Directed by David DeFalco
Starring Kevin Gage, Stephen Wozniak, Kelly KC Quann, Maya Barovich, Chantal Degroat, Sage Stallone
Released on August 10, 2005
Running time: 1h 14m
Not Rated (Suggested rating: NC-17 for graphic and aberrant sexual content, heavy use of strong language throughout, strong violence, nudity, and drug references)
Genre: Horror, Exploitation
(Sorry, Doug, I’m totally stealing this from you.) Many of you may have heard of and/or seen exploitation films – usually films ranging from subpar to horrid that take controversial topics and exploit the heck out of them. You know, Blaxploitation, Drugsploitation, Cannibalsploitation, Goresploitation, Jailsploitation, Nazisploitation, Sexploitation, even Carsploitation, Gothsploitation and Nunsploitation, and all sploitations in between.
But I’m not here to review any of those. Today’s film is an exploitation film, like many, that, when it was being made, its filmmakers didn’t know that they were making an exploitation film. They thought they were making art (strikes pose and says “art” in an arrogant, and condescending way). This is where Chaos comes in.
As you may remember, I reviewed Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left at the beginning of September of 2015. I praised it for its great storytelling, loathsome-but-still-human villains, raw power, and how effective it was toward its ‘70s audience. I gave it four out of five stars.
Also, as you may remember, in response to my Halloween 2 review, I made a point of reviewing a film or two that I love. After reviewing Hellraiser and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, I figured I had finally rid myself of the anger and despair that I had felt upon reviewing Madman (to a lesser extent), the remake of When a Stranger Calls, and Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2.
Until today, when I watched Chaos.
And with that viewing, all of my amaroidal, astringent hatred came surging back, this time with a vengeance.
Chaos’s director, David DeFalco, a former wrestler nicknamed “The Demon”, originally titled his movie The House in the Middle of Nowhere, credited it as a remake of LHotL, and even cast David Hess, who had originally played Krug Stillo in LHotL. Sage Stallone (son of Sylvester) signed on when he heard that Hess was going to – not exactly, but how else can I put it? – reprise his role as Krug. A couple of unknown actors signed on, believing that they were going to be starring in a remake of LHotL, and production began. But, a little ways into filming, Steven Jay Bernheim came on board, decided that Chaos was strong enough to stand on its own and promote itself as an original film, while in reality deciding to stoop to wholesale plagiarism. Hess and the creative team were kicked off the set and Hess was replaced with Kevin Gage, who needed some way to pay his bills after spending forty-one months in prison for growing marijuana. And I’m not judging Gage for doing that. I have no problem with medicinal marijuana.
When the film was in its final stages of completion, its advertisement campaign began, and it immediately became quite obvious that LHotL had not only influenced Chaos, but that Chaos had openly filched LHotL’s ad campaign. It stole its cover; it even stole its tagline. “Angelica, eighteen, is dying. Even for her the worst is yet to come! She encountered CHAOS. To endure CHAOS, keep repeating ‘It’s only a movie…only a movie…etc.’” Sound familiar? In fact, it even had the audacity to say “Based on an original idea by David DeFalco and Steven Jay Bernheim”. When I had first seen the cover, seen how similar it was to LHotL’s cover, and seen the “original idea” line, I scoffed and said, “Riiiiight.”
Here’s the cover. Judge it as you wish.
And then the film premiered. Before the film played, there was a big Q&A session with DeFalco, Bernheim, and Stallone. Stallone was strangely quiet, and only spoke up when personally asked a question. DeFalco and Bernheim, however, were very talkative, saying that they [and implying that only they] were “true horror fans”, and they were beyond adamant at pushing Chaos as the “scariest and most brutal movie ever made”. And then, after they openly admitted that LHotL influenced Chaos, they then proceeded to bash LHotL, calling it “unrealistic”, “hard to watch”, and…essentially, their drivel can be summed up as “No, Wes Craven. You did it wrong, and your film should be ashamed for even allowing itself to exist. We have done it right with our film, and it will put you to shame, and become a staple in the collection of every horror fan.” But what was worse, they touted Chaos as a film that could have saved lives and prevented atrocities, such as the death of Natalie Holloway, 9/11, and various suicide bombers and terrorists. It was a flagrantly audacious marketing ploy. By now, there was an obvious change in audience dynamic. The Q&A session finally ended. And then DeFalco and Bernheim brought in this so-called “charity”, a sort of “green peace” animal adoption scam. It depicted poor and neglected puppies, and promised to save them with the audience’s support and donations. And then these “charity workers” went through the theater to every person there and claimed that “the movie wasn’t free”, and that a twenty dollar minimum donation would be acceptable. When this “charity” was done, it exited the theater with thousands of dollars. I presume that this is how it made its paltry $10,289 back from people who went to see it. Already annoyed and nonplussed at DeFalco and Bernheim, the audience sat down in their seats, and the movie began.
The film begins with a cheap opening text crawl, saying that this movie contains shocking sequences and images, is a warning for victims and parents alike, and that it was based on actual events. O RLY?
A woman (Quann) is hitchhiking on the side of a backcountry highway (this is actually U.S. 395 in southern California. I’ve actually driven through this area.). A car stops, two men get out, attempt to drag her into their car to rape her, but two other guys, who are our main villains, appear out of nowhere, beat the first two guys into a pulp with obviously fake punches and kicks, trash their car, and steal their wallets and two grams of meth. Well, we’ve now established our main villains as petty criminals, rather than personifications of evil.
