Film Review – Lords of Chaos

Lords of Chaos

Lords of Chaos

I am a late-in-life metalhead. I was too punk rock in the eighties to listen to any heavy metal other than Motörhead, but in the last 10 years or so I’ve opened my heart (and ears) to our hard rocking brethren. I’m not super into Norwegian black metal, but I can dig it and after doing some research to weed out the homophobes and Nazis, I’ve found a few bands I really enjoy. As a middle-aged lady, I am pretty sure I am not the intended audience, but whatever. I listen to what I want. When Lords of Chaos became available for review I jumped at the chance to see a biopic about the seminal band Mayhem – one of the progenitors of the Norwegian black metal sound. The film is co-written and directed by Jonas Åkerlund, formerly of the Swedish black metal band Bathory, so I was looking forward to learning more about the history of such a troubled group by someone who was part of that whole scene. I need not have bothered. It’s a mean-spirited piece of crap.

According to this film, Mayhem was the brainchild of guitarist Øystein Aarseth (aka Euronymous, played here by Rory Culkin), an opportunistic fellow willing to dig deep into the darkness to make his band a success. After developing Mayhem’s signature sound with the help of singer Per Yngve Ohlin aka Dead (Jack Kilmer), the band starts to create quite the following. Dead’s complete and utter dedication to all things death-related (he is often attributed being the first dude to wear corpse paint) elevates Mayhem above their peers, even after (and maybe especially because of) his suicide. Euronymous maybe commits a little cannibalism, opens a record store, records some more music, gets a nemesis named Varg (Emory Cohen), participates in some church burnings, learns one of his bandmates is a murderer, and then gets murdered himself.

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Pretty much every character in this film is a dumbass, and I’m willing to bet the real people in this story were as well. (The one thing this movie does well is show how silly these dudes were.) And of course they were. They were young men obsessed with death and violence and rock-n-roll. It’s a recipe for idiocy. Unfortunately, their youthful shenanigans involved suicide and murder, which isn’t that funny. One can approach this type of subject matter and make it hilariously tragic – the Coen Brothers have built a career on it – but this film contains only snark. The suicide and murder scenes feel like they last forever – with loving detail given to each knife stroke – but only a dipshit would attempt to make these events ironic. (If you suffer from suicidal ideation or are a cutter, this film might not be healthy for you FYI.) Now, I am all for violence in movies, but this feels like it is a 14 year-old’s idea of what a transgressive film might be. It is as immature as the events it is portraying. I learned the word “edgelord” the other day. It’s someone who is offensive in order to seem edgy. (Like a preteen or an MRA dude.) This is some edgelord bullshit right here.

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There are a million ways Åkerlund could have made an interesting movie out of Mayhem’s story, and I am not sure why he didn’t pick any of them. What the hell happened in Norway during the eighties that made young people wear corpse paint and burn down churches? What happened in the lives of these young men to cause so many deaths? How did this musical style develop and what did some of the other black metal bands sound like? How great is Satan and does he really want people to be Nazis? (I would watch the shit out of that movie.) Instead, we get this juvenile crapfest I don’t even feel remotely obligated to be nice about.  Here are some other things I hated:

  • Dead’s wig was real bad.
  • Ladies have more than one purpose. We are not just sex holes.
  • This did not feel like it took place in Norway in the eighties. It seemed like Wisconsin last week.
  • SO MUCH SNARK. Snark and humor are two different things FYI. (I fully realize this review is nothing but snark. I have been driven to become the thing I hate.)

Ok. I am done writing about this movie. I never want to think of it again. But it’s opening at the Grand Illusion Cinema in Seattle the day this will be posted. I DO NOT THINK YOU SHOULD GO SEE IT. However, I am loathe to tell you not to go to the GI; it is my favorite theater in town. If you are local, have you thought about getting a membership? They are $40 per year and well worth your time. DO NOT GO SEE THIS MOVIE. Get the GI membership instead!




Adelaide enjoys watching all kinds of movies, but is never going to see Titanic unless there is a sizable amount of money involved.

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