Euronymous, an Oslo teenager hellbent on launching true Norwegian Black Metal, shapes his band Mayhem with edgy publicity stunts that invokes the calling of Satan and being an anarchist against the moral norm to make his brand renowned around the underground music world in the late 1980s. As his fame flourishes with creating ungodly music, owning and running a music store, and helming his own record label, Euronymous continues his crusade agasint the establishment, but the lines blur when his messages of hellfire become unforeseen reality. Suicide, arson, violence, and coldblooded murder push Euronymous to the limits of his own soapbox inactions, leaving him open for the possibility of being overthrown by his own acolyte metalheads.
To prepare myself for Jonas Åkerlund’s biographical thriller, “Lords of Chaos,” I immersed myself into Jason Lei Howden’s 2015 black metal horror film “Deathgasm” as precursor preparation into the intense and unforgiving metal macabre genre. Whereas “Deathgasm” is a balls to the weed whacker splatter film of the pissed off demonia kind, “Lords of Chaos” is a polar horror feature with factual roots. Åkerlund’s, who directed Mads Mikkelson in Netflix’s “Polar” and has an extensive history in directing music videos for various artists, draws inspiration for the 2018 film from his own experience in a Swedish Black Metal band, Bathroy, from the late 80’s. The Grammy award winning music video director creates beauty out of the horrific true life event, unidealized nearly entirely without much speculation that faithfully puts to picture a misanthropic tragedy in a bone-chilling manner.
From “Signs” to “Scream 4,” Rory Culkin has remained on the actors-to-watch radar and is most certainly, our favorite Culkin to watch on the screen. In “Lords of Chaos,” Rory plays and narrates the story as Øystein “Euronymous” Aarseth, the guitarist and creator of Norwegian Black Metal band, Mayhem. As if written stars, Euronymous surrendered to Rory Culkin’s performance and Rory Culkin became Euronymous. The eerie synonymous blurred identities that catapults Culkin to be admired amongst his peers and his worked beloved. Opposite Culkin is Emory Cohen as Kristian ‘Varg’ Vikernes, former Mayhem bandmate and convicted murdered of Euronymous. Cohen is bitterly intense with a historical figure whose committed arson and homicide and the New York City born actor uncomplicated approach to a complicated character had a natural phenomena about that would spook your soul from your body. Culkin and Cohen fed off each other’s energy to an explosive dynamic too good to be stagecraft. Another highlight from “Lords of Chaos,” though rather story line brief, is Val Kilmer’s son, Jack Kilmer, as Per Yngve Ohlin aka Dead. Kilmer tackles a depressed introvert and, in one opinion, nails the mental deficiency metalhead who was ordained to take his own life with great savagary showmanship. The film also costars Sky Ferreira (“Green Inferno”), Valter Skarsgård, Anthony De La Torre (“Johnny Gruesome”), Jonathan Barnwell, Sam Coleman (“Leatherface”), and Lucian Charles Collier.
If not paying attention, “Lords of Chaos” will slip under the radar since most audiences are conditioned to subsidize shiny cinema productions that make you feel all warm and cozy inside and spark wander and induce marvel and amazement. Åkerlund’s film will not send those sorts of puppy dog tingles down your spine. Many biopic films about ill-fated tragedy don’t do well with the general population; “Auto Focus” comes to mind with Greg Kinnear and Willem Dafoe. Critics eat up the inherent black dramas like Cookie Crunch and “Lords of Chaos” exudes madness and misery through deep seeded vigor for fame and principle. Åkerlund deserves nothing but our admirable applause for delivering an unadulterated visualization of literal mayhem from soup to nuts.
Umbrella Entertainment releases onto DVD home video “Lords of Chaos,” a co-production from Gunpowder & Sky, 20th Century Fox, Vice Films, and Insurgent Media. Presented in a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Umbrella Entertainment’s picture quality is exemplary in it’s natural, yet supernatural-like surrealistic manner in a clean digital presentation. Pär M. Ekberg’s depiction is hard-edge elegant and haunting with recreations of and the intertwinement of actual photos of Euronymous, Varg, and Dead. If you’ve seen “Polar,” you know Åkerlund and Ekberg brush stroke a fine line between reality and graphic novel much the same as “Lords of Chaos'” allegory. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound mix has high level attributes with clean and perceptible dialogue, a vast range of ambient noise, and a killer black metal soundtrack worth banging your head to. No bonus features accompany this title. “Lords of Chaos” is a heavy story that needed to be told and feels very much like a part of Åkerlund, an extension of himself through his past brought forward to illuminate the blackness in us all derived from the power of metal with a psycho-psychology that’s industrial-built.