These villains aren’t exactly memorable, and are simply ripoffs of the villains from LHotL. I’ll tell you their Chaos names now, but I will refer to them by their LHotL names from there on out. We haven’t been introduced to Swan (Junior) yet, but our villains are Chaos (Krug) (Gage), who is bald and has a goatee now, Freddie (Weasel) (Wozniak), who has long hair and a ratty beard now, and Daisy (Sadie) (Quann), who has a bridge-of-nose ring and a Southern accent now (odd, as her Chaos name, Daisy, is just a slightly altered anagram of Sadie). By the way, the fact that they are the villains is rubbed in your face by the villains having to drop a swear word at least twice in every sentence.
We then transition to Angelica (Phyllis) (Barovich), who is much “cleaner” than her friend. She has just come home from UCLA to visit her friend Emily (Mari) (DeGroat), who is black now. Well, half black. Her father is white, her mom is black. Okay. That’s fine. I’m not going to judge, and I have no reason to. But if Mari becomes an annoying character, I will call her an Oreo. Anyway, Phyllis tells Mari about how UCLA is essentially Heaven on earth, despite the fact that Morten Lauridsen himself teaches music composition at USC, which is near to and more popular and populous than UCLA. Mari and Phyllis plan to go to a rave in the woods that night. Despite Mari’s interracial parents playing “Twenty Questions” with them, the two manage to get out the door and drive to the rave. They get there surprisingly early – at 4:00 PM. Okay. Oh, and by the way, Mari intentionally leaves her cell phone in Phyllis’s car. Gee. I wonder if this is going to come back and bite her in the ass. They try to score some ecstasy, addressed here as “E”, because of course, and come across Swan (seriously? Who names their son Swan?) (Junior) (Stallone), and he leads them back to his cabin to fetch the ecstasy. Yes. Just go up to a random guy and ask if he has ecstasy, and follow him to his cabin in the woods to fetch it. I’m sure that it won’t backfire in the slightest. By the way, every time either Mari or Phyllis gets suspicious, Junior pegs them with the question, “What are you afraid of?”
As Mari, Phyllis, and Junior make their way to the cabin, I could not help but notice how desperately the script tries to appeal to 2005 teens. It was clearly written for that day’s generation, but definitely not by that day’s generation, as the scriptwriters have little to no grasp of 2005’s slang, putting each slang term they can think of into awkward places in each sentence that Mari and Phyllis say. (Don’t quote me on that; I could be wrong on this, as I’m not very well versed in, nor am a fan of, slang.)
Meanwhile, at home, Mari’s parents make admittedly charming small talk.
Mari, Phyllis, and Junior arrive at the cabin, and Mari and Phyllis are accosted by Krug, Weasel, and Sadie, who duct-tape their mouths, and hands and feet together, toss them into the back of their big black van (of course), and drive off. (I didn’t see any brand name on the duct-tape, so I cannot refer to it as Duck-tape.)
By the way, way to make Krug more evil by making him not want to take care of his own kid.
And of course Krug is a war veteran (presumably either the Persian Gulf War or Desert Storm), and is pro-America. I have mentioned before how much I hate – yes, hate – the “Crazy War Veteran” stereotype. I will not and cannot stand to see the vilification of the men and women who fought and died for America and her people. If anyone has earned the right to not be stereotyped, they have.
Speaking of stereotypes, every character in Chaos is just a stereotype of a stereotype. The villains are generic psychos. Mari and Phyllis are trashy female teenagers that flaunt their sexy or “sexy” bodies and take drugs. Mari’s parents are generic parents desperately trying to hold onto whatever is left of morality in the world. And the two cops, who I’ll get to soon, are racist.
Also, another attempt to make the villains seem more evil: bestiality is funny to them. That’s just tasteless.
When Krug and his thugs pull over and drag Mari and Phyllis into the woods (Into the Woods), and pull the duct tape off of their mouths, we see the signs of a poor actor/actress return when Mari and Phyllis have had nothing between drabness and exaggerated tearless sobbing and screaming. Mari and Phyllis somehow fight off the villains and run away, but Phyllis is caught.
What happens next is the worst-done torture sequence I have ever seen.
WARNING: DISGUSTING. GRAB A BARF BAG. I’LL GIVE YOU TEN SECONDS. … DONE? OKAY. HERE GOES. Krug cuts off Phyllis’s right nipple, chews on it for a bit, and then shoves it into Phyllis’s mouth until she’s gurgling on blood and vomit. Then he turns her over and stabs her in the back multiple times until she dies. Krug then rapes the dead body.
You know, for a movie touting itself as “the most brutal movie ever made”, surprisingly little violence or nudity is shown onscreen. In fact, the only violence that is shown onscreen is a single split-second shot of Phyllis’s bloody back that has clearly just been painted red. While boobs are onscreen for a few seconds, most shots of the torture are just silent shots focusing on the sun shining through the trees. Yes. A film that is so desperate to be edgy by even having necrophilia, yet is too embarrassed to show anything more than a little violence and sex onscreen. Even with the necrophilia, the camera shows Krug taking off his pants, and cuts away before he takes his underwear off. Then, it’s just more shots of the trees or his thugs’ faces as Krug quietly grunts as he does the deed in about fifteen seconds. That’s inhumanly fast sex. That’s also not in any way how to make a controversial movie. And surprisingly enough, this torture sequence is almost shamefully short, barely lasting a few minutes.
