The Satanic panic for heavy metal was really in the ‘80. By the ‘90s it was something to co-opt for a metal band to create a persona. Jonas Akerlund’s Lords of Chaos is based on the true story of a Norwegian metal band that fully embraced the persona until it got quite out of hand. It’s plenty bloody and also just plain weird.
Mayhem band members in 1987 take on mythical names like Euronymous (Rory Culkin) and Varg (Emory Cohen). When Dead (Jack Kilmer) commits suicide in a triply graphic way, Euronymous has the idea to use this as part of the band’s legend. When that’s not enough they start desecrating churches. Euronymous is just in it for the marketing but Varg keeps trying to one-up him, leading to arson and murder. By 1993 Euronymous may have created a monster.
Lords of Chaos isn’t a horror movie per se, but it is gory AF and deals in many of the tropes or the genre. Characters are suicidal and/or obsessed with death, anti-Christianity whether for real or for publicity, and no one is safe, neither main characters nor random dudes on the street.
The self-mutilation involves deep, painful cuts that will make even the most hardened gorehound squirm. When someone gets stabbed it goes on and on and on and on. There are several dead animals either mailed to or caused by members of Mayhem. Euronymous has paranoid nightmare visions with montages of disturbing images. The sound is as aggressive as Mayhem’s music. All of those elements in one film can be jarring, but I think that’s the point so mission accomplished.
As a dark comedy, Lords of Chaos isn’t hilarious but it’s good for a few chuckles. The humor comes from the absurdity of these poser criminals. They’re not actual Satanists but they want to be cool like real Satanists. Well, Varg believed and that made him dangerous. Maybe we shouldn’t laugh since this is based on a true story so that means real people died.
They keep changing their names, especially Varg, and I could never understand what they’re calling themselves because it’s either Norwegian, old English or they’re just mumbling. I guess it doesn’t matter because they’re posers anyway, and even other characters don’t understand it so that’s the joke.
Euronymous has a love interest in Ann-Marit (Sky Ferreira). She’s more than a groupie because she supports him and is a very good reason to get out of this Satanic poser game. However, I can’t help but hope for a more authoritative role for a real life rocker in this heavy metal movie.
So Lords of Chaos is a chaotic mix. There’s so much in it that some of it is bound to thrill you, but it’s very erratic. There may be something for everyone, but that also means tolerating all the stuff that’s not for you at all.