Friday, August 31, 2018

CHAOS (2005) Blu-ray review

Chaos (2005) d. David DeFalco (USA)

I saw Chaos for the first time during its initial limited 2005 summer release in Chicago, home of the infamous Roger Ebert debate/“zero stars” review. Ironically, the swelling of ill-informed hatred put me in an odd position of defending it in spite of the fact that I didn't think it was a great film or even a good film. However, since it had such a limited theatrical release, I found myself incredibly frustrated not having anyone to actually talk to who had actually seen the damn thing – arguing instead against mere rhetoric and ignorance.

Much of the online vitriol directed toward the picture focuses on its being an unauthorized remake of Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left. If one has seen Chaos, this goes without saying. It is very nearly a scene-for-scene remake: Two girls go to a rave in the woods, fall into bad company whilst seeking recreational drugs, and are subsequently raped and murdered. Later, following some car trouble, the quartet of killers shows up at a house in the woods, unaware that it is the residence of the parents of one of their victims.

What is inherently regrettable is that writer/director David DeFalco and producer Steven Jay Bernheim elected to claim Chaos was “based on an original idea” (presumably to avoid getting the rights) because it instantly moved the discussion off their film and onto its credits (a ludicrous notion, especially since Marc Sheffield, who played “Junior” in the 1972 movie, is listed as a co-producer and their poster art even uses elements of its predecessor’s “It’s only a movie… only a movie…” advertising campaign!)

So, let’s just let that go. Chaos is absolutely a redux of LHOTL. Yet… it is here that it actually succeeds.

What people often forget is that Craven’s debut (itself a remake of Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring) is not a perfect venture. Influential as it might have been in its day, it’s rough all around – in all aspects of filmmaking (which Craven himself has frequently admitted) – and survives purely on its courage to go “there.” And then there are those jokey cops and Ada Washington and the chicken truck...

Chaos does not resolve all of these issues by a long, long shot. The acting is so-so and often mannered (Kevin Gage, Deborah Lacey, and Scott Richards fare best, as the ruthlessly charismatic “Chaos/Krug” and the girl’s parents, respectively), the dialogue ranges from trite to grating, and the direction fairly rudimentary. However, the scenes of violence and the makeup f/x are excellent, and the entire cast is supremely committed to the cause, especially our two female victims (played by Chantal DeGroat and Maya Barovich).

Having recently watched Arrow Video’s excellent Blu-ray release of the original, I was reminded, despite its flaws, just how effective Chaos is during select moments. Provided they don’t come in with an anti-remake chip on their shoulder, fans of LHOTL should appreciate it as there is much to admire, with the murders just as shocking as they deserve to be without being overly gratuitous, and a twist ending absolutely in keeping with an ultraviolent decade highlighted by Saw and Hostel sequels. And there are no jokey cops or chicken trucks.

It was on the (now out of print) DVD’s special features that I discovered the two faces of ex-wrestler-turned-director DeFalco. On the commentary track with Bernstein, he sounds quite humble and even mild-mannered at times, coming off as nothing more than a young, eager filmmaker who simply wants people to like his movie. However, in his featurette at the L.A. coroner’s office – an under-rehearsed macho stunt both laughable and embarrassing – he becomes the supremely insensitive poser who has incurred the wrath of numerous festival crowds. Stick with Dr. Jekyll, David, because Mr. Hyde ain’t doing you any favors.

Overall, I recommend grindhouse fans check out Chaos for themselves and see what they think. It’s not “the most brutal film ever made” as its promotional materials ballyhoo, but it certainly has its moments.

DISCLAIMER: Though I have not seen it firsthand, Chaos was apparently released earlier this year on Blu-ray by Code Red as a double feature with 1972’s Don’t Look in the Basement (???) and can be ordered HERE:


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