Santa Barbara Horror Film Featuring College Killer Sparks Backlash

Thousands have signed a petition against indie horror film “Del Playa,” asserting that the movie, featuring a college killer, too closely resembles the 2014 Isla Vista killings.

“Del Playa,” directed by Shaun Hart and produced by Berger Bros. Entertainment, follows a troubled college student who, after being turned down by girls and bullied by his peers, turns to violence. Just hours after the trailer for the film hit YouTube, protesters started a charge.org petition, demanding that “Del Playa” halt its release. It also proposed that filmmakers could change the name of the film and contribute to a memorial fund for the victims.

On May 24, 2013, Elliot Rodger, son of “Hunger Games” second unit assistant director Peter Rodger, killed six people and wounded 14 others in Isla Vista, near the U.C. Santa Barbara campus. Rodger then killed himself. All six murdered individuals were UCSB students.

The petition against “Del Playa” has received more than 17,000 signatures in under 24 hours.

“It is clear that the creators of this film conceived their idea immediately after the Isla Vista shootings, seeking to profit off the horror felt by the students and community,” the petition reads.

“The film ‘Del Playa’ intentionally seeks to commoditize the death of six beloved students, and makes light of the tragedy faced by the entire Isla Vista/UCSB community,” it goes on.

The trailer includes footage of Isla Vista and UCSB. Hart has issued a statement, apologizing for the controversy and claiming that the film is not about Rodger.

“First and foremost, I would like to publicly apologize to everyone who has been offended in any way by our making of this film,” Hart wrote. “It was never our intent to monopolize on the tragic shootings in Isla Vista that took place last year. While I do admit there is the connection of Santa Barbara, this film is not about Elliot Rodger. The fictional character in the film is not meant to portray anyone in particular. It is meant to portray incidents that take place, not only in Santa Barbara, but across the country on a daily basis. Our intentions were not to make light of such a serious issue, but to engage our audience in an active discussion about bullying and violence.

“As a graduate of UCSB and a former resident of Del Playa, that day was a knife to my heart. For me, the actions of one individual tainted a lot of good memories of an innocent time and brought darkness to a place that should only be home to the hopes and dreams of the young.For all touched by the tragedy at DP, know this: I stand right there with you. And share love and compassion for our fallen Gauchos.”

UCSB graduate Hart’s other feature credit is drama “Victory Blvd.,” which debuted in 2012.

“Del Playa” presumably takes its name from Del Playa Drive, the street that serves as the party hub for Isla Vista. The trailer shows the killer striking at a large college party. The crowded beach town was also the site of a 2001 incident in which David Attias, son of director Daniel Attias, drove into a group of pedestrians, killing four people.

The controversy comes as the debate on gun violence rages on. In July, a gunman killed two people and himself at a movie theater in Lafayette, La., during a screening of Amy Schumer’s “Trainwreck.” On Wednesday, an assailant entered a movie theater in Antioch, Tenn., with a pellet gun, axe and pepper spray and slashed one man before being shot by police. In June, a shooting at a church in Charleston, S.C., killed nine.

Recently, James Holmes, who killed 12 people and injured 70 others at a Aurora, Colo., movie theater during a showing of “The Dark Knight Rises,” was found guilty of multiple counts of murder. He faces the death penalty.

A release date for “Del Playa” has not yet been announced.

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  1. John S. says:

    Paragraph states that the killings happened on May 24, 2013 when, in fact, they occurred on May 23, 2014.

  2. luismartinez1953 says:

    The Hollywood credo- If you can make a dollar, screw morality.

  3. Tom says:

    Of course they are “outraged. If someone’s panties weren’t in a bunch, this wouldn’t be America 2015

  4. Lisa says:

    it’s definitely in bad taste, but censorship? Really?

  5. Robot says:

    Are we really going to censore artistic expression? See you in ’84.

  6. JakkiK says:

    Let’s see, no one EVER made a movie about heinous crimes before…. BTK, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Zodiac Killer, John Wayne Gacy, David Berkowitz, Ted Bundy, and on and on. So, what’s the big deal, I am sure most of you have read about these killers and even saw the movies. You’re not that special.

    Facts are facts, it did happen, and people should know what happened.

