12.2.11

How to Ruin Your Own Movie: Chain Letter Edition

As the film Chain Letter opens, a young woman is caught in a terrifying death-trap, each of her legs attached to the rear frame of one of her parents' cars. After a close call in which she's almost saved, the inevitable happens, and she's torn into two pieces. Totally acceptable opening for a slasher film, but unfortunately a few elements of the scene go out of their way to let the audience know that they're not watching the first scene of the movie.

They're watching the last one. How can we tell this?

Note the ridiculous amount of duct tape covering the victim's head. A single piece of tape wrapped around the character's mouth would be sufficient to keep her from alerting her parents to her plight, but the killer has covered her up for no reason other than to cloud her identity from the viewer.

According to Vardulon's first rule of horror filmmaking you don't put a mask on someone unless taking it off will be of some significance to the viewer - but since this is the first film we have no idea who any of the characters are. If this is simply the teaser kill, there's no percentage in hiding her identity, so why are they doing it?

Tapeface's plight leading up to her death is intercut with a scene that makes the film's plot even more explicit - while the mother does her hair a newsreader describes a series of brutal outrages committed against the youth of this incredibly upper-class community - which the upcoming murder is about to be the latest example of. Things have gotten so bad that even a detective working the case has disappeared! Tellingly no names for any of the dead children or the missing detective are offered, even though tragic 'happier times' photos of the dead children would be the centerpiece of any real report on the subject, all the better to shock the sensibilities of middle-class housewives watching the news in the morning while their husbands are at work.

Armed with this information, when the very next scene introduces a group of teens who are in no way, shape, or form aware of or concerned about the recent spate of brutal murders targeting people in their exact demographic class living in their town, the only possible conclusion we can come to is that these are the teens who will soon be the victims that the news so gleefully reports on. Likewise, the only detective who gets a name is Keith David-

And since he doesn't seem interested in tracking down a cop who disappeared during the investigation, his role can only be to get murdered in the last reel.

So here we are, just five minutes into the movie, and we already know that our entire cast of teens as well as the detective who's working the case are going to die, leaving us with a single question:

Which of these two visually interchangeable women will be the girl from the opening/ending?

Is that really reason enough to keep watching?

(SPOILER ALERT)

No. But since tapehead clearly had fairly dark hair, it's a safe bet that it'll be the one on the right.

2 comments:

The Divemistress said...

The opening kill didn't really ruin the movie. When I saw this scene and then noted that no one was talking about it, I figured a) they haven't heard yet, or b) it happened somewhere else. Either way, they're next.

Really, the movie is ruined by its end, more so than its beginning. It just happens that it begins with its end, which you only find out at the end. It should have ended at the start.

Vardulon said...

Ah, but you're forgetting the news broadcast, which mentions a long series of brutal teen murders and kidnappings, and the disappearance of an unnamed cop.

In the next scene, how could the characters be talking about anything else unless it was a flashback?