director of The Ring/Ringu is quite ironic really, as I'm pretty sure the concept of setting up your own chatroom was redundant before the death of VHS. It's rather indicting that the IMDb lists three other films with the name Chatroom, from way back in 2003, 2004 and 2005, and although I'm sure when the original stage version of this was performed in 2005 there was still some cultural resonance, in an age of streamlined social networking via Facebook, Twitter, Bebo, Myspace etc, the idea just seems thoroughly archaic.

Although it has an intriguing concept, Chatroom quickly turns into an uncomfortable and dull experience, and one about as technologically insightful as Weird Science was. Driven by an outrageously angst-ridden performance by Aaron Johnson, Chatroom carries all the threat of someone trying to shut your laptop before you've had a chance to close down your applications properly.


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