Chatroom is the latest movie from Ring director Hideo Nakata, but is it any good? Here’s Nick’s review…

Published on Dec 20, 2010

Billed as ‘the anti-social network’, Chatroom is, sadly, just anti-social.

A UK-based internet thriller directed by horror legend Hideo Nakata, and starring one of this year’s most promising young stars Aaron Johnson, this should have been at least interesting, if not a minor cult classic. Instead, it is just a truly terrible film that somehow manages to waste all the talent involved.

The premise is this: four teenagers, Jim (Matthew Beard), Eva (Imogen Poots), Emily (Hannah Murray), and Mo (Daniel Kaluuya) meet online in an internet chatroom called Chelsea Teens. There, they meet the creator of the site, William (Aaron Johnson), who on first appearance seems completely charming, charismatic and intriguing.

He is able to help the four strangers with their own personal problems, but it is soon revealed that William is not to be trusted. A troubled teen himself with a history of self-violence and depression, he is in fact manipulating the four for his own twisted games, and then begins to focus on Jim, in who he senses a similarity that can be exploited.

The problems are these. The entire look and feel of the production reeks of a bad student film, as if someone has watched Skins a bit too much and decided what it really needs is to be remade as a thriller about an outdated internet technology that no one has really used since the days of dial-up. The scenes of the teens conversing online are, to be fair, handled in quite an interesting way: it is played out as an alternate reality where the emotions of the characters are reflected in the bright colours and lighting of what seems to be a shabby hotel.

This is a refreshing change to the high-tech sophistication common to most other pieces dealing with this subject matter. However, like a lot of the film, what could have been a great idea is ruined by the execution. In many cases this is a complete lack of subtlety. William is revealed not to be a complete monster, but a very troubled boy who has turned down a dark path. In a scene in the Internet world where he is in an illegal chatroom where users verbally abuse others, he is shown watching from the sidelines with a backdrop of red wings behind him. Because you know, he’s like the devil now… yawn.