According to him, the web is a creaky hive of corrupt activity, presented here as a sort of rundown motel where each room is a portal to a person’s online identity. Sex, violence, depravity; it’s all housed here.
And it’s here that depressed teen William (Aaron Johnson) sets up his own chatroom, drawing the attention of fellow London loners. Among them are depressed Jim (Matthew Beard) and depressed Eva (Imogen Poots). Everybody online is terribly depressed, but things turn sinister when William decides to act out his suicidal fantasies by pushing Jim to the very limit.
It’s technology gone wrong again for Nakata, whose 1998 film Ringu made everybody afraid to watch unlabelled videos for fear that a black-tressed contortionist would crawl out of the telly. But there’s none of the shuffling terror of the director’s previous chillers here, Chatroom proving infinitely more muscular and direct than his ghostlier efforts.
With its polished, too-easy psychology and pleasingly chipped aesthetic, Chatroom is neither the techno-thriller it wants to be, nor a complete system arrest. Secondary characters with one-sentence issues prove inconsequential, but Johnson and Beard deliver invested turns.
In the end, Nakata’s notion of a web gone wild has moments of visual merit, but is a little too clinical and coldly cynical.
Anticipation: J-Horror master Hideo Nakata makes his second English language movie – with 2010’s hot ticket Aaron Johnson. 3
Enjoyment: It all looks great, and Aaron’s got attitude in buckets, but isn’t everything rather shallow and obvious? 3
Web-savvy teens should lap it up, but Chatroom suffers when compared to David Fincher’s more refined The Social Network. 2