Lords of Chaos (2018) – movie review

Biography, drama and horror come together in Lords of Chaos, an American and Norwegian production about the Norwegian Black Metal band Mayhem and their leader Euronymous, played by Rory Culkin.

After a year-long festival run around the world, Lords of Chaos dropped on Amazon Prime for the US, whereas it’ll be distributed in theatres in Europe from March 29th.

The movie takes place between the late 80s and early 90s and follows, mainly, Euronymus’ quest to create black, satanic metal music and, in doing so, escaping Norwegian “boring and dull” lifestyle. Along the way, he meets people who either he connects to or becomes rival with: however, when Kristian ‘Varg’ (Emory Cohen) comes along, things start getting more fucked up than they were before.

Lords of Chaos features loads of impressive and creative elements. First and foremost, it’s a highly controversial film in terms of content: there’s nudity and sex, gore and violence, strong language and anti-religious statements. However, the movie goes an extra mile including content that even many horror fans would struggle to sit through, such as animal cruelty (simulated, don’t worry) and Nazi-esque elements. What I love about it is that the filmmakers don’t blatantly tell the audience that Nazism, vandalism, animal cruelty (and the list goes on) are wrong: instead, the film presents us with these themes in a somewhat detached way, where it’s important for the viewer to find out why does things are wrong without being spoon-fed.

Continue reading and check my final grade below… 

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Speaking of creativity, most of the movie displays some truly masterful sequences: the cameras in Loards of Chaos switch from one lens to the other like it’s nothing, adding a visual flair to an already fascinating story. There’s plenty of interesting shots in the movie that either add to the tension or show the contrast between “black metal lifestyle” and “average Norwegian way of life”.

Since this is a movie about a metal band and their leader, the music plays a big part in the picture. Whether you like extreme metal or not (and I personally don’t), the score here is integral to the story and helps building the unnerving, headache-inducing atmosphere the characters experience in the film. Towards the end, some scenes are accompanied by a more atmospheric kind of music, which sounded really nice but was completely different and inconsistent with everything else, making me a bit confused more than anything.

Yet, Lords of Chaos isn’t all about music. The film touches upon many topics in its nearly-two-hour-long runtime (which, by the way, feels really short), going from character study to exploration of paranoia, to teenage angst and inner necessity to go against the system. Nonetheless, two are the most relevant themes, in my opinion: the first one revolves around the difference between making music to express yourself, because you strongly believe in something, and making music to sell and become famous. This is a very interesting contrast, in my opinion, but the movie keeps spelling it out for you – through corny dialogue or expository narration – which makes it quite a bit less powerful.

The other main topic or meaning of the movie concerns bad influences: it tackles the concept of an idea that escalates into a spiral of violence and blood. Although this might also seem very superficial, Loards of Chaos assesses this concept in a very subtle way where the audience, little by little, understands the implications of what’s going on.

Lords of Chaos is a very ambitious film in telling a dense story filled with interesting topics and presenting it in a rather creative and unconventional way. For these reasons, I’m truly glad I watched it and I really can’t wait to see it again a second and even a third time soon.

Nonetheless, this is not a movie without issues. I mentioned some of them above, but the movie suffers from three main problems: the voice over narrating the story is the first one. It’s such a lazy way to move the plot along, especially when the narration only sums up what just happened, as though the viewer was distracter or not smart enough to understand.

Secondly, the acting isn’t on par with story, visuals and themes. Don’t get me wrong, though, most of the cast does a decent job and there weren’t many scenes where some bad line delivery took me out of the experience, but such good material truly deserved to be elevated by some great, emotional performances. That said, Rory Culkin does a very decent job for the most part, so I shouldn’t complain too much… Cohen’s presence, though, was very hit and miss. And his laughter was the most annoying thing ever!

Finally, at one point, Lords of Chaos takes a humongous dive in pacing that lasts 20 minutes or so. During those moments, the movie basically shows us the same occurrence happening repeatedly with slight variations, so this part of the film might not be boring, but it definitely becomes repetitive. Other than that, though, Lords of Chaos is truly a dense and exciting film, where something is constantly happening: the movie doesn’t ever stop and, from beginning to end, it’s quite the ride.

In conclusion, if you’re a fan of cats you should probably avoid the first 30 minutes of Lords of Chaos… Besides that, this is a movie I would really love people to watch, especially if you’re looking for a different kind of horror that comes from a mixture of violence and realistic drama, since it’s a film “Based on truth… lies… and what actually happened”.

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Lords of Chaos                     7.5/10

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