By the way, Phyllis’s cries cut off almost every time a new shot begins. That’s just poor editing, plain and simple.
And now it’s nighttime. Wow. Mari is still running away. She falls down a hill she should have seen coming a mile away. She’s a freaking clod.
Mari’s parents, now quite worried, have called the police, who say they’ll check out the rave. How do they know where the rave is? The police check it out and report to Mari’s parents, who say that they can’t find Mari or Phyllis, but will go out to look for them.
I must mention that one of the police officers drops a racially charged remark toward Mari’s parents, referring to them being an interracial couple. In fact, this racist cop is so important that he and his racially charged remark each get their own scene.
Mari wakes up, starts running again, and is caught by Krug. Junior wrestles her to the ground, but she gets ahold of a knife and stabs him in the balls. Ouch. Apparently it must have hit the femoral artery or something, because Junior is now bleeding to death. And no, there are no important arteries or veins located in the crotch-ular area. In response, Krug smothers his own son to death. Mari runs away, gets to the road, waves down a car, gets it to stop, and runs up to it, but yoink! Krug catches up to her and yanks her back into the trees. And I burst out laughing when the car just sped off.
Mari’s parents have decided to do their own search for Mari and Phyllis. They find Phyllis’s body remarkably quickly and are, of course, shocked.
Krug brings Mari back to Weasel and Sadie. Amid a slew of racial slurs, they strip her down, showing some full-frontal nudity. And no – considering the current situation, this nudity is in no way sexual. When Mari, faced with death, desperately calls upon God (I can’t remember if it’s the Lord’s Prayer or Psalm 23), Krug mocks her and God, asking “Where’s your God now?” I would have replied, “He’s waiting for me in heaven, as He knows that it’s my time,” but Mari does nothing of the sort, as Krug’s question essentially shatters her last bit of hope. While this death scene shows more nudity than the previous one, the torture is much shorter. Again, WARNING: DISGUSTING. GRAB A BARF BAG. I’LL GIVE YOU TEN SECONDS … DONE? OKAY. HERE GOES. Krug shoves his knife up Mari’s vagina, and essentially makes the vagina and the anus into a single hole. It still gives me the jibblies as I type this. But no, it’s not shocking in the slightest. My reaction to it was “Eww!” as that was just tasteless, revolting, and sleazy. Oh, and this somehow kills Mari.
I was surprised to see that Mari had not become annoying enough to warrant me calling her an Oreo.
Krug, Weasel, and Sadie go back to their van, but it won’t start. Seeing the lights of a house through the trees, they decide to stop there and ask for help and/or steal their car. Of course, the house just so happens to belong to Mari’s parents, who are initially a little suspicious when Krug and his thugs go inside and ask for assistance. But Mari’s dad allows them to stay the night. When Krug and his thugs go upstairs into the guest bedroom, Mari’s mom pulls Dad into the kitchen, quietly telling him that Sadie is wearing Mari’s plastic-jewel-studded belt.
Krug and his thugs are upstairs, knowing that Mari’s parents are acting suspicious. Krug and Sadie go downstairs, only to be faced by Mari’s dad, who is pointing a shotgun at them. Weasel bursts into the room, having somehow captured Mari’s mom. This distracts the dad long enough for Krug to snatch the shotgun out of his hands, and throw Mari’s parents to the floor. Sadie then says something wrong, because Krug turns around and shoots her in the chest, killing her. In the commotion, Mari’s parents get away, the mother calling the police and getting to her car, and the father grabbing his chainsaw. Mari’s father bursts back into the room and quickly disembowels Weasel. He quickly breaks through any of Krug’s defenses, but Krug somehow knocks the chainsaw out of his hands, gets the shotgun, points it at Mari’s dad, and pulls the trigger. Conveniently, the shotgun is unloaded. Mari’s father pulls a screwdriver out of his pocket and stabs Krug in the leg. He wrestles the shotgun away from Krug, reloads it with a few more cartridges, and holds Krug at gunpoint.
The cops arrive, and they, as well as Mari’s mother, burst inside. And, surprisingly, they tell Mari’s dad to drop his gun, and when he doesn’t, the racist cop guns him down, completely defying police protocol by not dealing with the killer before dealing with Mari’s dad. I broke down in anger at this point, screaming unintelligible hatred at the screen, and was helpless to watch as Mari’s mother pulled out the racist cop’s revolver and shot him twice, the other cop yanked the revolver out of Mari’s mom’s hands, Krug grabbed the shotgun out of Mari’s dad’s dead hands and blasted the second cop in the chest, and held the gun to Mari’s now-defenseless mother. After a few seconds of shots of the faces of Krug and Mari’s mother, Krug shoots Mari’s mother just as the screen goes dark. His cold laughter is heard for a few seconds before the credits roll. And I continued screaming the angry version of “bloody murder” at the screen until either the edges of my vision turned black and I had to stop, or I racked up such a horrible migraine that I had to stop.
