Movie Review for Chain Mail

Commerce Trumps Story in ‘Chain Mail’

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Chain Mail begins with a jeepney crashing into an Internet cafe, leading to the death of Anne (Nadine Lustre), who at the time was reading emails. Following her death, Anne's closest friend Sandra (Shy Carlos) begins seeing strange apparitions of a mutilated body. Other people see this apparition as well, and those who do seem to die soon after. Sandra and the people around her suspect that the deaths have something to do with a chain letter that's being passed around among their group of friends.

It feels a little strange to be in 2015 watching a movie about an email chain letter. Just on a premise level, the story feels terribly behind the times, playing on fears that just aren't there anymore. But even if one manages get past the anachronistic concept, one is left with a horror movie that seems to have no sense of rhythm or restraint. It leans heavily on one particular visual that loses its punch the more it's used. The film feels like a random assembly rather than a complete vision.

The movie can't even really decide on what it wants to put in focus. The story bears a surplus of characters, many of them existing simply to be fed to the film's central threat. The movie will stray from the main thread in order to check on some other poor hapless soul that received the email, and subsequently has them die in some predictably horrific way. It's difficult to care about any of this, since these are just random characters that don't really have much to do with the drama that the film orchestrates.

And what drama it is. There are no less than two romantic subplots, one of which involves a long history of heartbreak that the audience is not privy to. The other involves baggage that the film does not care to unpack. And then there is the matter of the family drama occurring in the house of the two main characters, their parents locked in a battle that leads to an instance of abuse that is never really addressed. The film tacks on too much, throwing out stories that will never the development they need to matter.

It all feels like a corporate mandate. These characters should have these stories because the talents need something to do besides scream at horrific things. That's what this all really seems to be, the film just a clunky attempt at corporate synergy, providing a platform for their budding talents to get some screen time. To this end, they stick Nadine Lustre in there to get her fans in the cinemas, even though it's clear that they couldn't really get her for long enough to actually shoot her with the rest of this cast. If this film is meant to launch stars, it's a real failure. Everyone in this film is pretty bad, though that might just be a consequence of the scattershot, emotionally confused storytelling.

To its credit, Chain Mail at least manages to look fairly okay. This isn't Albert Banzon's best work by far, but his cinematography will always be a pleasure regardless of context. But that's the best one can really say about this movie. It isn't scary. It isn't affecting. It doesn't even make any sense. Its climax is a genuine mess, the film clearly trying to dig its way out of a bottomless narrative hole, leading to ridiculous sequences that make the characters look like complete morons. It doesn't feel like anyone really wanted to make this film, but it exists because of how the industry is run. It's all about showcasing young stars. Making a good movie is a secondary concern.

My Rating:

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