By Lois Kennedy
Director: Dorian Weinzimmer
Cast: Brant McCrea, Shira Barber, Dave Cartwright, Jonez Jones, Jeremy Vranich
Les is a vigilante known as The Ghoul. The moniker stems from the fact that he removes pieces of skin from his victims—not to eat, but to cover up his own debilitating skin loss. After being imprisoned unjustly for 10 years, he’s out to find the devil that killed his mother and stole his soul. Along for the ride are his long-suffering girlfriend Alex (who is tasked with sewing up and “repairing” him), her faithful brother Charles, and Detective Dave.
Maybe it’s just me, but I found this movie confusing as fuck. Character names are not often used and not introduced until well into the movie. The cold opening jumps right into action without explaining anything, and a lot of scenes feature lightning-fast shots that don’t adequately reveal what’s happening onscreen. Not to mention the surreal dreamlike sequences that have little bearing on the main story, like a gladiator (I think it’s young Les?) battling an elephant-headed man that has something to do with what Les has to do to get his soul back—I think?
That said, I loved the shit out of it. Right from the beginning it’s fascinating. The thing that grabbed me first was a flashback of Dave and his partner Lee beating Charles for withholding information. Charles spits in Lee’s face; Charles is laughing hysterically and so pleased with himself that he gives Lee a little nudge with his head. All of the performances are great like that, the little human touches that enforce the believability of the characters even in the midst of the all the supernatural goings-on.
The special effects and makeup are top-notch. There’s one extremely gory scene that goes inside a character’s body as he’s being eviscerated, and it’s pure genius. It originated on Kickstarter, but it looks as polished as any big-budget Hollywood movie. Even the fake blood is convincing; there’s a scene with a close-up of Les’s face after he dispatches some guys who attacked him, and the splattered drops look shockingly real. The soundtrack is gorgeous. The costumes are resplendent; there are a series of wacky side characters like a goth chick who plays piano in the back of a truck, a bunch of aliens (?) who look like they stepped out of a late-’90s Rob Zombie music video, and a guy dressed like a clown with a second head, and they look amazing.
Speaking of wacky, the first two-thirds or so of the movie plays like a gritty cop drama. The focus is on Lee being released from jail and getting settled, along with Dave’s investigation of him. Then in the last third the tone changes completely and the movie becomes an ’80s rock opera. Les becomes some kind of alien creature and battles the big bad, accompanied by an entourage of drummers. It sounds ludicrous, but by then I was ready to go wherever this crazy carnival ride took me.
I loved Chicago Rot, every second. Give it a look if you’re in the mood for something fun, well-made, and completely unpredictable.
PS the trailer helps explain the plotline–watch the trailer!