Chatroom (2010): The World Weird Web

Made in 2010 and directed by Hideo Nakata (the directorial genius who brought us Ringu, The Ring 2 and Dark Water just to mention a few) Chatroom is a small budgeted British thriller set in the virtual chat rooms that still fill the internet.

Aaron Johnson (having just finished working on Kick Ass) and Imogen Poots (28 Weeks Later, Fright Night 2011) head up the talented cast of youngster who populate the film.

Chatroom is primarily about William (Johnson) a teenager with a penchant for self harm and a disturbed personality. He is very smart and manipulative. He logs on the net and starts searching different chat rooms to see what is on offer. Not liking any of the rooms he visits he decides to start his own chat room, Chelsea Teens.

Chelsea Teens has no real agenda, instead  it focuses on the teens who visit the room and the aspect of their lives that they hate. It’s a place for them to unload. It soon turns into a place where they reveal more information about themselves than they should.

Nakata follows the screenplay by  Enda Walsh who wrote it originally as a stage play, she then adapted it for the screen. Watching the film, it looks very like a stage play. Static sets which the character can move through. Most of the action takes place in the room that represents the Chelsea Teens chat room. Very little of the film takes place out of these huge and empty rooms that represent the different rooms on the net.

That is the genius of the film and it’s setting. By creating the chat rooms as a ‘real’ setting it allows us the audience to feel what the teens are feeling when they interact in the room. All the members of the chat room sit or interact in the room as if they were really there and not typing questions, statements, and responses on a keyboard somewhere.

William sets about building up his Chelsea Teens members by entering other chat rooms and talking the odd member into entering his room. He gets Eva (Poots), Emily (Hannah Murray), Mo (Daniel Kaluuya) and Jim (Matthew Beard) to join. What these new members don’t know is that William doesn’t want to be their friend at all. He is there to create chaos and is trying to see how far his chat room ‘friends’ will follow him.

He gets one member to tell his best friend that he sexually fancies his  under age sister. He tells another to flush his antidepressants down the toilet and stop taking them. All the advice and guidance he hands out is bad or at the very least not very helpful.

William has also discovered another chat room that he begins visiting on a regular basis. This room seems to be dedicated to cyber bullying and each time William returns the intensity of the bullying increases until the victim kills himself. As with every thing else referring to the chat room verse, we see the actual people bullying the helpless victim in person. We see the people and the victim and their actions and reactions, live.

Visibly impressed by the power he has witnessed in the cyber bullying room William decides that he is going to pick the weakest member of his group and get him to kill himself.

This is an amazingly powerful film. Johnson as William turns in a brilliant performance as the evil minded damaged teen who wants to punish the world. Poots is stellar as his ‘on-line’ girlfriend who decides to aid him in his nefarious plots and Beard is spot on as the lad who has to have antidepressants to get through his life.

The film won’t be for everyone. In fact the overall verdict for this film by just about everyone is bad. I think this film was panned by just about every critic there is and public reaction was poor. I honestly can’t figure out why.

The use of the ‘hotel’ rooms to represent the chat rooms and enabling the actors to interact with each other in the rooms really brings home how intimate these chat rooms can be. The set design was great. Each room was dressed as a dowdy and pretty much empty rooms that looked more like warehouse spaces than actual rooms.

When William was cruising the other chat rooms, each room had set dressing to fit the particular type of chat room it was. Eva’s chat  room has her modelling pictures all over the wall and a huge frilly girls bed.

I would give this film a 2 bagger rating. I gobbled the stuff compulsively while watching this film. I didn’t want to look away from the screen for fear that I’d miss something.

Nakata and his cast have shown just how scary and dangerous the internet can be. They do this so well that you could change the www to mean the World Weird Web. So be careful who you interact with, it could be another William.

Aaron Johnson
Aaron Johnson (Photo credit: nick step)


