Executive Managing Editor
“Del Playa,” a controversial horror film based on the 2014 Isla Vista killings, has been revived for a 2017 release amid outrage, though director Shaun Hart insists the movie will not glorify the real-life tragedy.
Hart, a filmmaker and University of California, Santa Barbara alumnus, had originally announced the film in Aug. 2015 but halted its release in the face of heavy criticism and outrage from UCSB students and the I.V. community. Now, the film is back and on the slate for production company Terror Films, according to a Dec. 1 announcement on the official “Del Playa” Facebook page.
The trailer for “Del Playa” depicts a bullied, romantically-jilted young man going on a brutal killing spree of partying college students, set to a stylized-horror theme. The film’s tagline reads: “Monsters Aren’t Born. They Are Created.”
On May 23, 2014, former Santa Barbara City College student Elliot Rodger murdered six people and injured 14 others before taking his own life. The same day, he uploaded videos to YouTube in which he ranted about wanting to “punish” women for denying him sexual pleasure.
Scenes from the film’s trailer appear to be set in a college town similar to I.V., while the film’s title is taken from Del Playa Drive, the oceanside I.V. street and one of the sites of Rodger’s violence.
Early announcements of “Del Playa” first went viral on social media last August. Many expressed their outrage over the film’s premise, trailer and promotional posters. The same week, UCSB alumnae Kate Nollner posted a petition on change.org to halt the release of the film. By the time it closed, the petition had garnered over 29,000 supporters.
Following news of the film’s return, the community has expressed its opposition once again. UCSB alumnus and SBCC trustee Jonathan Abboud posted a new petition Tuesday on change.org, which calls for Hart to either stop the film or “donate 100% of profits to the Isla Vista community.” As of press time, the petition has nearly 900 supporters. Hart told the Santa Barbara Independent that some proceeds would indeed go to charity, though no amount or charity has been officially determined.
The backlash from the community is “premature” since no one has seen the 97-minute film, said Hart in a statement to The Bottom Line on Thursday. “The old adage of judging a book by it’s cover comes to mind,” he wrote, though he added the film’s detractors have merit to their argument as well.
Hart said he respects the rights of those who condemn the very idea of the film, but noted, “there isn’t a hell of a lot I could do to change that.”
His intention, Hart wrote, was that of an artist looking to explore “both sides of a story” and ask “tough questions.” He wrote he wanted to examine the role of hostility on the internet in “triggering” those with mental instability or radical philosophies.
He went on to write he was confused at the “senselessness” of mass killings in the United States, asking, “if it can happen to Isla Vista of all places, where is safe?”
“I can tell you this, from the guy who spent a year making this film, and has seen the edit 3,000 times or so,” Hart wrote, “the idea that this film is glorifying or justifying [Elliot Rodger] is flat out wrong.”
Abboud, the active petition’s author, served as Associated Students President when the tragedy occurred during the 2013-14 school year. He said it was a “very real experience” for himself and other students, as well as for current students who “were watching on TV before starting in the fall.”
Abboud chastised the film for depicting the person carrying out the murders as an “anti-hero.”
“They never came to I.V. and worked with the people here in developing the narrative,” Abboud said of the filmmakers. He said the film was not making any real commentary and suggested the motive behind the production was to make money.
While the director will likely “get it distributed” and Hart’s “probably going to get paid,” Abboud said, he encouraged fellow opponents of the film to contact their service providers. Hart had told the Santa Barbara Independent that the film will be “widely available” on streaming services like Netflix, iTunes and Redbox.
“We don’t want Netflix distributing this film,” said Abboud, adding that those who oppose it should “cancel their Netflix subscription.”