ZERO out of Five Skulls
To endure ‘Chaos’, keep repeating: “It’s only a ripoff… it’s only a ripoff…”
Okay, I’m thoroughly confused. Because it feels like I just sat through a remake of “Last House on the Left”, but the credits of the film (which is called “Chaos”) don’t make any mention of it. In fact, the credits claim that the film was “based on an original idea by David DeFalco and Steven Jay Bernheim.” Huh. Neither of them was involved in the making of “Last House on the Left”, as far as I can tell. Well, there must be a script credit, or at least a story credit to Ingmar Bergman’s “The Virgin Spring”, which was the inspiration for Wes Craven’s adored 1972 exploitation flick, right? No. But hold on – the poster for the movie uses a direct quote from the “Last House on the Left” marketing campaign (as well as ripping off “Deranged”). And still, no credit is given.
Fuck a review – is that even legal?
Why anyone would want to remake such a graceless, unpleasant, and limited film as “Last House on the Left” is far beyond me. I’m not saying that it’s a bad movie (although being forced to watch it at a Little League barbecue at age 10 was probably not the best way to be introduced to its particular “flavor”), but what in God’s name can be gained by a near shot-for-shot remake, other than a modest pop in visibility for an unscrupulous, uninspired production? I think Craven made his point well enough in 1972, with a deceptively simple story that resonated with the political unrest of the time. Nothing new is brought to the table here other than an ending that undermines the only point that the original film had to begin with, making the entire effort completely gratuitous.
The plot (in one sentence, since we’ve all seen the exact same film done several times already): two girls leave a rave to score drugs and end up being tortured and killed by a group of 4 convicts, who wind up taking shelter at the home of one of the girls, at which point the parents attack and kill them. There’s a slight variance in terms of who’s left standing in the last frame (which led the screening audience I was in to burst into spontaneous laughter – not intended reaction, I imagine), but other than that, it’s the same movie. I’m not quite sure who the intended audience is, especially considering that the flick takes pains to claim that it’s an “educational” effort. Right – as if teen girls who wander into the woods with strangers at the promise of ecstasy and their parents are going to go running out to see this movie. I’m certainly not in the target group, as I don’t enjoy watching women get sexually brutalized for no apparent reason – even when there is a point to the film – so that leaves people who get off on a lot of screaming and rape of minors (if you’re not one of these people, you might want to sit in the back of the theatre, just to be on the safe side).
The performances are well-intentioned but mostly ineffective (it’s sort of like watching the Cleveland Playhouse putting on a staged version of “Last House”) and the photography, while lacking the grittiness that gave the original film its edge, is standard. Yes, the killings are unpleasant. But please – is it really that difficult to make the prolonged rape and murder of two teenage girls unpleasant? Step up to a slightly more difficult challenge and we’ll talk, guys. The latest of a dozen films this year to claim to be “the most brutal movie ever filmed”, “Chaos” makes the same mistake that they all do: confusing brutality with daring. What’s daring about fucking and stabbing a teenager for 10 minutes? How exactly is that something to brag about? Pulling this kind of cheap gag is just about the easiest way to get a reaction out of an audience (aside from killing a child – which was already tackled in the similarly unnecessary “Murder-Set-Pieces” earlier this year). Yes, I recoiled when lead baddie Chaos cut off one of the girls’ nipples and chewed on it. And guess what – I also drop money into those donation cans with pictures of deformed dogs that you see by cash registers of gas stations. So “Chaos”, in all its artistry, is the cinematic equivalent of a puppy that has had its head bashed in and is now being used as a marketing device for a likely nonexistent non-profit organization.
I guess my problem here is that I went into “Chaos” thinking it would be a horror movie – namely, a play on expectations and emotions, utilizing elements of suspense and surprise to thrill, frighten, disgust, and amuse. Despite what its mea culpa opening titles may claim, it’s just an excuse to show nudity, profanity, and uncontextualized sadism. Even were it not a shameless ripoff of a film that had far greater aims in terms of its message, it’s just not good – and certainly not anything that I can endorse, either in good moral conscience or with respect to the films that it so blithely robs. I guess in that sense the filmmakers have topped “Last House on the Left” in one key regard: whereas Craven and company made a cruel film that paid respect to its sources, these filmmakers have no problem robbing credit from their influences. And that’s a brutal exercise indeed.