Kick Ass (2012): Music to Kick Ass To

Directed, Produced and co-written by Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake , Stardust) Kick Ass is entertainment with a capitol E. This fast-paced, tongue-in-cheek film is pure adrenaline pumping action and heart-string pulling re-action. Kick Ass was the film that almost died before it got made. Vaughn touted his screenplay (co-written with Jane GoldmanMark Millar, and  John Romita Jr.) to every major studio in Hollywood. Nobody wanted to touch it. Eventually Vaughn funded the $30,000,000  budget himself by holding a fund-raising dinner. He then sold the film to Universal for more than he had originally asked for.
Kick Ass was based on a comic book created by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. that Vaughn had purchased the film rights to before the comic was even published in 2008. In essence the film is about Dave Lizewski who decides to become a super hero known as Kick-Ass.  English actor Aaron Johnson does a brilliant job as Lezewski/Kick-Ass. Lezewski gets badly injured the first time he tries to “be” a superhero. He gets stabbed and run over by a car, which ironically drives off after hitting Kick-Ass. But for Kick-Ass this incident has been a blessing in disguise, something has happened to his nerve endings making him highly tolerant of pain.
Unfortunately because he was brought into the hospital naked, word gets around his school that Dave is gay. Although he is not, it works in his favour with the girl he has had a crush on for years, Katie Deauxma (Lyndsy Fonseca). It is through his friendship with Katie, that Kick-Ass first meets Hit Girl and Big Daddy. Dave (as his alter ego, Kick-Ass) goes to a drug dealers apartment to get him to leave Katie alone. Just after he ‘tasers” the drug pusher in the forehead (quite a comical shot considering the scene) an eleven year old girl wearing a purple leotard, with a cape and wearing a mask and a purple wig shoves a sword right through the drug dealer. This is Hit Girl – played brilliantly by young actress Chloë Grace Moretz who was surely born to play this part.  When he falls to the ground dead, Hit Girl looks at the remaining people in the room and says, “Okay you c**ts. Let’s see what you can do now.” After playing eanie meani minii moe, she picks a target and starts killing all the bad guys in the room. This all takes place while the song ‘Banana Splits’ by The Dickies plays full blast. It is this scene that became the defining moment for me in the film. It made me sit up and really pay attention to the soundtrack.
I could continue to write out plot points and scenes from the film, but that would be, if anything, repetitious and just another fans vision of the film. Instead I want to talk about defining moments in the film as dictated by the soundtrack.
The use of music in this film was nothing short of genius.  At the beginning of the film, when Dave is working on ‘becoming’ the hero that will be known as Kick-Ass (or as Big Daddy [Nicolas Cage] wryly observes while watching KA get tromped by a group of baddies, “He should be called Ass Kicked) the music is large and motivational “Stand Up” by The Prodigy is the back drop provided for Kick-Ass. Variations of the music are played throughout the film as Kick-Ass’s theme song. When we meet Hit Girl, the music becomes playful and fun, “The Banana Splits” by The Dickies. The music for Hit Girls introductory scene shows that this young girl sees all this death dealing as a fun game. She has been taught how to be a lethal killing machine by her loving father, Big Daddy. But to give Big Daddy credit in his search for revenge for the death of Hit Girl’s mother and his wife, and for being sent to prison by the Drug Baron Frank D’Amico (played superbly by  English actor Mark Strong) he has made the vengeance quest into a ‘game’ even going to the lengths of detailing D’Amico, his crimes and his henchmen in a comic book.
The next scene in the film that uses music to great affect is when Kick-Ass meets Red-Mist, in reality the son of D’Amico who is trying to ensnare Kick-Ass for his dad. The two “superheroes” bond as they drive to a lumber yard to help a damsel in distress. The song “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley plays as the boys cruise in the Mist Mobile and it helps the two boys relate to each other. It is a brilliant scene.
The scene of Big Daddy slaughtering D’Amico’s men in the lumber yard is almost show stopping. The movement of Big Daddy is in slow motion to start and then speeds up as the killing continues, it is like ballet. Rhythmic and splendidly choreographed. All this action takes place while the music  “In The House, In A Heartbeat” originally used in the  Brit-Horror film 28 Days Later… plays, it is another master stroke. The music itself creates feelings of loss, melancholy and fear. As the song continues it speeds up, gets louder and invokes almost a feeling of being damned and panicked. The use of this music as a backdrop to the mechanical death strikes by Big Daddy creates one of the most memorable scenes in a film.
When Hit Girl goes to rescue Big Daddy and Kick-Ass from D’Amico’s henchmen it is to Kanada’s Death, Pt. 2 (Adagio In D Minor) originally used in Danny Boyle’s film SunshineThis track is called Strobe on the soundtrack. This scene with the combination of music, action and the sight of Big Daddy being burned alive, shouting short instructions to his daughter always moves me to tears. I’m not talking about little sniffles here, I’m talking about ‘hurting your throat’ sobbing.
The next place that Vaughn uses existing music to great effect is when Hit Girl goes to kill D’Amico. The entire sequence from Hit Girl’s entrance to D’Amicos headquarters to her entrapment in the kitchen sans ammo is perfect. The opening of this sequence sees Hit Girl dressed in her ‘street clothes’ standing outside of a revolving door. The door is to the downstairs lobby of Frank D’Amico’s building. The music playing is Ennio Morricone’s “Per Qualche Dollaro in Più” from the film For a Few Dollars More. The direct reference to the “Man With No Name” is deliberate and it works beautifully as this music plays while Mindy (Hit Girl) kills the henchmen in the downstairs lobby. The music fades as she gets ready to take the elevator up to Franks floor. When the elevator opens Mindy has changed into her Hit Girl outfit, while the music plays ( “No Power, No Responsibility”  by Henry Jackman) Hit Girl silently takes out the three guards outside the elevator, except for the last one. A single gunshot warns her prey that she is coming. She slides behind a statue and get her self pumped up for what is going to happen next. This goes on while the opening guitar music to “Kryptonite” by 3 Doors Down plays. When Hit girl starts her epic gun battle down the long corridor the song “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett cranks out at full blast. I defy anyone to not shout or at the very least get goosebumps while watching this scene.
And of course the penultimate scene of the film, when Kick-Ass flies to Hit Girls rescue on the Jet Pack/Gatling gun to the strains of Elvis singing “An American Trilogy” is the ultimate show stopper. That magical Elvis Presley voice accentuated  with the slow motion sound of the Gatling Gun blowing the last three of Frank’s goons away, is a brilliantly shot moment.
Matthew Vaughn is now gearing up for Kick-Ass 2. I am hoping he can match the genius that he gave the world with Kick-Ass. I would love to see all the players come back to reprise their roles. Although Batman imitating Nicolas Cage (Big Daddy) can’t come back, cos he’s dead. But more importantly I hope that they don’t lose that near perfect musical scoring that worked to such a genius level on Kick-Ass.