- Director – Hideo Nakata
- Starring – Aaron Johnson, Imogen Poots, Matthew Beard, Hannah Murray, Daniel Kaluuya
- Written – Edna Walsh
- Year – 2010
- Running Time – 97 mins
Director Hideo Nakata is best well known for Ringu, a chilling tale of a mysterious video which kills anyone who watches it and was in many ways the catalyst for Hollywood remaking Japanese horror. Ringu was remade as The Ring, with Naomi Watts, quickly followed by Ju-on, remade as The Grudge starring Buffy. In both cases the Hollywood remake is not a patch on the original. And this is what Chatroom feels like, a cheap and rushed Hollywood remake. However this time there is no precursor.
Let’s start with the good stuff though. At the heart of Chatroom there is an interesting and potentially compelling premise. The internet is the one place which offers true anonymity and Nakata portrays this via an innovative physical visualisation of the online world, focussing on the chatroom arena. You watch the characters make their way down long corridors filled with stereotypical internet users deep in conversation with each other. You see couples getting busy who clearly don’t match the physical description they are giving each other, alongside the more sinister picture of grown adults talking with young children.
Along the corridors there are a number of different doors, each the gateway into a different chatroom. Once inside Nakata films the interactions as physical encounters, with each character sat on a chair facing the others, in something akin to a group counselling session. The occasional flashbacks to the users sat at their computers keeps us grounded in the real world and works well in demonstrating how some characters, but not all, portray themselves in a very different light online.
However this interesting premise is let down by a poorly constructed script and distinct lack of character development. The dialogue between the group at their first encounter feels incredibly forced and the ease with which William (Aaron Johnson – post Kick Ass) leads the group into sharing their most intimate secrets is far too rushed. The secrets which each member chooses to share are cliched at best and ill thought through and borderline offensive at worst. They are clearly constructed in an attempt to deal with the dangers associated with the internet such as sexual predators and teen suicide, but it does so in such a clumsy and misjudged manner that whatever message it is trying to portray is simply lost.
In a film with effectively only 5 characters there should be enough scope within the script to bring each character to a satisfying conclusion. Unfortunately this is not the case here, with the film quickly focussing on the relationship between William and Jim (Matthew Beard) so leaving the other three characters floating in the wind. There is simply no effort made to resolve their sub plots and all three feel significantly short changed.
I was left sorely disappointed by Chatroom. Through its cliched characters and lack of plot development you are left with what feels like a hollow shell of a film. With a director of the pedigree of Nakata and a premise of real potential, this should have been better. In fact it needs remake.
Review by Will Malone
If you liked Chatroom, then try Carnage