  7. The only horror film in Santa Barbra, is Lois Capps.

  8. geTaylor says:

    “College students’ lives matter!” Another outbreak of “brown shirt” fever triggered by lives seeking meaning.. The mobs are storming in their faux indignation and outrage: “We demand you say this. We demand you “give”/”contribute” that. Ultimately you are required to appear at a central station for transport to a place for education or public service. (Where the “truth” or the “Arbeit”) would make you free.

  9. Morris Minor says:

    Online petitions have as much value as the paper on which they’re printed.

  10. AZ Cowboy says:

    Boy have we become thin-skinned, politically correct weenies. It’s a movie. If we banned movies that offend people we wouldn’t have anything. What a bunch of losers.

  11. Pickled Marvin says:

    Well, since Hollywood is such a liberal town in touch with the feelings of ordinary people, the Left will understand their desire to make money off of a tragedy. Not.

  12. John says:

    The liberal response is, “Oh, how would you feel if someone made a movie about the murder of your ‘friends and family’?”. It’s about feelings, nothing more. The conservative response is, “If you don’t like it, don’t see it.” It’s about freedom, nothing more. Someone with a petition shouldn’t decide my viewing choices.
    In the grand scheme of things feelings don’t matter….freedom does. It’s why we live and thrive in this country.

  13. ….Marla, Get a grip….

  14. Jake says:

    Heaven forbid if a fictional movie reminds us of atrocities brought upon us by evil people and never speak of the Holocaust because that was just too awful to remember.
    Instead, let’s follow the reality/antics of the Kardashian circus and and that of a confused geriatric Olympian.

  15. Joe says:

    And this Variety ‘story’ isn’t tied to the marketing campaign in any way either, right? OoooooooooK.

  16. Nick says:

    If you don’t like it then just don’t go see it. A petition can’t override our freedom of speech.

  17. Tommy says:

    Don’t like that they made the film? Don’t watch it.

  18. Clifton says:

    You have to be kidding me. The movie isn’t about the specific killings at this particular school, but reflect what occurs every day across the country? Seriously? This buffoon of a producer should be locked up for saying something so stupid. Oh yah, sure, 6 college students are murdered each day by some mentally troubled class mate each day in the U.S. Money grubbing has a new leader.

  19. L32 says:

    Article has word “shootings” three times and not one mention of “stabbings.” Half those the Ilsa vista killer killed he STABBED to death. He stabbed to death three full adult military age males.
    Of those not killed the most previously wounded and paralyzed was a victim he ran over with a car.
    And if Variety is going to mention gun control/rights issues, it is relevant to mention US gun homicide rate(intentional, heat of the moment, negligent, accidental) has PLUMMETED 65% since the 1990’s peak.

    • unmitigated audacity says:

      They could also mention that where this all took place, California, has some of the strictest gun control laws in the country already. A lot of good those laws do when you live in a depraved society like the liberal landscape of hollywood where looks, money and fame are the only things of import. The state is full of depraved individuals who are celebrated for their depravity but then they are stunned when that results in tragedy.

  20. jimonthebeach says:

    If you don’t like the concept of the movie, don’t go see it. It’s just a cheap horror movie; grow up! This isn’t your college campus. We don’t ban things because we don’t like them. No one ever accuses Hollywood of good taste. If we banned every film, painting, book, TV show or song someone found tasteless or offensive, we’d have nothing.

  21. JohnCCalhoun says:

    “It was never our intent to monopolize on the tragic shootings in Isla Vista that took place last year.” What, I wonder does Shaun Hart imagine that the word “monopolize” means? Capitalize? It doesn’t; it never has. That’s one of the reasons for the widespread contempt for people in the movie business. There used to be an expression, “as ignorant as an actor.” He is supposed to be an “actor and director.” I’m not surprised.

  22. Dion says:

    This all went down a 10 minute drive from where I live. I heard the sirens that night; an unusual sound in the Goleta/Isla Vista area.
    Our local state assembly-person wasted the time of the assembly and the governor by submitting a bill which requires exactly what Rodger’s family and the SB Sheriff did. We see the results of that. He sweet talked them, they left without searching his place; the place where he stabbed to death, 3 people.
    Of course, if somebody on the sidewalk had been allowed to carry concealed, Elliot might not have killed anybody with a gun. But our beloved Sheriff doesn’t trust anybody, so he refuses to issue permits.
    I would assume that the movie gets into his head much the same way that is portrayed in American Psycho. If I get a chance, I will go see it.

