ENTERTAINMENT
08/09/2015 11:46 am ET Updated Aug 09, 2015

Horror Film 'Del Playa' Too Close To UC Santa Barbara Tragedy, Critics Say

Critics say the filmmaker is profiting from tragedy, while he says the movie could start useful discussions.

An effort is underway to stop the release of a horror film that closely resembles the 2014 killing of six people in a California college town.

The trailer for "Del Playa" debuted on Wednesday, and shows a young man taking violent revenge after getting rejected by women and taunted by bullies. 

Del Playa happens to also be the name of a street in Isla Vista, California, near the campus of University of California-Santa Barbara. Last year, Elliot Rodger fatally stabbed and shot six students and injured 14 during a spree across Isla Vista before dying by suicide. He'd written a so-called manifesto that expressed resentment toward women for spurning him.

The strikingly similar movie plot was denounced in a petition on Change.org started by a former Santa Barbara college student.

"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," said the petition posted by Kate Nollner. “'Del Playa' not only justifies the motives behind the Isla Vista gunman, but also glorifies his actions."

The movie by director Shaun Hart and producer Josh Berger is scheduled for an October release. 

Nollner said in an interview with the Santa Barbara Independent that she would be satisfied if the film changed its name and donated proceeds to a memorial fund.

By Sunday morning, the petition had more than 23,000 signatures. In an update to the petition, Nollner added allegations that people's images were used in the trailer without their permission. 

"This issue was brought to our attention by several supporters who saw their face in the trailer and had not granted Shaun Hart or Berger Bros permission to film them," Nollner wrote on Saturday.  

The filmmakers are taking the opposition seriously. Hart, an alumnus of UC-Santa Barbara, apologized in a statement provided to The Huffington Post and claimed the film could be beneficial.

"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. 

Hart also apologized "to everyone who has been offended in any way by our making of this film." Though there are similarities to the 2014 massacre, Hart said "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."

UPDATE: This story has been revised to include Hart's comments. 

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