What to say if you liked it
A chilling reconstruction which illuminated the dangers of the internet in the hands of malevolent teenagers
What to say if you didn’t like it
Plumbing the depths of human stupidity in which a susceptible teenage boy’s belief in his friend’s duplicity almost cost them their life and liberty.
What was good about it?
• The most uncomfortable looking experts ever seen on a documentary; David Halton, Mark’s barrister, was bracing to prepare for a lethal electric shock, while Charles Wells (who looked like a pedigree crossbreed of Ricky Gervais and Simon Mayo) seemed to be waiting for an instruction to kneel down to receive a bullet in the back of the head.
• As much of the action took place within internet chatrooms, the dramatised tale was seen from the perspective of Mark’s imagination which became more vivid and enraptured with each lie John fed him. “Rachel” appeared as a flirtatious teenager in
photographs, “Kevin” was an enraged psychopath, while “Janet” was a raven-haired temptress who always seemed to be stripping down to her suspenders. All of which
helped realise the story vividly, which otherwise would have been a pair of teenagers masturbating furiously for an hour.
• The happy ending of sorts. Both Mark and John, after he’d recovered from his near-mortal wound, received supervision orders and are effectively banned from using the internet.
What was bad about it?
• Mark’s awful gullibility in swallowing John’s many pseudo-identities and then unquestioningly following each character’s orders no matter how obscene.
Firstly, using only an internet chatroom, John coerced Mark into falling in love with “Rachel”. He then invented “Kevin”, a self-confessed stalker who wrote only in pink and was gay, who kidnapped and ultimately murdered “Rachel”, but not before he forced Mark to masturbate in front of his webcam in a vain bid to convince “Kevin” to spare “Rachel’s” life.
• And once he’d got over “Rachel’s” death, which took him about a day, John concocted another even more ludicrous guise – “Janet Dobinson”, a “spy mistress” who was the “third most powerful woman in the country”. She spun Mark a web of lies about how she wanted to recruit him as a spy; how there is a safe at the bottom of the ocean which contains £568bn, that could only be opened by “James Bell”, the “true” identity of his pal John. Ultimately, through “Janet”, John ordered Mark to kill him, and he almost succeeded, stabbing him with a kitchen knife in a Manchester lane.
• While the dramatisation added to the claustrophobia of the story, elements were embellished with the destabilising polish of a pop video. As the boys walked around aimlessly, they did so with a camera attached to their chests to monitor their faces in a jerky ostentatious fashion. The dialogue exchanged in the chatrooms flashed by on the screen like data waterfalls, with luminous text on black backgrounds not observed in civilised society since about 1993.
• The language used by John when pretending to be “Janet” was so amateurish and colloquial, John’s gullibility was further damned by his incapability to discern anything was amiss. The safe at the bottom of the ocean was referred to as “huge massive”, while a further message used the phrase “loads more”. And while use of slang terms isn’t proof of poor education or low station, if “Janet” had really been the “third
most powerful woman in the country” her individual style of expression would long have been burnt out of her by PR-speak, and her missives would be so inert and bound in formal, banal language her words would have had more life had she spat out a hive of dead wasps one by one.
• All around the country, vacuum-headed teenagers are at this very moment devising tiresome identities for themselves to mimic John’s duplicity. And while they may not be able to get their stooges to commit attempted murder, they may get them to commit “sex acts” into their webcams.