May 10th, 2009


An Experiment in Steam and Chaos

"In A World Where..."

Given that Michigan's economy has been in the toilet for many more years than this so-called recession, it's no surprise that the state has tried to bring in new industries. The other year they passed a 42% production cost rebate for movie productions shot in Michigan. Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino shot in Detroit is one such movie. Another was The Steam Experiment, shot in Grand Rapids MI in 2008, staring Val Kilmer.

Well, The Steam Experiment was renamed The Chaos Experiment and the decision was made to release direct to DVD. But... given the local interest, Celebration Cinemas did a local premiere last week and is now showing the film in two locations for a week. Guess we had to go see it.

The Chaos Experiment [R]
Celebration Rivertown, Theatre #19, 2:50pm

Val Kilmer shows up at the Grand Rapids Press two hours before deadline and asks to see the editor. All he wants is for his manifesto on global warming to be published on Page 1 "above the fold" -- or six people locked in a 130degF steam room are going to die. Just like hundreds of millions will die when global warming heats up Iowa to 130degF and people are killing each other for an ear of corn. Okay, is this guy crazy, a visionary or a criminal terrorist? Short answer... yes.

Armand Assante plays a Grand Rapids police detective. Eric Roberts is one of the six locked in the hotbox. Those top three are the best in the movie. The movie earns its R-rating the hard way. A bit of nudity -- the six think they're on a special lonely hearts hotel weekend -- and a lot of violence. Fangoria has an article on The Chaos Experiment, in fact, though they do go to pains that this is "not a SAW knockoff". (grin) The three ladies in the steam room -- Eve Mauro, Cordelia Reynolds and Megan Brown -- hold up better than the other two men. It is a little distracting that in a steam bath, it is hard to tell the two dark limp haired women apart, except when Eve acts tough and Cordelia's chin quivers.

I do have some issues with the Physics. Val Kilmer describes how you'll die in 130degF, and we're not seeing it. And though everyone is drenched in sweat, whats up with the little pool of water? How hot is that? If it's cooler than the room, everyone should be in the pool. If it's hot, wouldn't the increased heat capacity of the water start cooking you? 118degF is around the threshold of pain.

This is not a bad movie -- there are a number of decent twists in the plot, including some doozies -- but we both felt that there were a number of directions the movie could've gone in, both on the police and newspaper side especially, and there were some cheap shots I expected in the steam room which they avoided. Good call there. Those scenes which are Grand Rapids, look like Grand Rapids, but this is mostly an interior drama. The GRPress review mentioned that Editor Mike Lloyd's desk "looked good". (grin)

What is good about the movie is that although we may not care all that much about the victims, we do get a visceral feeling for their predicament, so we care on a very fundamental level. Does that make it a great horror movie? Eh, probably not. This is not the kind of movie we'd normally go rush out to see. But all-in-all, it is a cut above most.


YouTube Trailer - Grand Rapids Press review - Wikipedia article - IMDb listing.

An Aside

The Wikipedia link was updated from The_Steam_Experiment to The_Chaos_Experiment during the time I wrote this LJ entry. (grin)

Dr. Phil