And guess what? The movie drags itself micron by micron across the finish line, exhausted to the point of death, at a not just measly, but shameful, humiliating, and ignominious sixty-six minutes. It couldn’t even reach the same length as LHotL, which was ninety-one minutes. Chaos is almost an entire half hour shorter than LHotL. And this is even more outrageous: the filmmakers actually thought that this ending would be controversial and edgy. Can you think of good films that ended with the bad guy winning? I don’t know about you, but the couple I can come up with are, oh, No Country for Old Men, The Usual Suspects, The Dark Knight, The Vanishing, The Silence of the Lambs, Se7en, The Wicker Man (the original), Primal Fear, Brazil, Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown, Funny Games, Memento, Fallen, Saw, The Omen, Arlington Road, Frailty, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Identity, Matchstick Men, Fight Club, A Serbian Film, Storm of the Century, Night of the Living Dead, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Sinister, United 93, and The Empire Strikes Back.
Even the ending credits were wrong; the eight minutes of credits show words fading in, stopping, and then fading in the rest of the way.
The final insult was “Based on an original idea by David DeFalco and Steven Jay Bernheim”. Original idea? My left testicle.
Also, the opening text crawl was actually a tacked-on-at-the-last-minute gambit for the movie to justify itself.
I felt dumber. I had, for the past sixty-six minutes, been feeling my brain cells die. As I calmed down from my (to put it lightly) displeasure at the film in general, my anger slowly began to be replaced by weary resignation to the fact that humanity had actually created something so morally reprehensible. I wanted to go out and walk a few miles around my rural neighborhood, muse about the contrast between humanity’s inherent goodness and its potential for wild depravity, and then order a pizza when I got home. I didn’t, because my mind had then shifted to “The only way this film will be allowed to affect me will be when I write my review so I can stick it to this schlock.”
The camerawork is awful, looking cheap and poorly shot. The acting is horrendous and unrealistic, with the actors having no gap in between blandness and screaming. The plot is poorly paced, barely making it to sixty-six minutes. It unnecessarily prolongs unimportant scenes, and the so-called “brutal” scenes of torture are over far too quickly. The soundtrack, which manifests itself as two terrible songs, is itself terrible. The violence was as cheap, trashy, and tawdry as can be. I Spit on Your Grave had better violence effects than this. Sure, I was repulsed, but I was never shocked in the slightest. In fact, throughout all of its alleged edginess, I felt a constant sense of torpidity and sloth. It completely lacks character development, except to make our characters more unlikable and stereotypical than they already are. Our “heroes” are weak and idiotic, and we are never reminded that our villains are or have ever been human. It hamfists and shoehorns in its nihilism purely for the sake of not being mainstream in a desperate attempt to make themselves look like the next Ayn Rand or Friedrich Nietzche…or Karl Marx…or Marquis de Sade. It was an absolute waste of just over an hour of my life, but I do not regret watching it. I may be angry at myself for watching it, but I will never wish that I had not.
By the way, most people who saw the premiere of Chaos walked out before the movie was over. To explain why I didn’t: After the debacle that was Rob Zombie’s remake of Halloween, I vowed to never walk out of a movie again. So I had to sit through Chaos.
When Roger Ebert himself saw Chaos, gave it a zero-star review, and took the movie to task as the repugnant jumble of unmitigated bunkum that it was, DeFalco and Bernheim saw fit to reply in the most ridiculous, gelastic, douchebaggish way possible in an attempted lecture to Mr. Ebert that essentially boils down to “How dare you criticize us for trying to portray evil so realistically, you ignorant sheep! By criticizing our movie, you have doomed the people of America, in particular her teenage girls, to lives of fear and pain! (Insert pitiful hooey that will be addressed shortly here.)” Mr. Ebert responded with his essay “Evil in Film: To What End?” with several themes that I will expand upon in my closing thoughts. DeFalco and Bernheim have still not responded to Mr. Ebert’s essay.
At future screenings, before the film would start, DeFalco and Bernheim would hand out copies of Roger Ebert’s review, and their “astute” response. However, viewers saw through the act and eviscerated DeFalco and Bernheim in the post-movie Q&A session. At the session, DeFalco, dressed in a wrestler outfit and sporting red contact lenses, began the discussion by ejaculating leechlike balderdash about how “hardcore” Chaos was, dropping remarks like “I am a demon!” and “I am the King of Violence and Evil!” But when the audience called him out on the violence and how asinine, pointless, inane, arrant, casuistic, and exploitative it was, DeFalco and Bernheim quickly backpedaled to their “cautionary tale” prating, going on a long harangue about how they were trying to “warn people and save lives”. But then people called them out again, this time on their shameless exhibitionism that was even present on the movie’s website. DeFalco childishly stooped to threatening the audience, saying “You know what’s onscreen! You know what I’m capable of!” Essentially, this fries their “trying to save lives” facade and reveals them as obnoxious, desperate, try-hard, “controversial” dudes looking to whip up a media storm so they can sell their nugatory product.
