A trailer for the horror film "Del Playa," released last week, depicts a teenage boy, bullied at home and at school, murdering classmates after being rejected by a girl.
Now the movie's plot is generating protest for its similarity to the true-life massacre that Elliot Rodger unleashed last year in Isla Vista near the UC Santa Barbara campus.
Critics charge that the film's producers are trying to capitalize on a tragedy that left six people dead and 14 wounded before Rodger took his own life.
Soon after the trailer for "Del Playa" went up, a petition started on change.org aimed at halting the film's planned October release. It has already gathered thousands of signatures.
The two-minute trailer declares: "In every school there is a girl that every guy wants and can't have. Monsters aren't born. They are created."
Kate Nollner created the petition, hoping to not only stall the film's release but to "educate the filmmakers about the seriousness behind gun violence tragedies."
"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," she wrote. "'Del Playa' not only justifies the motives behind the Isla Vista gunman, but also glorifies his actions. Releasing such a film merely 18 months after this tragedy recreates the helplessness and horror felt by the Isla Vista community."
Director Shaun Hart, a UCSB graduate, apologized for offending anyone by making the film.
"It was never our intent to monopolize on the tragic shootings in Isla Vista that took place last year," he said in a statement. "While I do admit there is the connection of Santa Barbara, this film is not about Elliot Rodger."
Hart insisted that the main character is a work of fiction and that the character's violent acts were meant to portray incidents that occur throughout the U.S.
"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," he said.
On May 23, 2014, Rodger, a son of a Hollywood director, fatally stabbed his roommates -- Weihan "David" Wang, 20, and Cheng Yuan "James" Hong, 20 -- and his roommates' friend George Chen, 19, in their apartment.
Three hours later, a heavily armed Rodger went on a rampage, striking seven people with his car and shooting students walking in the college town while driving.
Veronika Weiss, 19; Katie Cooper, 22; and Christopher Michaels-Martinez, 20, all UCSB students, were shot to death. Fourteen others were wounded.
Rodger fired at least 55 rounds during the attack, which authorities said he had been planning for two years. Rodger, a Santa Barbara City College student, stockpiled guns and researched how to kill people, authorities said. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department concluded that Rodger was obsessed with losing his virginity and hated women and the men who got to date them.
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