Arrow Delivers the Definitive Lords Of Chaos

Oh yeah, I've been waiting for this one to arrive!  I almost broke down and copped the US edition that came out earlier this year, but that and the German blu are barebones.  Only Arrow has created a proper special edition, just released this summer, of Jonas Akerlund's Black Metal true crime dramatization Lords Of Chaos.  And yes it's one of their UK only titles (since MVD have licensed it for the US) and it's labeled Region B, but the disc doesn't seem to actually be region locked at all.  ...By the way, this post has inspired me to add a new True Crime category to the site index.

Update 8/14/19 - 12/15/22: I went back and got my hands on the US Fox DVD of this film.  If that feels a little underwhelming, I've also updated my Stalker and Satyricon pages with their respective Criterion DVDs.  I don't suppose three minor updates add up to one substantial one?
Lords Of Chaos is great, but before I get into it, hopefully I can just quickly try to head off anymore people being mislead.  I'm seeing this film get categorized fairly regularly as a horror film... The opening line of its wikipedia entry is, "Lords of Chaos is a 2018 horror-thriller film," Amazon lists it as "Horror, Suspense," etc etc.  There are a couple of gruesome moments, but I think the marketing is leading people to expect a film like some kind of cross between Jackals and Deathgasm, which this definitely is not.  It's decidedly better than either of those flicks, but it didn't even particularly strike me as being horror adjacent.  It's much more in line with movies like My Friend Dahmer, Star 80, I, Tonya or Party Monster: dramas, with a touch of humor, based on real life homicides.  You know, it's not like those movies would've been better adapted as horror films, but sending people in with the wrong expectations can do more harm than good, leaving people walking out of movies like Army of Darkness scoffing, "that movie wasn't even scary!"  Yeah, gore hounds will probably be enthused about a couple of moments (and one in particular), but what really hits with this movie is how it zeroes in on the human truth of the real people depicted.
So this is the story of Norwegian Black Metal band Mayhem, which famously underwent, and caused, some serious trauma during its reign including the suicide of one their lead singers, a series of church burnings and two murders.  Akerlund is a former black metal musician himself, and while this film is technically based on the 1998 Lords Of Chaos book, he explains in the extras about how he licensed it mainly for the names and rights to the basic thrust, but really wrote the script based on his own research and point of view.  The only other criticism I seeing being regularly laid into this film is that it's inaccurate; but while there's the usual condensing required to turn a complicated, years-long story that involved a ton of people into a single, two hour feature - and yes, like HBO's Chernobyl, it was shot in English with non-native actors (including Rory Culkin as Euronymous) - it struck me how far out of his way Akerlund went to be faithful.
I watched the documentary Until the Light Takes Us in anticipation of this film, and lots of moments and lines of dialogue were clearly lifted right out of it.  And the film is constantly using real locations, supporting characters playing themselves, the authentic music and carefully recreated images.  Yes, it seems like Sky Ferreira's role was composited just so this film could pass the Bechdel Test (hey, also like Chernobyl!), and obviously in cases like this where the only information we have is based on conflicting and biased testimony, some guesses have to be made.  And it's not like a film needs to be doggedly accurate to be great, anyway.  Have you seen what Tarantino's been doing lately?  So, it's all academic.  But I still want to say that this film, which describes itself on-screen as being "based on truth, lies and what actually happened" is far more authentic and accurate than I was lead to believe.
2019 US Fox DVD top; 2019 UK Arrow BD bottom.
Arrow presents Lords Of Chaos slightly matted to its proper aspect ratio of 1.85:1.  Fox doesn't fare quite as well, with a windowboxed and slightly squeezed 1.81:1.  This is a modern, digital film, so there's not a lot of scanning or color correction to go through and potentially get right or wrong.  Arrow's own About the Transfer booklet entry simply reads, "[t]he master was prepared in High Definition by Gunpowder and Sky and delivered to Arrow Films."  And in most other aspects, the two discs look fairly identical, apart from the natural boost in clarity on the blu's part for being in HD.  And Arrow's got the best compression in the industry these days, so it's a very safe bet.

Especially since it seems like the US release from MVD is not such a safe bet, with its lossy and mislabeled audio tracks.  According to DVDTalk, "The packaging and menu offer a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track but we don't get that, we get two identical 2.0 mixes. Obviously, a lossless option would have been preferable here and a surround option certainly would have opened things up a bit. We didn't get that."  Whoops!  Well, actually, the Fox DVD got it right, with both the 5.1 and 2.0 mixes.  But being DVD, they're both lossy.  It also includes English and French subtitles.  And of course Arrow gets it right, delivering both the 2.0 and 5.1 mixes in lossless DTS-HD.  So that's a noteworthy win for Arrow, who also include optional English SDH subtitles.
But of course it's not their only win.  The Fox DVD and German blu only include the trailer, the US blu has the trailer and eleven teasers, and the Arrow has two trailers and all eleven teasers... so it already wins just with the trailers.  But, as I said, Arrow's the only special edition on the market, so now watch it completely stomp out the competition.

Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore provides an intro to the film, which is actually rather lengthy, as he talks addresses different opinions on the film and even reads from the afterword he wrote for another book on Mayhen called The Death Archives.  There's just over ten minutes of deleted scenes and outtakes and a 22+ minute with Akerlund himself, which is the center piece of these features.  They also talk to Arion Csihar, who plays his father Attila in the film, and sings one of Mayhem's songs, journalist Jason Arnopp, who wrote the famous Kerrang cover story on Mayhem and who also plays himself in the film, Sam Coleman who plays Metalion and special effects artist Daniel Martin, who has some fun anecdotes and props from the most violent scenes.  There's also a stills gallery, a 22-page booklet with notes by Jonathan Selzer, one of Arrow's standard cards (this one's for Edgar Wright's A Fistful of Fingers) and reversible artwork.
So there's no question about which edition of the film to get.  And if you're on the fence about the film itself, ah man, it's so good.  A fascinating story, great performances all around, and you don't have to any kind of black metal aficionado to appreciate it.

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