Chaos‘s story follows the plot of The Last House on the Left so closely that Wes Craven and Sean Cunningham could file for plagiarism, sue DeFalco and Bernheim for an astronomical amount of money, and win the case with ease. I’m amazed that they haven’t. In fact, the only things that were changed from LHotL were its character names and its ending where the bad guy wins. In fact, they completely failed at capturing anything that made LHotL interesting, unique, shocking, or good. Chaos lacks the raw power, fingering boldness, political backlash, irony, subtlety, soul, gritty and sabulous feel, overall message, or point of LHotL. It failed to replicate LHotL’s themes of dealing with tragedy, loss, and human nature, and that in the end, all evildoers will get their comeuppance. In fact, DeFalco and Bernheim’s overall view of LHotL was that it was just about repulsive behavior. While Chaos has repulsive behavior, it is too deadpan, matter-of-fact, and lacking in context. In fact, Chaos, throughout its entirety, forgot to remind us that its killers were human. After hearing DeFalco and Bernheim speak so openly about how Chaos was not only their tour de force, their magnum opus, but set to trump LHotL, which has become the quintessential rape-and-revenge film, I’m not too hopeful that I’m going to see them make anything that has the slightest notion of originality.
It is unsurprising that the majority of the cast and crew have, rightly so, distanced themselves from this film. Sage Stallone in particular had, as I said before, only signed on to Chaos because he had heard that it was going to star David Hess, and since the movie has come out, he has renounced it.
David DeFalco was a wrestler before he made Chaos, and it shows, as he pulls an Uwe Boll by challenging his critics to fight him. Class act. I am one of those film critics that are angry beyond measure at him, but, contrary to how DeFalco would like our confrontation to go down, I will not fight him. I will dismiss him by saying “Violence is not the answer.”
In another desperate attempt to not only distance Chaos from LHotL, but be “based on actual events”, DeFalco has actually said that the murders in the film are based on “some serial killer guy” that has since been executed. That is a perfect execution of how to be lazy whenever your film’s “based on actual events” claim is challenged.
Chaos acts as if the innumerable films of its same nature just haven’t been made over the past several decades, and it flat-out refuses to update its ideas, themes, or action. While LHotL and plenty of other hideously disturbing films took their time to have the audience get to know the killers and victims as actual people (A Serbian Film comes to mind), Chaos treats its characters’ suffering as the only thing that matters, and regards its actual characters as simply hunks of meat to be humiliated, defiled, and brutally murdered, not always in that order. Any aspiring filmmaker that desires to up the ante on violence in film can point a camera at staged obscene and violent acts and get audiences to squirm, but DeFalco and Bernheim have forgotten that their movie needs to actually be dramatic, intriguing, and provocative enough to keep the attention of the audience, to keep their eyes riveted on the screen as horrific atrocities play out before their eyes.
Ultimately, Chaos was made purely to be disturbing rather than didactic, to push the limits for what was allowed on film, and all for the sake of making money…and possibly something for DeFalco to jerk off to. It was meant to be scandalous merely so that news networks would pick up on it, complain about it, and inadvertently make more people want to see it. Perhaps if Chaos actually took some thought, time, and effort to make, it could have been decent. But no.
Even in their attempts to go to the extreme, they felt too ashamed to show the barbarities committed onscreen. Far superior “disturbing” films, like, of course, LHotL, went to the extreme, but not only showed its atrocities committed onscreen, but knew how to balance what was onscreen with what was offscreen. Chaos had absolutely no idea that this balance even existed. In Chaos, the sexual mutilation in particular could have come across as disturbing and shocking had the movie as a whole been executed adroitly, but the context of this movie lacked verisimilitude to such an extreme degree by, for example, the actresses who played Mari and Phyllis shrieking and crying tearlessly in closeup. All in all, the violence, along with the entire picture, felt like DeFalco and Bernheim were attempting to live out their sick fantasies, like Tarsem Singh in The Cell, or Rob Zombie in his various films. When a film is violent, we don’t want to recoil at it. We want to live our own sick sadistic fantasies. However, we don’t want to admit this, even to ourselves, so screenwriters dehumanize cinematic killers. And in Chaos, the violence is just there for the sake of violence.
This film is a callous, vicious, grotesque, tedious, indolent, degenerate exercise in inhumanity, misanthropy, nihilism, misogyny, brutality, sadism, and, to a lesser extent, racism. It lacked any sort of edge. Its disturbing gags were its only marketable feature, but it is neither disturbing, disgusting save for a few moments, or thought-provoking in the slightest. Its own terrible ideas are made worse by the entire movie looking and feeling very drab, vacuous, and amateur.
Chaos taught me how to truly hate. I thought I knew how to hate with Halloween 2. I thought I knew how to hate with An American Haunting. The Fourth Kind. The Haunting of Molly Hartley. The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc. The Cat in the Hat. Even the horrifically terrible The Garbage Pail Kids Movie. Unfortunately, when compared to my hatred for Chaos, my hatred for the aforementioned fistfuls of feculence shoved down my throat is merely a childish fantasy of loathing. Real hatred, the palpable, seething fury that makes you want to tear someone apart, the pure, unadulterated rage that no human should experience, can only be gleaned from this visually dolorous, artistically and morally destitute, structurally riven, exploitative, and disgustingly horrendous rape, torture, and murder (not always in that order) of the human senses.
It is a movie so vile that only DeFalco and Bernheim did anything but distance themselves from it. It is the perfect snapshot of what exactly DeFalco and Bernheim think of their audience. As mentally ill, socially self-destructive cattle.
