Everyone has received one, and if you haven’t—where have you been?? They’re annoying, they’re threatening, and at their worst, they’re scary.
The purpose of chain mail, or chain letters, is to get the recipient to make a number of copies (or in the case of email, to forward it on to a number of people) for the purpose of spreading it as widely as possible. Like a damn virus. Sometimes said letters do this by offering a reward. Sometimes they make threats. Often they do both.
They are emotionally manipulative.
Now, you might decide that it’s silly, and delete the stupid thing when you see it, but there’s a niggling part of you that remembers that one line, right in the middle. IF YOU DELETE THIS MESSAGE YOUR LOVED ONES WILL DIE IN SEVEN DAYS.
Threatening loved ones? Not cool. But what a great motivation, right? The idea of chain mail from a Horror point of view is a juicy one. Take The Ring. Two teen girls, talking about some weird video tape that one of them happened to see, and the strange phonecall she received afterwards telling her that “in exactly seven days” she will die. And then the long, drawn-out comeuppance . . .
Best. Opening. Ever.
Chain mail took a whole new form in the film (the original is also amazing, so don’t neglect it!) and it was something that many of us couldn’t stop talking about for years. But why? Because it’s so familiar. We all get chain mail. But also because it’s so dangerous. You could rent a video and be subject to the same horrors—without even knowing it because there are no instructions on the tape!
Chain mail is a cool, scary, admittedly annoying tool for all horror fans. It’s also a long-lasting form of culture. I wonder what the newest form of chain mail will be . . .