With its mostly white cast, you wouldn’t necessarily deduce that Chain Letter had a black director — Black Horror Hall of Famer Deon Taylor (Nite Tales, Dead Tone, Meet the Blacks). Upon closer examination, though, you realize that it sneaks in one of the rarest of horror movie occurrences: the Black Man Standing. That is, of the group of meat bags designated for death at the hands of the killer, the “black guy” ends up being the only one to survive! Wow, maybe black lives DO matter!
The basic premise is that a teenager receives an email chain letter instructing him to forward it to five people OR ELSE. He sends it to some of his schoolmates, but not all of them do the same, and one by one, they are targeted by the chain letter’s homicidal originator (who, to beat a dead horse, kills them with A CHAIN). Amongst the group of teens who receives the letter is resident “black guy” Michael (Michael J. Pagan), a (relatively non-jerky, given the genre) jock who IMMEDIATELY forwards it to five friends, seemingly aware of what typically happens to people of his skin tone in slasher movies. “This boy ain’t pressing his luck,” he declares.
Because he follows the rules, Michael faces no danger throughout the film and becomes very much tangential to the plot. He works a bit with lead character Jessie (Ashley Greene) to uncover the killer, but mostly he just vanishes altogether. Michael: The Most Non-Eventful Horror Character Ever. In the end, he realizes that Jessie is in danger and rushes to her house to save her…only to have her killed in front of him. I guess it pays to read the instructions. (It should be noted that Pagan co-wrote the script with Taylor, proving that if black folks want to survive horror movies, they have to take a FUBU approach.)
The always great Keith David meanwhile plays a typical black “authority figure,” a homicide detective investigating the deaths, but even he receives an atypical fate. He isn’t killed, but rather kidnapped and is shown being held captive when the credits roll. Sure, he PROBABLY will die, but since he doesn’t, there’s always hope for him to return in Chain Letter 2…right? RIGHT???
Sure, it’s an increasingly silly, nonsensical film (with the killer’s ridiculously efficient ability to track and stalk all his prey simultaneously requiring either supernatural ability or some wicked Excel spreadsheet skills), but with plentiful gore and brutal kills, Chain Letter is no less entertaining than a movie like See No Evil, which somehow grunged its way to a sequel.