It is an imprudent, brash, astigmatic disease that is here to rake in the cash it can at the expense of the happiness and overall sanity of moviegoers everywhere. It cashes in not only an audience’s benevolence and trust, but an audience’s yearning to see an actual movie, only so that it can make some quick and very filthily acquired bucks. It’s a thorough scam that hid behind a recognizable name to administer actual poison and then tried to hide it by bashing the name it hid behind. It’s marketed on lies and is profligately imprudent in handling mainstay cinematic property. It is vivaciously fabricated out of the celluloid shrapnel of a superior film. It is a master class in utterly senseless and ludicrous content and abhorrent, odious, and offensive writing. It showcases the very worst of the independent film industry. It is open hatred for the consumer. It attempted to put in the minimum effort in an attempt to gain a maximum amount of money. It tries and fails to market spoor as gold. It is undignified, woebegone, desperate, and grotesque in its shows of insolence and disrespect for moviegoers, its industry, and itself with this type of hubris and audacity. It’s the type of soul-sucking bilge that has been methodically hacking at the film industry’s roots ever since filmmakers decided to start pushing the envelope. Movies like this are venomous, and they have no place in a medium that is supposed to respect itself. Doing all of this, combined with dragging the good name of The Last House on the Left through the mud in order to make some quick cash, is totally, utterly, unforgivably despicable. Everyone who had a hand in this travesty, this personal attack on humanity, ought to be fully and completely humiliated to their cores.
Rational, functioning, adult minds did not create this unshapely trainwreck. It was drudged up from the sickly, rotting, pulsating, pus-leaking brains of the mutilated and the reprobate. And they actually want you to pay some of your hard-earned money to watch it. I made sure to look around online for some way, any way whatsoever to find someplace where I could watch it for free. And that is exactly what I did. I streamed it. If the police bust down my door sometime in the future and place me under arrest, I will show them this film, and while I will still be charged with piracy, the people of the United States of America will understand precisely why I did it.
It’s a cliche to say that Chaos is “everything wrong with cinema”, but it, without hyperbole, is it. It is truly everything wrong with cinema. Inexpiable. Grotesque. The absolute worst. How dare you, DeFalco and Bernheim. How dare you.
Heck, there’s not even an actual movie here.
It does at least have one achievement to its name – as the official absolute Worst Movie I have Ever Seen, as the most awful movie I can imagine.
David DeFalco and Steven Jay Bernheim, you are, in my opinion, the worst two filmmakers I have ever encountered in the long list of films I have watched in all of my eighteen and a half years. Not only are you small in talent, but you are large in arrogance and ignorance. While the things you have done in making your movie are by no means illegal save the plagiarism of LHotL, they are by no means decent, they are by no means acceptable, they are by no means cool, and they are by no means ethical. Despite you thinking that your awkward, uncomfortable, insipid reply to Roger Ebert’s review is enough to protect yourselves from criticism, you have been caught red-handed in a spiderweb of your lies, hubris, and pomposity, and you want to lie low until this blows over. The only thing I can do to bring attention to your disgusting thing that you call not just your movie but your tour de force is to review it and expose it and you as obtuse, truculent, injudicious, tactless, stolid, jejune, and pestilential. Your presence in the independent film industry is purely and irrevocably vampiric and cancerous, and you need to either come up with some real talent and make a legitimate movie, or leave the filmmaking world altogether. I will never try to censor you. But I will call you out on your lack of talent and shady practices. And I say “how dare you” when you call my fellow Chaos-haters out for calling you out and telling you that your dreck is dreck and that your drivel is drivel.
I did not seek this movie out. I simply happened to come across it. I saw that it was allegedly “the most brutal movie ever made”, and my interest was piqued. I watched it purely on a whim, and though I do not regret seeing it, I am angry at myself every day for watching it. You siphoned sixty-six minutes out of my life, David DeFalco and Steven Jay Bernheim, and this review is my attempt so siphon them back.
But as much as I may detest you two, DeFalco and Bernheim, I will be the first to shout your praise from the rooftops should you make a good movie or even a passable one. But movies like that take time. They take original ideas and competent writing. They need to be made out of inspiration, not obligation. They take talent. They take effort. Good films need that. Eraserhead took years to get made, and look at it now; it’s not only one of my personal favorites, but it’s a critically acclaimed staple of its genre. 2001: A Space Odyssey‘s ideas were inspired rather than contrived, and look at it now; it’s not only one of my personal favorites, but it’s a critically acclaimed staple of its genre. Stanley Kubrick made only thirteen films over the course of forty-six years. David Lynch made only ten films over forty years. Am I being harsh toward you when I say that you need to put in legitimate time and effort toward making a movie? I don’t think I am. I’m simply refusing to spare the rod and spoil the child. I’m giving you a little tough love. Throwing your toys out of the playpen and reacting violently to a well-known critic criticizing you is not going to improve your standing in the independent film industry or give you decent freaking PR. But you can do it. You can make a good movie. But proceed with caution as you follow William Edward Hickson’s wise words: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
It boggles my mind – no, it astounds me beyond belief that some people like this movie. They don’t just like it, but they love it. They still try to defend it. They actually told me what I have summed up in these two sentences: “Oh, you just didn’t get it! You should stick to Hollywood movies like the sheep you are and stay away from mentally challenging art like Chaos!” I scoffed at this response. I thought, What is there to get? Actually, the majority of moral, rational, thinking people like me are all in agreement that Chaos is a disgraceful clod of rubbish and codswallop. Maybe we are the ones who “get it.”
