LORDS OF CHAOS (118 R)
A teenager’s quest to launch Norwegian Black Metal in Oslo in the early 1990s results in a very violent outcome.
Director: Jonas Åkerlund
Writers: Dennis Magnusson (screenplay by), Jonas Åkerlund (screenplay by)
Stars: Rory Culkin, Emory Cohen, Jack Kilmer
For anyone old enough to remember, “Satanic panic” thrived in the US in the ’80s and ’90s — but that’s mostly what it was, unfounded hysteria.
The founders of Norway’s supposedly Satan-worshiping black metal scene actually delivered on some nightmarish acts, though, as depicted in the fascinatingly grim “Lords of Chaos,” adapted from the 2003 book.
Narrated by black metal pioneer and guitarist Oystein Aarseth (Rory Culkin), who went by “Euronymous,” the film follows the emergence of this shrieking, Scandinavian variant of heavy metal and an eventual standoff between Aarseth and the more intense, Nazi-friendly Varg Vikernes (Emory Cohen).
Jonas Åkerlund, a Swedish director with a long history in music videos (he’s worked with acts from Madonna to Beyoncé to German industrial band Rammstein), gives an artful rendering of the pageantry of the scene, but doesn’t skimp on the gore either. He takes an unblinking look at the fallout from a genre that staked so much of its image on death and, like Aarseth’s band name, mayhem.
Cohen, so good in 2015’s “Brooklyn,” is chilling as the shark-eyed Varg (who has been linked to hate crimes in France in recent years), and Culkin brings just the right amount of eye-twitch to Aarseth, who seemingly enjoyed making grandiose proclamations of “evil” and donning corpse makeup rather than actual criminal activity — yet did little to stop out-of-control followers.