Ambition is an important quality for filmmakers to have. I’ll take an ambitious film like Chicago Rot over one that is coasting almost every time out, even if the former happens to be one where its reach exceeds its grasp. There’s something to be said of the connection between films that try to stretch beyond their means to give audiences something different, whether they are ready for it or not.
Look back on most of your favorite genre offerings and you will often find that they were created outside of the studio system and crafted under numerous constraints. When filmmakers are backed into a corner, they tend to resort to ingenuity to get out of a jam. At least the good ones do, anyway. It’s when those scenarios breed imaginative creativity that we are gifted with wild new pieces of storytelling and imagery.
Of course, the flipside of this is a big budget project where money can be thrown at almost any problem. More often than not, this leads to a lack of imagination, since those making the project are rarely ever forced to think on the fly and get creative to work out any problem at hand. It’s why many a filmmaker often seems to lose their voice a bit when they move up to the “big leagues”.
Lucky for us, Chicago Rot is ambitious as hell. Beginning its tale as a seemingly straightforward crime thriller, it slowly weaves in more and more horror, science fiction, and fantasy elements as it goes on. The result is a rather unique genre mash-up that is sure to thrill some, baffle others, and potentially enrage many. After all, any film that attempts such narrative and tonal shifts is not for everyone.
That’s perfectly fine, as not every film is meant to be consumed by all and the makers of Chicago Rot certainly don’t have mass appeal on their minds. Sure, it’s kind of shaggy and, at least for me, not every shift in the story works. That’s also perfectly fine. Cinema does not have to be neat and clean. It’s allowed to get messy and make you question what you like and don’t like about it.
Immediately after viewing Chicago Rot, I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not. I certainly didn’t hate it. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I certainly can’t hate a film that sees a seemingly-normal (at first) convict getting released from prison and setting out for a reckoning in a story that ends up containing dirty cops, offbeat criminals, and otherworldly beings. It’s just not in my DNA. In the days since seeing it at Nightmares Film Festival, however, I find myself thinking on the film more and more. Yep, I like it. Will I come to love what writer/director Dorian Weinzimmer and writer/actor Brant McCrea have created here? I’m still not sure, as its reach does exceed its grasp. That said, the fact that I’m still thinking about it means that I’ll certainly seek out whatever they make next.