Emerging black metal guitarist Euronymous (Rory Culkin) forms a band called Mayhem in Norway with his friends. They seek out a new vocalist, which they find in Dead (Jack Kilmer), a Swedish singer with a penchant for self-harming. As the band starts to gain momentum they meet a fan named Varg (Emory Cohen) who is keen to gain himself and the band fame by committing heinous acts. When a tragedy befalls the band, Varg sees it as an opportunity to form the ‘Black Circle’ and make Mayhem notorious.
Lords of Chaos is based on the book by Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind. Supposedly based on real events, it’s questionable as to how close to the truth the film really is. If you dive deep enough you’ll find plenty of people saying it bears little to no resemblance to the events it’s based on at all. In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter but the artistic licence of director Jonas Åkerlund doesn’t really make the film any more interesting. Who knew that several scenes of churches being burned down could be so boring?
Setting its tone very quickly, Lords of Chaos is a moody, dark and mostly downtempo film. The oppressive black metal soundtrack, for me anyway, was a bit like torture but sadly it was one of the best things about the film. Lords of Chaos doesn’t really have a clue what it wants to be or what it’s trying to achieve. On the one hand it’s trying to capture a dark musical movement in Norway but on the other hand it badly tries to balance drama and horror. There are some unintentionally hilarious bits and that doesn’t really help either.
Essentially what the film boils down to is a battle between two characters Rory Culkin’s Euronymous and Emory Cohen’s Varg. The characters don’t get along to begin with so it’s no shock where the film goes and how the story unfolds. The ending feels inevitable so there’s no surprise, and there are no twists and turns to get there either. The moments of gory horror jar with the overall tone of the film and they are just plain nasty. There’s no reason other than shock value as to why those scenes are as graphic as they are, with the camera lingering in a sadistic and distasteful way.
Something that can’t really be faulted is the performances of the cast. Despite the characters being very two-dimensional, Rory Culkin and Emory Cohen manage to shine in the leads. They embody the disconnected youths they are playing and there’s a tension that builds between them throughout. The rest of the cast is fine but they don’t really have a lot to do.
Lords of Chaos is a bit of a mess. The pacing is all wrong, the storyline is barely there and the complete lack of surprises makes it a very pedestrian watch. Aside from the moments of graphic gore, there’s not much here for a horror crowds and the talented cast deserved much better material. Chalk this one down to a disappointing missed opportunity.
Cast: Rory Culkin, Emory Cohen, Jack Kilmer, Sky Ferreira Director: Jonas Åkerlund Writers: Dennis Magnusson, Jonas Åkerlund Certificate: TBC Duration: 112 mins Released by: Arrow Films