Movie News & Reviews

Big Awful Friday: 'Chaos Experiment,' like 'Saw' finds joy in suffering

Most times when a movie sucks, it’s because it lacks something.

That lack can be as broad as a decent plot or as specific as the hardcore nudity our heavy-breathing Internet overlord has caused us to expect from every video.

Sometimes, a movie blows by virtue of having too much. Would it have killed March of the Penguins to give us a kitten break? This Big Awful Friday brings us a film that, among other crimes, shovels up way too much style: 2009’s The Chaos Experiment.

According to crazed scientist Val Kilmer, the Mayan prediction the world will end in 2012 was really referring to global warming. To show how nasty things will get when the heat turns up, he traps six people in a steam room, where he’ll heat them to death unless the local newspaper prints his theory.

Incidentally, that’s exactly how I got this column. It’s all part of my own theory that when life gives you lemons, make psychotic threats until you get your way.

That may well explain how The Chaos Experiment got produced in the first place.

The movie is a tale of two rooms. In one, Kilmer’s interrogated by detective Armand Assante. In the other, the six hostages turn on each other, driven mad by steam. In my living room, I have to strap my hand to the couch to keep from turning off the TV.

If you squint, it’s a lot like Saw, right down to the overqualified actor in a lead role. In execution, it’s closer to Saw II-VI. The trapped characters flail to introduce themselves with a level of oversharing you rarely see on Yahoo! Answers, let alone real life. Rather than trying to escape, they go homicidally crazy.

It’s the direction that takes special honors. The Chaos Experiment is filled with things that don’t need to be. As a sign of his madness, or maybe just his lifelong love affair with the carnival, Kilmer’s repeatedly shown on an eerie carousel.

By the third time this shot showed up, I imagined director Philippe Martinez perched just offscreen doing his best Christopher Walken impression, bellowing “I got a fever, and the only prescription is more carousel!”

Meanwhile, Martinez films in a blurry, montagey style that can only be intended to spare us the sight of Eric Roberts’ sweaty chest.

Overacted, overdirected, and wholly unbelievable, The Chaos Experiment’s paradox is you don’t spend enough time with its bat-crazy cast to feel trapped, yet each minute feels like an eternity.