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)

 

Life After Death…As a Robot?

Rhett & Link
Rhett & Link (Photo credit: rhettandlink)

I’ve just finished watching a very funny video on YouTube from Rhett and Link (very funny guys). My daughter had just watched it and wanted to show me part of it.

The title of the video was Live Forever Online. The bit that she showed me was about a website called LifeNaut.com. The whole premise of this website is to allow people to create “mind-files” that can be loaded into an avatar (online) or into an animatronic head that you can interact with.

The reason for all this? The ability to leave a “computerized” version of you, again in the form of an online avatar. This service is free. Presumably if you want the data loaded into an animatronic head it costs money. But which ever version you choose will give you the same result.

“Live Forever – Upload your Mind to LifeNaut.com”  this is the message that greets you when you google the site. When you click the link provided on the site you will see the site itself with, “Make a Profile     Build an Avatar     Connect with Friends” running along the bottom of the Register/Sign In page.

But before you register and sign in look at the bottom of the screen. On the lower right hand of the screen you will see the word bina48. If you click on this it will give you an in depth tutorial what a bina48 is.

In a nutshell, it is an animatronic head filled with a real person’s memories and thought processes. The aim is to recreate another you.

The idea behind all this “mad” scientist scenario is this: You can leave a ‘copy’ of yourself via avatar or ‘head’ that your loved ones can talk to after you die.

Okay, so far so creepy. But if you really watch the tutorial and read their statements, you will find that the ultimate goal of Lifenaut is to replicate a person (that’s spelt dead loved one) via a robot. A robot that thinks like you, reasons like you, talks like you, looks like you and is concious like you.

An android version of  a real person. If you’ve ever seen any of the Alien films you’ll know what I mean. So you too can be the model for an evil Ash (Alien) or the human ‘wanna be’ David (Prometheus).

The long term goal of LifeNaut is to marry up a computer’s Artificial Intelligence –  AI and a robot with your conciousness (or to be more accurate the above mentioned thought processes, memories, etc). Once this has been done, not only will there be an “immortal” you, but they are also hoping the this blend of machine and memory will develop it’s own conciousness. It will become aware.

Okay everybody, repeat after me, “‘TERMINATOR.”

Cover of "The Terminator [Blu-ray]"

All joking aside, the idea does have some merit. As my daughter just pointed out, “If it works, it may help us to understand more about the human condition or what actually makes a soul.” Smart girl my daughter.

Completely moving away from the Terminator style technology, I can’t decide whether the other portion of the program is a good thing or just creepy and weird. Yeah it would be kind of neat knowing that the loved ones you leave behind can chat “with you” after you’ve died.

It is also kind of neat to think that any future grandchildren or great-great grandchildren can see and hear how you talked. Although all the examples I watched on YouTube sounded like interesting variations of Stephen Hawking.

I also don’t think I will be able to partake in the free offer. I registered and signed up. I then took a picture to build my profile. I also answered 52 of 486 questions to give my avatar “my” personality. Then…nothing.

I don’t know what I did wrong, but my avatar won’t load. Period. Maybe I’m too ugly? Or maybe the picture wasn’t good enough. But whatever the reason, I couldn’t check it out today.

I may have to wait for my android to do it.