On the topic of exploitation films…the makers of "Chaos" respond to Roger Ebert’s zero-star review of the film, and he writes back. We feel like by doing this he’s assigning far too much power and meaning to what’s essentially a shoddily acted C-movie that tries twice to get you to walk out of the theater, but some interesting points are made. The filmmakers:
Natalie Holloway. Kidnappings and beheadings in Iraq shown on the internet. Wives blasting jail guards with shotguns to free their husbands. The confessions of the BTK killer, These are events of the last few months. How else should filmmakers address this "ugly, nihilistic and cruel" reality — other than with scenes that are "ugly, nihilistic and cruel," to use the words you used to describe "Chaos."
Mr. Ebert, would you prefer it if instead we exploit these ugly, nihilistic and cruel events by sanitizing them, like the PG13 horror films do, or like the cable networks do, to titillate and attract audiences without exposing the real truth, the real evil?
Mr. Ebert, how do you want 21st Century evil to be portrayed in film and in the media? Tame and sanitized? Titillating and exploitive? Or do you want evil portrayed as it really is? "Ugly, nihilistic and cruel," as you say our film does it?
We tried to give you and the public something real. Real evil exists and cannot be ignored, sanitized or exploited. It needs to be shown just as it is, which is why we need this sâ€”t, to use your own coarse words. And if this upsets you, or "disquiets" you, or leaves you "saddened," that’s the point. So instead of telling the public to avoid this film, shouldn’t you let them make their own decision?
Whoa, boys, nice try there, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, yes? Your film is merely unpleasant spectacle â€” nowhere is there larger commentary afloat, unless you count the fact that at one point Kevin Gage’s character mutters something about having served in the military. And also, what?! Accrediting events to "pure evil," making an exploitation film then attempting to pass it off as some didactic public act? That’s silly at best, delusional and frightening at worst. And, given the "Facts" listed on the official site (our favorite: "Writer/Director David ‘the Demon’ DeFalco has been permanently terminated from the 24 Hour Fitness gym chain in Los Angeles due to members being in fear of their lives with him working out there."), desperately self-important.
Ebert responds to their letter with an undeservedly thoughtful and lengthy piece on the nature of nihilism in film that’s worth a read. He does eventually call them out on something he should have started off with, however:
Your real purpose in making "Chaos," I suspect, was not to educate, but to create a scandal that would draw an audience. There’s always money to be made by going further and being more shocking. Sometimes there is also art to be found in that direction, but not this time.
Truer words, Roger. And interesting in this weekend of "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance" and the "Karla" kerfluffle. We’ve never been bothered by violence on screen before, but we’ve never specifically sought out a film on the basis of its alleged shock value either (though we did watch some of "From Justin to Kelly" once on TV) â€” what’s the point? Are we in some kind of race towards desensitization? Oliver Assayas’ "Demonlover" has been in our thoughts a lot recently. When we first saw it, we left with mixed feelings, but something about the utter moral callousness of the characters (something that rendered their already near inscrutable motivations totally incomprehensible) and the way they turned the same detached, hollow-eyed gaze to every piece of media they were confronted with, whether it be a video game, TV show, or illegal torture/porn site, seem more resonant and disturbing as time passes.
+ Evil in film: To what end? (RogerEbert.com)