Review by Jack Foley
IN PLAY form, Enda Walsh’s Chatroom proved a massive success for The National Theatre, where it was praised for having its finger on the button of current youth issues. That was in 2006.
Fast forward almost five years and Hideo Nakata’s film update, based on an adapted screenplay by Walsh, struggles to hold the same interest or relevance given the way that online forums have moved on.
Hence, Chatroom offers very little to disturb now and is notable only for seeing an engaging young British cast stake a claim for either becoming the next big things, or furthering burgeoning reputations.
Aaron (Kick-Ass/Nowhere Boy) Johnson heads the cast as William, a psychologically unstable teenager who likes to lure fellow teenagers into a chatroom, where he can befriend and then destroy them. Far from empowering his colleagues, he intends to set up a suicide club.
Caught in his online web (so to speak) are Imogen Poots’ bored, insecure Eva, Hannah Murray’s shy Emily, Daniel Kaluuya’s sexually unsure Mo and – most significantly – Matthew Beard’s nervy, painfully impressionable Jim.
But as the group slowly becomes aware of Matthew’s real intentions for Jim they frantically attempt to meet each other in real life in order to try and prevent his grim plan unfolding.
Early on, Nakata’s film engages viewers by virtue of the way in which the cast slowly reveal themselves and their insecurities, while allowing Johnson the opportunity to slowly develop his wicked plan.
As such, the interplay between Johnson and Poots and Johnson and Beard is particularly effective, with all three enhancing their growing reputations. Former Skins star Murray also does good work.
But the longer the film lasts, the more the film’s weaknesses and inconsistencies become apparent, with situations feeling increasingly contrived and Nakata failing to deliver the shock value that is more commonly associated with his Japanese horror material.
The issues and points raised about the dangers of the Internet feel obvious, too, and sometimes outdated, while the frantic finale fails to carry the emotional weight that viewers may have been anticipating.
What’s left is a film based on good ideas that fails to realise most of its potential.
Running time: 97mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: April 25, 2011
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Matthew Beard interview
- Imogen Poots interview
- Hannah Murray interview
- Chatroom Photo Gallery