I searched the Internet and found more opinions of people who like Chaos. They weren’t pretty.
I found people who praised it for its brutality, realism, believability, acting, cinematography, story, pacing, intentions, and violence. They praised DeFalco and Bernheim for not making a feel-good movie.
I found people who claimed that Chaos was “hardcore”, “startling”, “relentless”, “nasty”, “gritty”, “bold”, “in your face”, “engaging”, “moving”, “gripping” and “powerful”.
I found people who claimed that Chaos “evoked strong feelings in [them] the whole way through”, “had [them] on the edge of their seat”, “never cuts away from its violence”, “shows how dangerous some people really are”, “really made [them] feel like [they] were there”, and “wasn’t a movie, but an experience”.
Then I encountered the people who think that Chaos trumps LHotL. “[Chaos is] everything that the remake of LHotL should have been”. “LHotL was cheap, exploitative, completely without quality, and deserved to be ripped off”.
Then I came across the people who defend Chaos‘s lack of plot or character. “Not everything is about plot”. “The things done to these two teens are the plot. Get it?” “No need for dialogue or character development”.
And then I had the misfortune of seeing the opinions of those who bash people who hate Chaos. “Typical stupid pussified American sheep are so reliant on their message of hope that they can’t handle an unhappy ending”. “If you don’t like Chaos, you’re not a true slasher movie lover”. “People who hate this just don’t know horror”. “If you don’t like Chaos, then you are not a true lover of brutality movies”. “If you hate Chaos, then you are not a true horror fan”. “If you hate Chaos, you are not a true movie lover”. “People who bash this movie have obviously never seen it”. “People just want to keep their blinders on”. “People just don’t want to admit that Chaos bothers them”. “People are just afraid of seeing this slice of life”. “People just can’t handle how realistic this movie is”. “People are just bashing this masterpiece because they can’t handle the extreme violence”. “Critics of Chaos clearly don’t live in the real world and have never had something like this happen to them”.
And yes, I of course saw people’s opinions that Chaos is art. “Chaos is art”. “I’m used to hearing the typical predictable, tiresome claims that Chaos is anything less than art”. “Art can be uncomfortable too”.
And then I came across this person, whose spiel has not been edited.
“1. “this movie is sad”-reviewer, yeah what do you expect a film boasting as “themost brutal film ever made” -ta be, happy? 2. gore, even though there isn’t much, holds up! 3. the story has it’s quirky moments to lighten up the intense atmosphere. 4. this movie could happen just like another reviewer stated bout me th-amphetamine users 5. the world is an ugly place. 6. i refuses to give in to the other remake pg-13 level hip & cool quick camera b.s. crap thats killing horror.”
I had to do a double-take on that little tidbit, and do the dramatic glasses-lowering thing.
It was a sad day when I found the people who are actually willing to defend Chaos.
Considering not just my hatred for Chaos, but the shady and shameless practices by DeFalco and Bernheim and the ludicrous and atrocious content in Chaos, does Chaos have a right to exist? Of course. It’s free speech, I guess, just so long as this movie wasn’t actually based on real-life events, as that would be screwed up.
Parenting. It’s what it’s all about. If you as a parent don’t want your kids (or your teens for that matter) to watch Chaos, don’t let them freaking watch Chaos! And if responsible adults who are aware of Chaos being garbage want to watch Chaos, I don’t give a crap! Have at it! And if you like it, that’s fine! Just…don’t talk to me. Actually, I take that back. If you like it, please tell me why. I would be intrigued to know. Talk to me as a child and explain in graphic detail why Chaos is a good movie.
But my issue is not with you. My issue is with David DeFalco and Steven Jay Bernheim.
I have never regretted watching a movie. Even Chaos. Every movie I see shapes my cinematic paradigm, for better or worse, from godsent films like 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Passion of the Christ to sleazy muck like The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, The Cat in the Hat, and The Garbage Pail Kids Movie. Movies help me deal with my insecurity. They give me a voice. They help me educate myself on my own self, the goodness of humanity, and the glory of God. And when I see movies like Chaos, I teach myself to reinforce my outlook on life. But with movies like Chaos, it becomes very hard to remind myself that I believe in God’s plan for me and humanity. It becomes very hard to remind myself that I believe that while humanity can be a force for great evil, it can also be a force for good. Though I believe in the goodness of humanity, I believe that God is a key component to maintaining that goodness.
When the movie finally ended, I sat in my computer chair, bewildered, but for all of the wrong reasons. I am not always picky about realism in film, but after hearing DeFalco and Bernheim make such a point about how this film was “disturbing”, “brutal”, “horrifying”, and “thought-provoking” in its “realism”, I must judge Chaos on it.
