Suicide is a hard topic to broach in any medium. It’s a sad finale to all too many people’s lives that should’ve continued forward, but one moment of desperation stopped it from happening. Chain Of Death examines the life of one suicidal man, Michael (John Patrick Amedori) and his way of dealing with the pervading sense of dread that accompanies such a mindset.
Michael moves to San Francisco with his wife, Sarah (Madeline Zima) to work in his father’s ophthalmology practice. His father, Mike (Ray Wise) is suffering from a degenerative neurological disorder that has left him unable to speak and walk. His long-suffering mother, Emma (Adrienne Barbeau) is delighted to have her son and his wife at their home to keep her company, but Michael only has plans of staying in their home for the summer. Little does anyone know that Michael is starting to show signs of the same incurable neurological disorder.
“…examines the life of one suicidal man….and his way of dealing with the pervading sense of dread…”
Michael’s (and also his father’s) doctor, Dr. Ryan (Jamie Clayton) introduces Michael to a support group for people facing terminal or degenerative illnesses, leaving them to feel often suicidal. While in the group, which all must attend wearing Eyes Wide Shut style masks for the sake of anonymity, Michael doesn’t reach much comfort. He meets a fellow member, Piedad (Neus Asensi), who tells him about something called “The Chain.” Instead of suicide, a person picks someone to kill them in the manner of their choosing. The only cost is that they too have to perform that service for someone else.
David Martin Porras and Andres Rosende certainly had an interesting concept on their hands with the script for Chain of Death (also known as The Chain). It is almost Hitchcockian in scope, taking the “criss-cross” from Strangers On A Train to a new level. It rarely reaches Hitchcockian levels of execution on-screen, but nevertheless, the film can be very exciting in parts. Ray Wise is exceptional in his familiar role of a crazy, unpredictable father. Adrienne Barbeau is fascinating as a woman who suffered from abuse and infidelity but keeps going on with her life against all the odds, which is a trait that Michael didn’t seem to inherit from her.
“…taking the ‘criss-cross’ from Strangers On A Train to a new level.”
Chain Of Death offers a lot of suspense and a saddening twist that makes Michael much more sympathetic in the end. I can’t commend the script enough. The supporting performances, particularly from Wise and Asensi, are riveting. Michael is a difficult character to like, at least for me, which may very well have been the point, but I didn’t find him as relatable as I wish I would have. Overall, though, the film is exciting, and the script is original, so I would say that Chain Of Death is worth a watch.