When word filtered out that the Lords Of Chaos movie was being made it put a whole subculture of people on edge. The events that surrounded the Norwegian black metal band Mayhem in the early 1990s are not something that are exactly looked back on fondly by heavy metal fans. Yes, Mayhem virtually created a new wave of black metal but the crimes and deaths around the band also caused negative media attention and scorn to be placed on a subculture of people who already had been vilified fairly frequently. The saving grace for those worried about the film though was that it was being directed by Jonas Akerlund (Spun, Polar) – a gifted filmmaker who also had inside knowledge of the black metal world given that he was formerly the drummer for Bathory.
Akerlund’s film tells a biographical tale inspired by the book Lords Of Chaos written by Michael Moynihan and Didrik Soderlind. It tells the story of a group of young musicians, including Euronymous (Rory Culkin – Signs, Scream 4), Necrobutcher (Jonathan Barnwell – Ripper Street, Endeavour) and Kjetil Manheim (James Edwyn – Palo). Together these three dream of becoming a metal band that means something and to reclaim the name black metal as they feel bands that are currently in the genre no longer have the beliefs of the founding fathers.
The course of the band and music history though are changed forever when they meet Dead (Jack Kilmer – The Nice Guys, Palo Alto) a troubled young man who becomes a messiah for the band and their followers and Varg (Emory Cohen – Brooklyn, The Place Beyond The Pines) who has even more vocal thoughts about the black metal community and later becomes a rival for Euronymous.
Putting together the screenplay for Lords Of Chaos was always going to be a tough task for Akerlund and his co-screenwriter Dennis Magnusson (King Of Devil’s Island, Jordskott) given that because nearly everyone involved in the events of Mayhem had a different story or version to tell and given that perhaps some people don’t want to incriminate themselves. Still what they deliver here in the film is serviceable enough to be able to piece together events and seems to tell the more ‘popular’ sides of the story.
Keeping that in mind what Akerlund has delivered here is a brilliant film that cruises through genres with seamless ease. Some of the crimes committed are shown in their gorey, naturalistic form bringing forth a strong horror element but at the same time, Akerlund manages to bring a type of black comedy through that just simmers under the surface throughout the film giving the film an almost dark version of American Pie at times. Having said that though this is also a film of mystery and intrigue and has a genuine heart at times. The pain felt by various characters when a character suicide is dealt with brilliantly by the filmmaker and the film takes another turn completely with the suspense that is brought into things by the rivalry between Euronymous and Varg.
What else adds to the brilliance of Lords Of Chaos is the casting. The three leading men here are sensational. Rory Culkin’s well-rounded performance reveals him to be an actor that Hollywood needs to be taking more notice. His dramatic and poignant style of acting shows him to be somebody that can match it with the Jake Gyllenhaal’s of the world. His scenes with Emory Cohen are amazing, especially when Cohen is at his menacing best. Last but not least is Jack Kilmer who shows that he is an actor to watch. All three of these young stars could have big futures ahead of them especially given the acting range they asked to perform here – whether it be black comedy or scenes of intensity the three shine throughout and deliver what is asked of them.
Lords Of Chaos has all the makings of a cult film. A brilliantly written film that is a little different to everything else currently on the market, amazing performances from its leading men and one of those films that you really have to search to find where it is screening. Lords Of Chaos is one of the must-see films of 2019.