×

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.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • German Cinema Is Diverse, But Is

    German Cinema Is Varied, But Is It Too Risk Averse?

    One of the strengths of German cinema is its diversity, says Simone Baumann, managing director of the national film promotion agency German Films. As well as the three films at Toronto directed by female German helmers, there was also German filmmaker Thomas Heise’s documentary film essay “Heimat Is a Space in Time.” Then there were [...]

  • Female Filmmakers in Germany Make Progress

    Female Filmmakers Surge Forward in Germany, But Still Face Obstacles

    Four feature films by German filmmakers screened at the Toronto Film Festival, and three of them were directed by women – Angela Schanelec’s “I Was at Home, But…,” winner of the Berlinale’s best director prize, Ina Weisse’s “The Audition,” and Katrin Gebbe’s “Pelican Blood,” the latter two both starring Nina Hoss. Germany’s Oscar entry this [...]

  • Bull

    Annie Silverstein's 'Bull' Takes Top Awards, Robert Pattinson Starrer 'The Lighthouse' Wins Jury Prize at Deauville

    Annie Silverstein’s feature debut “Bull” swept three awards at the 45th Deauville American Film Festival, including the Grand Prize, the Revelation Prize for best first film and the Critics’ Prize. “Bull,” a portrait of a rebellious teenage girl from South Texas, world premiered at Cannes’s Un Certain Regard and marks Silverstein’s follow up to her [...]

  • Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star

    Jennifer Lopez's 'Criminal' Striptease: How 'Hustlers' Landed the Fiona Apple Hit

    Contrary to what you might be expecting, the number of songs by Jennifer Lopez, Lizzo and Cardi B in “Hustlers,” their newly released acting vehicle, adds up to … zero. Meanwhile, the standout music sync in a movie that’s full of them belongs to no less likely a choice than Fiona Apple. The scene in [...]

  • Game of Thrones Season 8

    'Game of Thrones,' 'Avengers' Win Big at 45th Annual Saturn Awards

    As Jamie Lee Curtis picked up her first trophy ever at the 45th Annual Saturn Awards Friday night, she had a good luck charm on her arm: former manager Chuck Binder, whom she said was the reason she became an actor. “I was in college and had no thought of being an actor,” Curtis told [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu star

    Box Office: 'Hustlers' Dances Toward $32 Million Opening Weekend

    “Hustlers” is eyeing the biggest opening weekend ever for STXFilms, following a Friday domestic ticket haul of $13.1 million from 3,250 theaters. If estimates hold, the stripper saga could take home around $32 million come Sunday, marking the best live-action opening of Jennifer Lopez’s career. “Hustlers” follows a group of former strip club dancers, led [...]

  • Hustlers intimacy coordinator

    Meet the Stripper Consultant Who Gave 'Hustlers' Authenticity, Dignity and Sexual Freedom

    At last week’s Toronto Film Festival premiere of “Hustlers,” an audience of Hollywood heavyweights and Canadian locals applauded as a statuesque woman strutted on stage, rocking six-inch platform heels and a pastel tie-dye bodysuit. This adoration was not for stars Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu or Keke Palmer, nor was it for the film’s acclaimed writer-director [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content