The advantage of anonymity in Internet chat rooms has, as any concerned parent will tell you, a downside, There may be relatively few incidents of paedophile stalkers on message boards but any that crop up get a high media profile. The risk for a film maker is to add to this flame fanning and raise the fear factor up a notch.
David Slade’s first feature puts a twist on the tale to guarantee word of mouth endorsements or misgivings – either way it becomes a movie to see to make up your own mind about (or if you’re lazy you could just read a synopsis on Wikipedia).
The extensive use of close ups, jump cuts and unusual camera angles have a deliberately disorientating effect – adding to the ambiguity of the character’s motives. Ellen Page as the 14 year old Hayley Stark is an impressive discovery – you’re left wondering if she is rebellious and daring or repellent and insane.
Slade is obviously a bold new talent too but I strongly suspect that here he is merely taking the low common denominator of sensationalism to make a name for himself.
The story makes for a gripping drama but it left me feeling that the movie exploits the grey areas of a topical issue for manipulative ends rather than to pose any serious moral questions and in this respect must go down as a missed opportunity.