By the time Chaos’s personification of evil has killed all of our “heroes”, the screen has gone dark, and we hear the villain’s quiet, rough, cold, heartless laughter, indicating that evil has triumphed. So, over the course of Chaos, including its opening text crawl, what have we learned? That if teenage girls do anything as simple as take a walk in the woods, let alone go to a party or actually try to do a dang thing with their lives, that evil, disgusting pigs will torture, rape, and murder them, not always in that order? We can’t spend our lives in total seclusion, living under rocks and waiting out our meager existences. If DeFalco and Bernheim truly wanted to educate teenage girls on the horrors of what human monsters can do to them, they should have spent the time that was used to make this movie spending time and money helping women’s groups, filming public service announcements to show and tell where abused and battered women can seek help and shelter. Maybe they could have made safety videos on the dangers of talking to strangers and doing drugs. And at the very least, DeFalco and Bernheim could have made a movie that addresses the violence depicted in Chaos, made every showing of the movie free, had a Q&A session after every viewing, and actually treated their audience as more than cattle. If this sounds like Roger Ebert’s rather snobbish attitude toward the typical slasher movies of the eighties, allow me to explain why it’s not. When Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert reviewed Friday the 13th Part 4: The Final Chapter, they claimed that the movie was delivering a potentially damaging message to its teenage audience that is similar to the message I elaborated on above. While some of you may say that Chaos is simply meant to be like any typical eighties slasher, and that there is no message, allow me to counter: at the very beginning of Chaos, the opening text very clearly said that the movie was meant to be educational and was meant to warn parents and their children.
While evil cannot be overlooked, disinfected, or exscinded, evil, in Chaos’s case, is exploited and then some. When filmmakers, novelists, poets, and songwriters portray evil, they know that, even though the victory of evil does happen often, it is not enough to simply show or record it. They must show some sort of reaction to it. They need to give some sort of commentary. They need to give some notion that they have an idea of how to deal with and ultimately conquer evil. Not only does Chaos do nothing of the sort, it does absolutely nothing to help its audience even gain any semblance of understanding inhumanity, war, genocide, murder, rape, torture, or anything remotely associated with evil. Worse, it lacks even basic understanding of human nature. It only exists to exploit the horrible things done to these two young women. And yes, violence like this does happen to some people every day, but we as people need context. We need to be given an idea of how to stop it. Chaos does nothing to help the audience understand violence and evil, and worse, it doesn’t even give any sort of justification for it all.
In such a volatile time as this, in a world growing increasingly detached from morality in general and spinning away into oblivion, is it worth it to just show evil? By just saying that the world is full of evil and evil people and then doing little else other than showing us a picture of evil in its purest, basest, lowest form, you are not “depicting” evil. You are essentially just giving up and surrendering to it.
But Chaos does more than just surrender to evil – it feeds it. DeFalco said himself that he is the “King of Violence and Evil”. Chaos in and of itself is the glorification of wanton physical and sexual sadism and murder without any semblance of comeuppance. More than that, Chaos presents this veneration of evil with its own attitude of there being little to no method to fight against it. In Chaos, evil is given no accountability, no zeal, no background, no setup, no framework or structure, and no profundity. In fact, as I said earlier, we are given zero reminders that our villains at any point are actually human. It has completely forgotten the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” It is a closed system that will always be self-defeating.
One of Chaos’s most damning ideas is that it lacks any and every aspect of hope. While Chaos may have its sense of ineffectuality and dejection and its unhappy ending, it lacks any sort of release or catharsis. Most films with unhappy endings have these unhappy endings to help us deal with them, and accept failure, defeat, pain, and death as part of our lives, and serve to make us educate ourselves about our own humanity, our shortcomings, and, ultimately, our mortality. According to Chaos’s filmmakers, there is simply no alternative to death, destruction, and damnation, that life is worthless and lacks any sort of value, that hope is impossible let alone pointless, and that evil not only reigns and runs rampant through every society today, but will ultimately triumph over good. This is what DeFalco and Bernheim say that our world is like and that this is how things are and always will be.
In a world of reprehensible evil, your only response is to be nihilistic and hopeless? What type of people are you? I already know that your response will be “We are realists, and we are the people that will watch humanity in silence as it destroys itself. There is nothing worth saving, and so we will not bother trying.”
Humanity inherently evil? Humanity destroying itself? Humanity having nothing worth saving?
That could not be farther from the truth.
While humanity may be inherently flawed, there will always be those who strive to cling to morality and common decency, setting an example for others looking for a source of hope, a reason to exist. Contrary to popular belief, people are, in increasing numbers, turning to, for example, religion and God for any sort of reason what we are, why we are what we are, where we come from, why we are here, and where we are going. Paul Gauguin asked the same question in his famous painting. But I and many others are finding the answers to these five big questions. As the godless and the irreligious speed away into untold evils, more and more people are realizing that they, and we, have a purpose. This is why I believe in God, and am part of the LDS church. It gives me hope. It makes it easier to love my family, friends, fellow members of my church, and humanity in general. And, most of all, it gives me the slightest shred of hope that I’m actually here for a reason, that life actually has purpose, that I didn’t just materialize out of nothing, and that there’s something waiting for me when it’s all over.
And, like more than ninety percent of people in this world, I don’t just believe, but know, that soon, the evildoers will get their comeuppance, and the righteous shall reap their reward. Soon.
In the meantime, just ignore David DeFalco, ignore Steven Jay Bernheim, and ignore their huffy, dismal little film. In time, it, and they, will die, alone, defunct, desolate, forsaken, and forgotten, having not only received their comeuppance, but having been lost from even the darkest recesses of the minds of men.
We’ll all be better off for it.
God be with us.
Final verdict: Thumbs Down.