  23. John Bourne says:

    How dare they exploit this tragedy for a movie. The only ones that can exploit tragedy are gun control advocates!!

  24. It’s weird how focused so many of you are on gun violence. He shot and killed 3 people. He stabbed 3 people and nobody says ban knives (yet). He also injured as many people as he shot by hitting them with a car, but nobody says ban cars (yet). While we’re at it he also had a long, well known history of mental illness, perhaps we could ban mental illness as well.

  25. Tatiana Covington says:

    Don’t like it? Lump it!

  26. great publicity-stunt. makes me want to check it out even more

  27. Hal says:

    Guess this movie found the VERY effective Gaucho pen. The movie only shows a resemblance the true event for what actually happened in Isla Vista [UCSB]. Part of the reason these things happen is No One wants to discuss it; bad happenings do not just disappear. Gaucho’s tend to live in this in-bred, insulated society that can be seen in these postings. btw – it is not the first time someone open fired to a Santa Barbara County community. There was a post man several years before who did the same to his fellow workers. And, there are other horrendous acts that have been swept under the rug. Out of sight – Out of mind/ Right?

  28. Susan Trear says:

    Mr. Hart – I believe you meant to say “…capitalize on the tragic shootings…” rather than monopolize on the tragic shootings…” The latter makes no sense, really.

  29. While I am in agreement with those that signed the petition, I did not. However after keeping close tabs with my nephews, one of whom was at UCSB last year during the carnage, it has come to my attention that not only is this movie taken directly from the heinous acts of a mysoginistic sick human being but that there is also, inexcusably, “stock” footage of that horrible even that is being used without releases from the real people that were there. Chris Martinez’ father, amongst others, started a movement NOT ONE MORE and MOMS FOR gun CONTROL IN AMERICA was also one of many protest groups to begin a movement and national dialogue about mental illness and the ease with which it is to get guns in this country because of lax laws, if any at all. Reparation is deserved and owed to the families who lost their loved one, as in the case of Mr Martinez, all those injured in the tragedy as well save those who’s precious children were injured that fateful night at Del Playa UCSB. Anything short of taking a pro-active stance, opening a national dialogue and donating $$ from the profits of Del Playa, the movie directly to those students and others involved, however tangentially, is irresponsible, unconsciousible. Capitalizing and verging on the macabre for the thousands of student, teachers, residents and members of the Quiet Santa Barbara College town is absolutely scandalous. It is my belief that before this movie hits one theatre, an agreement and releases should be signed so that the producers of this irresponsible, reprehensible film will be served up as an apology to the still open wound that is the class attending UCSB that fateful night. Step up to the plate and do the right thing while you can instead of capitalizing and pocketing all the profits for yourselves as if those lives taken and injured were your own family. Particularly because at least two of the filmmakers responsible for this horror movie, taken from a real event, are graduates of UCSB themselves. Under no other circumstances should this film be released EXCEPT to MAKE SURE some small good will come out for the victims of the premise of this real life horror story. Otherwise, I say shelve it.
    Marla Liebling, Aunt of Taylor Younani who, at just 22 years of age has already endured two school shootings– the first when he was just five years old. This should not and cannot be “the new normal” or we, ourselves, are doomed.

    • L32 says:

      Marla, Mr. Martinez father did not start the Mom group. That is a Bloomberg funded effort that has outspent gun rights groups by 12 times nationally.
      And 80% f the people killed by the mentally are killed my non gun means. You would not know from this article that half of the people killed when Martinez son was killed, were never shot and were knifed or bludgeoned to death.
      Pew Research and other studies have found half of Americans, and over 95% of advocates of more gun control think US gun murder has risen since the 1990’s when it has plunged and is actually at 1/3 of the rate of the 1990’s peak.
      The “new normal” is US gun homicide has plunged 65% — and you think It is up.
      The other example you gave in your last paragraph are two GANG related shootings. Study after study shows gang related shootings are unaffected by gun control and are reduced by longer prison sentences

    • BillCa says:

      Your message is very emotional and shows the pain is still fresh for UCSB families. However, let me point out some observations about your post.

      You mention reparations are deserved for those involved. I happen to agree, however those reparations should come from the estate of the deranged killer and/or those who failed to get him the help he needed. Ultimately those are the people responsible.

      I think many of us agree there needs to be more dialog regarding mental illness, how it’s treated and how we treat the people affected fairly while also protecting the public.

