Chicago Rot is a film that defies simple categorization. It’s what you get when you take elements from crime dramas, revenge thrillers, vigilante films, comic book movies, gladiator flicks and ’80s gore films and throw them in a blender. It’s an interesting film to say the least, but do the diverse elements gel enough to make Chicago Rot a cohesive film?
This movie is the feature film debut of director Dorian Weinzimmer from a script he wrote with Brant McCrea (Restoration 2014), who also starred in the film along with Shira Barber (Vengeance Turns 2018), Dave Cartwright, Lee Kanne (The Interrogation 2011), Jeremy Vranich, and Jonez Jones (V/H/S/ Viral 2014).
Official Synopsis: After years of rotting in Joliet, Les, a wrongfully imprisoned street legend known as “The Ghoul,” is released into a mad search through Chicago’s back alleys for the man who slaughtered his mother and robbed him of his soul. Aided by mysterious benefactors, he must delve beneath the city into a modern labyrinth of gutters whose tendrils have grown deep while he was gone. What unfolds is a desperate tale of brute force tragedy set in the supernatural underworld of Chicago, where heroes are reduced to horror-shows, villains dream of their own demise, and good and evil prove to be antiquated concepts.
What I liked
Chicago Rot is a film that leaves you never knowing what to expect. One minute you’re watching a scene of the protagonist fighting a giant with an elephant skull for a head in gladiator pit, and the next you are watching a man being stabbed repeatedly in the back with a big, black dildo lubed up with chicken grease (I fucking shit you not). I loved how The Ghoul’s look continued to change and evolve over the course of the film. He sported no fewer than 5 different looks, and at some points I even found it hard to believe it was the same person. I enjoyed all of the characters and how they were interconnected, with most of them having a history together whether they knew it at the start or not.
One of my favorite aspects of the film were the sequences where characters were playing instruments during their scenes and the music they made ratcheted up the emotional intensity. For example, an unnamed woman played a haunting song on a piano while a character was being brutally attacked. The more intense the music, the more violent the attack, and just when it all got to be too much, the character died and the music came to a halt. Another example happened during the final battle where a group of men stood around with glowing instruments playing rousing, fighting game-esque music.
What I didn’t like
While I loved the majority of Chicago Rot, the story fell apart for me in the last act. The villains finally entered the picture but they were poorly developed, their motives were ill-defined and it didn’t help that there was a vocal effect that made most of their lines hard to understand. While the film had some over-the-top moments, it still kept a pretty serious tone, at least until the finally battle. While beautifully shot and visually stunning, it’s edited in such a way that makes the action hard to follow. The film sets you up for violent and bloody final confrontation that never comes. What we do get feels like a Dragon Ball Z fight scene: a lot of yelling and energy balls flying around. As previously stated, Chicago Rot is beautiful to look at but not very satisfying. While the film told a pretty dark story, the death of a main character at the end felt unnecessary and mean-spirited.
Chicago Rot is a film that, even after 2 complete watches and several rewatches of the ending, I still don’t quite get it. I loved the first 2/3 of the film but the final act fell flat for me. That being said, it is still an interesting film that fans of genre-defying cinema should check out at least once.