Signature Entertainment breathes new life into a timely, criminally underrated gem from the past decade, Chatroom. Directed by Hideo Nakata, best known for popular J-Horror’s Ringu (1998), Ringu 2 (1999) and Dark Water (2002) plus the US remake, The Ring 2 (2005), Chatroom lures us into the dark and seedy underbelly of the internet communication world, in a valuable age-old lesson of, be careful who you trust online. The film marks early career entries for many now-renowned actors and actresses, including, Imogen Poots (Vivarium), Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Hannah Murray (Skins, Game of Thrones) with Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass, Avengers: Age of Ultron) and Matthew Beard (The Imitation Game) taking the lead roles.
Troubled William (Taylor-Johnson) creates a chatroom known as “Chelsea Teens”. He lures four teenagers into the room, all distributing contrasting personalities. Jim (Beard), Eva (Poots), Mo (Kaluuya), and Emily (Murray) quickly become addicted to their secret online space, prioritising it over their everyday lives and allowing it to impact how they function in the real world. Unbeknown to them, William is harboring a dark agenda that threatens devastating consequences.
Chatroom is imaginative, twisted, and isn’t afraid to venture into some dark and disturbing places, making it a bold entry into the teen cyber genre, which has grown prominently in recent years due to the successful Unfriended films.
Nakata has created a visual feast for the eyes, cleverly differentiating between the real world and the cyber world. The real world is shown as grey and bleak, while the cyber world is vibrant, brash, and garish, juxtaposing how the teens view their real-life to being online as a seemingly more attractive prospect. The surreal way the chatroom setting is depicted is an incredibly clever allegory. By featuring the actors physically together, it evokes the sense that they do feel like a united group even though they are hiding behind a screen and have never physically crossed paths before. Compared to the cyber horror of later years where the action is shot from the perspective of the computer screen, Chatroom stands apart, offering an interesting and memorable concept.
Chatroom is deeply intense and contains possible triggering themes of sexual exploitation, self-harm, depression, and suicide. It doesn’t hold back in depicting the cruel, superficial world of online communication and the impact it has on vulnerable teens, a theme that undoubtedly resonates to this day since the evolution of social media over the past decade. There is some humour included lightening the overall bleak tone which borders on satire, but overall this is a dark and menacing film.
There are sure-fire, powerhouse performances in the film, it’s no surprise that the young actors went on to become so successful later in their careers, each proving convincing as the vulnerable, insecure and disturbed teens. Beard delivers an emotional performance as the social outcast with abandonment issues and Taylor-Johnson’s William maliciously feeds on this. It is heart-racing to watch as William manipulates Jim into feeling worse about himself, chipping away at him. Daniel Kaluuya plays a brave role at a young age, as his character Mo displays unconventional, disturbing tendencies at 17. Imogen Poots is the popular girl who naively thinks her acquaintance with William will transform her into a better person, while Hannah Murray’s Emily is the sheltered girl who obtains a rebellious streak to create chaos in her mundane life.
Chatroom premiered in Cannes back in 2010, it was then acquired by British distributor, Revolver Entertainment for a late 2010 release. The film was met with a mostly negative reception from critics, however ten years on with a fresh perspective, the film has the potential to reach a new audience thanks to its star billing and depictions of internet danger which is amplified in today’s modern society. Chatroom features some impressive stop-motion animation sequences and a nostalgic soundtrack from the era.
Chatroom is a film that deserves a second chance in 2020.
Signature Entertainment presents Chatroom on Amazon Prime from July 3rd.