Hideo Nakata's disappointing Chatroom (read our review) is the tale of a group of kids who go online to escape their troubles and who are coerced into taking their own lives by similarly troubled teens. That's playing in the festival's Un Certain Regard sidebar as part of the official selection.
Also in the official selection, as a midnight screening, is Black Heaven, a tale of a group of kids who go online to escape their troubles and who are coerced into taking their own lives by similarly troubled teens. But while it's French, stars no-one you've heard of and is helmed by a director with little pedigree, don't assume Black Heaven is the also-ran here. For everything Chatroom does wrong, Black Heaven does right. It's a smart and engaging look at internet culture and the pressures, lies and intoxication of a virtual world. It may not be packed to the gills with references to Twitter and Facebook, but it certainly feels more relevant today than Chatroom does. Indeed, the latter seems to have been drawn from a mid-90s online world which exists only in its filmmakers' heads.
And rather than bash us over the head with the specifics of the differences between the online world and the real world – which in Chatroom are both live action elements starring the principal cast – here director Gilles Marchand (whose debut feature was Who Killed Bambi?) smartly chooses a computer-generated noir cityscape to show us his characters' avatars. And because we understand the attraction of the game, and its dark and brooding allure, we understand how his characters become trapped by the film's honey pot.