The Unsocial Network
First thing to get off my chest, if anyone tells you "Chatroom" is a horror movie don't believe them, it may try to be a psychological thriller but it most certainly isn't a horror. Now I did say it may try to be a psychological thriller because it does have a concept which could be a good psychological thriller, that of a teen so disillusioned with his own life he manipulates those he tempts into an internet chatroom to ease his own pain. But whilst the concept to "Chatroom" is good as is the physical visualisation of the world of the internet what actually happens is messy, boring and seriously troubled rather than troubling as I am sure the intention was. It does have its moments and for the first 20 minutes or so "Chatroom" is intriguing and strangely entertaining but then it just fails to the point that following becomes hard work.
In the real world William (Aaron Johnson - Nowhere Boy) is a loner, unable to talk to his family who he hates preferring to live online where he sets up his own chatroom and makes friends with Jim (Matthew Beard), Eva (Imogen Poots - 28 Weeks Later), Mo (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emily (Hannah Murray) all of which take to William's online confidence and opinions. But William is a boy with ulterior motives, a calculating manipulator looking to take out his own troubles on those he tricks into liking and trusting him online, especially the depressed Jim who opens up to him.
I mentioned that for the first 20 minutes "Chatroom" is intriguing and to be honest most of that is down to the visual way it represents the world of the internet and chatrooms. Basically we have a corridor and behind each door is a different chatroom, some where people are bullied, others where girls act girlie and the noise from everyone speaking fills the air at the same time. It works well as it mixes this visual representation of the internet with the real world where people chat via computers in their rooms or on their mobile phones. It's even darkly funny as some of the seedier aspects of the internet are covered, such as older men pretending to be something which they are not and getting caught out. Even the way the main characters speak in the first 20 minutes, short burst of over emotive dialogue works well in representing the bursts of chat on the internet.
The trouble is that once you get past the first 20 minutes where as along side establishing this visual representation of the internet chatroom culture we meet the main characters it becomes dull. And the trouble is that whilst we have this storyline of William manipulating those who join him in his chat room especially the lonely, quiet Jim it seems to lose itself. For a thriller it doesn't really become exciting and with the line between chatting in the chat room and the real world becoming muddied as people meet it sort of becomes confusing.
Maybe the intention was to highlight the fake ness of the cyber world, how people are not what they seem, that some have ulterior motives but because we have this dressed up with William's almost sadistic game of manipulating people it just doesn't feel right. And for a thriller it's not at all exciting which is a shame as for those first 20 minutes "Chatroom" has so much promise, from the visual representation to the variety of characters. Even the dark humour about internet sex rooms works as is the visual representation of a chatroom for those who enjoy role playing games.
Now when "Chatroom" becomes messy it has one saving grace and that is Aaron Johnson as William because his performance alone manages to keep you watching. The way he charms people as he talks to them online, the evil look from under his fringe as he manipulates them makes you want to watch. Yet he is just as interesting in the real world, an unhappy teen who hates his family, who lives almost silently and in his room away from his parents. Maybe because Johnson really stands out that the rest of the cast which includes Imogen Poots, Daniel Kaluuya, Hannah Murray and Matthew Beard fail to deliver believable characters or maybe they struggled with the messy storyline.
What this all boils down to is that "Chatroom" has a good idea but fails to explore it to its full potential. For about the first 20 minutes it all works and the visualization of the internet chatroom scene is brilliant but after that the only thing which keeps you watching is Aaron Johnson's performances as a psychologically troubled teen.