A small mid-western town has been terrorized by a string of gruesome murders and two local high school girls, Sadie and McKayla, seek to lure the killer out to not stop his onslaught, but to be put under his machete wielding wing. The best friends use their twitter page, @TragedyGirls, to platform their grisly kills as devastating tragedies and to be supportive outreaches in order to be beloved by all and to obtain social media stardom as a facade over being iconically elusive serial killers, but when their plan to capture a mentor fails, a wedge drives between them when Sadie begins to fall for longtime friend, and video editor for their twitter page, Jordan Welch. That’s all the fuel needed to spark McKayla into a deadly paroxysm in order to get her best sociopathic friend back by her side.
“Tragedy Girls” is the uptempo horror-comedy by writer-director Tyler MacIntyre along with fellow co-writer Chris Lee Hill, both whom previously helmed another horror-comedy entitled “Patchwork” in 2015. “Tragedy Girls” aims to put the slasher genre on it’s head by turning what should be two sweet high school girls into the sadistic hunters instead of the usual genre trope of hapless prey and incorporate the dark side of social media, using platforms, such as Twitter, to gain notoriety through exploitation of others’ very lives, but the use of social media doesn’t sticker MacIntyre’s film as tech horror. Instead, typical ditzy-dynamic adolescent drama is integrated into the gory melee Sadie and MacKayla fabricate for fandom. There’s plenty of blood and death to go around through a mix bag of slaughter with some being inspired by other horror films, channelling such classic as “Friday the 13th” and “Carrie.”
“Deadpool’s” Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Brianna Hildebrand, and Alexandra Shipp, who’s also a Marvel superhero in X-Men franchise as Storm in “X-Men: Apocalypse,” star as besties Sadie and MacKayla. Hildebrand and Shipp are doubly frightening as two sociopathic killers and equally as scary as silver screen teenage girls glued to their phones while keeping up with their good fashion sense, but their pixie cut and cheerleader personas are as embellished as their underlining dark craft to make “Tragedy Girls” over-the-top and shocking on a “Save by the Bell” level. Though the two are stone cold, homicidal maniacs, a love interest is added for Sadie. The “The Hunger Games'” Jack Quaid, son of Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid, fills the shoes of the lovesick Jordan Welch and Quaid does a fine job being the smartest guy in the room, but still being blindly dumb to the situation unfolding around him and Sadie. Surprisingly, a number of various genre vets rear their heads in this film, starting with “The Strain’s” Kevin Durand. The 6’6” tower of pure muscle Durand embodies a Jason Voorhees like villain when masked; unmasked, he’s about as stupid as they come and Durand can do stupid very well. Part of the comedy, of this horror-comedy film, stems from an uncharacteristic role played by Craig Robinson as a very unfit, local firefighter hero, fittingly named Big Al. The “This is the End” and “Ghosted” star bores through his minor role of Big Al with very little dialogue as Robinson is well known for wit, but the comedian has one of the better scenes with a 2-on-1 fight scene with the two demented school girls. The last recognizable face being mentioned flames out as quickly as it’s flamed in from the Sci-Fi genre. Josh Hutcherson, another “The Hunger Games” star, goes James Dean as MacKayla’s emo ex-beau, Toby Mitchell. Hutcherson’s character doesn’t quite fit the “Tragedy Girl” mold that pushes the limits later on in the film and his portrayal of Toby Mitchell is awkwardly misplaced as overzealous and forgettable. Rounding out the remaining cast is Timothy V. Murphy (“The Frankenstein Theory”), Nicky Whelan (“Flight 7500”), Keith Hudson, Savannah Jayde, and Katie Stottlemire.
“Tragedy Girls” will do well as it’s a solid horror-comedy with a la carte gore. None of the characters seize the progression of the trope reversal story and with the exception of Hutcherson’s Toby Mitchell, the actors conform precisely to the animation of their character’s scribed personas. Hildebrand and Shipp are the epitome of that last statement. The pair of actresses have a real life proprietary appearance about them and to crossover those looks and meld them into Sadie and MacKayla will forever establish them as the true tragedy girls. “Tragedy Girls” isn’t just about flip-flopping the genre rear ended up; writers MacIntyre and Hill pen a film that’s also about female empowerment with two strong actresses filling the shoes of two self-sufficient badasses committed to doing what’s conventionally labeled male subversive behavior and accomplishing it on whole other level. Even if on the wrong side of the law, the tragedy girls stick together through the good and the bad to overcome various high school and beyond high school hurdles that attempt to thwart not just their friendship, but their cyberspace popularity.
Gunpowder & Sky proudly distributes “Tragedy Girls,” a film by fresh faced production companies like Its The Comeback Kid and New Artist Pictures, onto VOD now and DVD home video February 6th. Since provided with an streaming link for review, a well-rounded critique on the DVD’s technical specs, picture quality, audio tracks, and bonus features will unfortunately not be commented on, but the very film itself should entice the most casual horror film goer who usually doesn’t stray off the mainstream path. With familiar faces and plenty of bloodshed, “Tragedy Girls” holds water against competitors in a flooded genre. Don’t forget to follow them, #tragedy_girls or @tragedygirls, or else you’ll be next tragedy exhibited in their wall feed!