Horror Film Trailer Sparks Outrage, Backlash Over Similarities to 2014 Mass Killing

An online effort to prevent the release of indie horror movie "Del Playa" is picking up steam, with thousands signing a petition that claims the movie is inspired by the deadly Isla Vista rampage at University of California, Santa Barbara.

"Del Playa’s" trailer, posted on YouTube on Wednesday, sparked the creation of a petition, which seeks to halt the release of the "insensitive and untimely" film instead of allowing it to monetize the "helplessness and horror felt by the Isla Vista community.” It had picked up 23,534 signatures as of Monday evening.

The movie, named after Del Playa Drive near the university's campus, depicts a college student who becomes a killer after he is rejected and bullied by other students. Its poster declares, "Monsters aren’t born. They are created."

Kelly Wang, the mother of one of Rodger’s victims, George Chen, told NBC Bay Area that it is "immoral" to base entertainment on and make profits from "real-life" brutality and murder.

"I'm very concerned that when the movie comes out, it will mislead some young people to ... make themselves famous by being more deadly, more brutal, more savage," said Wang, who believes that "Del Playa" sends the wrong message by glorifying a killer’s actions.

Petitioners believe the film’s premise hits too close to home for the beachside Santa Barbara County community of Isla Vista, where Elliot Rodger, who wrote a so-called manifesto filled with resentment at being unable to find a girlfriend, killed six people before shooting himself on May 23, 2014.

The bloodshed began in an apartment, which the 22-year-old shared with two of his victims, whom he stabbed to death. He also killed his roommates’ friend and dumped his body in the bathroom.

Roger’s rampage continued when he climbed into his BMW and sped through Isla Vista. He gunned down three people and injured 14 more – by shooting at them or striking them with his car – before taking his own life – all within 10 minutes.

The movie's director, Shuan Hart, said in a statement posted Friday that the movie was not inspired by Elliot Roger, but was meant to initiate a larger discussion about bullying.

But Kate Nollner, who spearheaded the petition, wrote: "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.”

Nollner's LinkedIn profile indicates that she studied at UC Santa Barbara.

Her petition blasts "Del Playa” for giving notoriety to the "actions of a disturbed individual who does not deserve to be memorialized in film" and "[making] light of the tragedy faced by the entire Isla Vista/UCSB community."

Hart, the movie's director, posted a statement apologizing to people offended by the making of the film on the trailer's YouTube page. But he did not comment on the petition or respond to requests to change "Del Playa’s" name or for its filmmakers to contribute to a memorial fund for Rodger’s victims.

"While I do admit there is the connection of Santa Barbara, this film is not about Elliot Rodger," he wrote. "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," he continued.

Hart, a UC Santa Barbara alum who lived on Del Playa Drive, also said that Rodger’s actions felt like a "knife to [his] heart."

The creators of "Del Playa" have not said when the movie does not expected to be released.

NBC Bay Area's Kim Yonenaka contributed to this report.

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