      You also mention “the ease with which it is to get guns … because of lax laws, if any at all” which only shows that you are commenting on something you have little awareness about. California gets an “A” rating from the Brady Campaign for gun control laws which are some of the toughest in the nation. Would you support laws that, in order to vote, you had to present not only a valid ID, but a piece of mail like a utility bill to confirm your address, a right thumbprint, answer and sign a 20-question form about your eligibility to vote under penalty of perjury, pay a $25 “fee” for a card that expires in 5 years that says you know the voting rules and submit to background check before being allowed to vote? (This omits several other key points like having to wait 10 days, or not being allowed to vote in more than one election in any 30 day period.) Of course you wouldn’t support it because forcing people to present ID to vote is an “unconstitutional burden on a right” — but somehow isn’t a burden to exercise another right.

      I have empathy for Mr. Martinez and all the other UCSB families who grieve and suffered. But Mr. Martinez’s efforts seem to be misguided and focused on the wrong target. The primary issue is mental illness with a secondary focus on raising our children to deal with bullying and feeling they are social outcasts. Not on inanimate objects (and why no outrage over the knives used to kill half his victims?).

      And most people should take offense at your condemning the film as irresponsible and reprehensible if you have not screened the film yourself, which is doubtful. Condemn the producers of the film if you like but separate that from the film itself. Just because the creator is a jerk doesn’t mean their works are without merit.

  30. Immortan says:

    Bah, Mediocre!

  31. Bryant T says:

    Fellow Gaucho

    Kudos for writing for Variety. Solid.

    With that said, you misspelled UCSB twice in the article.

  32. Anna says:

    Their names were Katie Cooper, Veronika Weiss, Chris Martinez, George Chen, James Hong, and David Wang #NotOneMore #neverforget

    • James says:

      Contrary to hundred of claims on those hashtags, George Chen, James Hong, and David Wang were never shot. They were stabbed to death. Just as many of the dead in this incident were killed by stabbings.

    • Germ says:

      You don’t seem to understand. Most Americans never remembered. This tragedy (and it most assuredly was) belongs to a segment of the nation — not the whole. I challenge you to name all 12 or so victims of Aurora — right now — without looking them up. Same with Sandy Hook. Same with VA Tech. Same with Fort Hood. Same with the 4 Marines and the Sailor in Chattanooga. You don’t and cant. Stop pretending that your angst is that of an entire nation. I’m absolutely positive….POSITIVE….that you would not be signing a silly petition to stop a movie about the tidal wave of murders committed just this summer by illegal alien invaders who were encouraged to come and reside here by your president. Hypocrisy knows no limits with your petty generation.

  33. Stacy Simmer says:

    Mr. Hart, seriously. You have not thought this through. If it was your child, your niece, would you want a movie such as this depicted shortly after all that has been done? I lost my niece that night. My sister and her husband hurt every single day for the loss of their only daughter. The other parents still cry for their sons and daughters and you have compassion because you were once a Gaucho. I find it completely unbelievable that you would even consider such a movie and shame on Berger Bros. Entertainment for its production. And, tell me, how will this movie benefit the world when so many people are hurt by these types of tragic events every day? Your movie Sir, sensationalize the shooter and will give the mentally-ill more compulsive desire to do such terrible acts. Shame on you for even considering doing a movie such as this.

    • Thinking1 says:

      I think the should release the movie. Show people exactly how crazy people who are bullied can become. (the amount of people like to jump on the bandwagon and bully someone already being bullied is the worst trend in America and its learned from mainstream media)

      1. Show the dangers of bullying and how it can fuk people up. (The guy this movie allegedly depicts was told by his own step mother that he was a loser and that his pre-pubescent half brother would have a girlfriend and have sex before hi

      2. Show the dangers of being killed within 2 seconds of shooting a random innocent person in a public NOT gun free zone. And how quickly people who cannot manage to kill or injure a dozen or more people at a time are forgotten about when SANE gun owners are actually near by

  34. Sam says:

    as an isla vista resident who was there during the shooting: we lost our friends, we lost friends of friends and we lost a feeling of safety and belonging. remember IV deli mart? most probably remember it for the buffalo fries…but for a while, we only remembered it as where Chris was shot. we remember the bullet hole in the door, we remember the memorials around it. remember a-phi? maybe you were dating a girl from there and walking by would give you some memories of greek life back in the day. for a lot of us, thats where Katie and Veronika died, and their best friend was shot. it’s been a year and when we walk by we take a moment of silence. remember the IV coop on seville? a lot of us couldn’t walk past it because we couldn’t face the seville apartment where the shooter lived/murdered his housemates/their friends

    this community is alive and we’re trying to heal…but this movie is doing the exact opposite. this movie is putting blame on the shooting on us and our culture, and that’s not the case. if you want attention to this, start a talk about gun control and mental health. this movie is being made to “call attention” to things. if that’s the case, come up with your own storyline, and don’t add this onto our name. the director could have mixed aspects from all 206 shootings that have happened this year but instead chose to focus in on ours…and that’s not okay.

    • Kenny says:

      Don’t go see the movie. No one is going to make you see it. All your whining is just increasing interest in the film.

    • Germ says:

      you are so self-absorbed. it’s always all about you, right? do you really believe that you are the first to lose someone? to violence? have you EVER attended a movie where a rape is depicted? Where someone is run over and killed by a car? Where someone is slashed to death by some violent creep? Where a child drowns in a pool? I have. And if I have, you have. Hypocrite!!!! Imagine all of those millions of people who knew real-life victims of those very crimes and accidents — did you refuse to attend in order to honor THEIR feelings? No you did not. Hypocrite.

      • Emma says:

        You need to get over yourself. This film is targeting a school and community. This was real. This happened only a year ago. “Self-absorbed”? If this person is so self-centered, then why are there nearly 23,000 signatures on this petition? I’ll tell you why: because it’s a messed up concept, and anyone with enough common sense and empathy can understand that. Why is Shaun Hart reminding us of that night? Why would he want to bring anymore gore, violence, and horror to that community and tie it to UCSB and Isla Vista? It’s insensitive and selfish.

  35. Lucia says:

    May 23, 2014.

  36. The shootings happened on the 23rd of May, not the 24th.

  37. Ginger says:

    While I get the “movies based on real events” argument and horror films based on true occurrences…this is not even a year and a half after this happened. This shook an entire community that is still in pain from this tragedy. To use it as some kind of sick marketing ploy for something “current” is disgusting.

    There’s a reason there isn’t a horror movie about Sandy Hook.

    There’s a reason there isn’t a horror movie about the Colorado movie theatre shooting.

    It’s seeking gain off of others tragedy, and making the killer look justified for what he did.

    These guys are a disgrace to the Gaucho name.

  38. This is censorship, period. If you don’t want to watch the movie, don’t, but you cannot deny other people access to watching a film. Most movies are inspired or based on real life, and if everyone opposed all those films, there would be nothing for us to watch.

    • BillCa says:

      Simone, it has nothing to do with censorship. It seems too many younger people and/or “progressive liberals” lack the vocabulary and cognitive skills to recognize this has EVERYTHING to do with taste, tact, respect for grieving families and compassion. Spare us the mock outrage over “censorship”, please.

  39. Pedro says:

    This has nothing to do with the college shootings, but places the blame more on the girls / women who turn men down. Leave it to college students to sign a petition about something that isn’t connected so they show they have a voice. Rather the film does place an undue burden on the hapless male who is rejected by a female thus indicating the woman somehow made the killer become who he is. That is the true crime. Misplaced anger and sadness for a genuine feeling.

    • Pedro says:

      Undue burden on the women / girls / females who say no – not the male

      • Julia says:

        What are you even talking about. Your whole comment is garbled nonsense. Do you not know the UCSB shooting case at all? That’s EXACTLY what the shooter’s motive was, feeling entitled to women’s attention and not getting it.

  40. Dee says:

    The movie should change its title.

    • Thinking1 says:

      Ya can’t fix stupid, like you can’t fix crazy. Thinking that censoring a movie will stop violence against women is crazy.

      As for California, and violence against women. How many of your “Liberal” politicians are getting nice big donations from pornographers?

      California’s entire cultural paradigm is fukin crazy. This looney tune Elliot got exposed to all the glitz and glamour and entitlement that comes from WEALTH and ENTITLEMENT. Its not sexist because his “maleness” and lack of conveyance that cowardly acts of violence are not manly at all comes from delusional victim entitlement mentality. The exact type of irrational emotions that “liberal” politics always exploits.

      So you can continue beimg stupid and generically blaming men or you can open your eyes and look deeper.

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