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  • Nate Adams

'In a Violent Nature' review: Gory slasher reinvents the wheel

Courtesy of IFC Films/Shudder


Although one of, if not, my favorite genres, slasher films aren’t always synonymous with the words: innovative or quality. Some, like Ti West’s exceptional “X” films, manage to work within the confines of a familiar formula to deliver an audacious, bloody good time that’s easy to follow and understand. Others, usually dispatch bodies without any regard for character and just hope audiences are content with style and not much substance. Enter Chris Nash’s debut feature “In a Violent Nature,” which is probably the first art-house slasher of its kind. One peppered with all the gory trademarks of the best “Friday the 13th” films, but with the energy of a Terrence Malick joint. 

Considering this movie is a slow burn and subverts expectations as Nash creates suspense from wide angles and long strolls through the woods, “In a Violent Nature” may irk fans who appreciate their dismemberments fast and loose. But not since “It Follows” have I dissected every inch within a frame to ascertain whether or not a killing entity is lingering in the background. 

That’s because, unlike previous films in the genre, “In a Violent Nature” doesn’t tell the story from the perspective of the victims, rather, it’s from that of the masked killer, and though it requires a fair amount of patience, the result is an engrossing journey that features, without question, the most gruesome on screen slashing of the century. Those reports about audience members vomiting were not exaggerated.

As for the killer? A campfire story lets us know about an old folklore of how a young kid named Johnny was senselessly murdered by a mob of townspeople. And then, coincidentally, every decade a series of graphic slayings pop up around the area where Johnny died, which just so happens to be the campground a squad of friends (played by Andrew Palovic, Cameron Love, Liam Leone and Charlotte Creaghan) are conveniently staying at for the weekend. Each character fits the stereotypical archetype: stoner, frat boy, sidekick, and the hottie, but the film isn’t about them: it’s about Johnny, who lurks in the shadows, waiting to make his move. And when he does (which doesn’t happen until about 30 minutes), it’s quick, brutal, and absolutely relentless. 

In fact, some of the killings are so shocking, you’re almost relieved Nash built in “breaks” amid all the unholy thrashings (and by break, I mean watching Johnny trek through the woods). It’s also fun to imagine the other “film” that’s taking place among the victims that we don’t see. Since Johnny casually strolls into a scene that’s already in progress and begins wreaking havoc, it’s a reminder of the things we don’t normally witness in these movies, which is a killer, like Jason Vorehees, leisurely strolling in the woods plotting their killing spree. Major kudos to the sound designers who do an excellent job at enhancing the elements around Johnny as the tall brutish figure played by a towering Ry Barrett is in a constant state of motion. 

Johnny is a wonderful addition into the canon of iconic horror villains and keeps “In a Violent Nature” from becoming another forgettable excursion. Even if the energy of the victims' seldomly matches that of a sadistic madman donning a leather fire-fighter mask and conjuring obscene methods of slaughtering them, you’re still left with an interesting character study and some insane horror sequences. Here, Nash has given audiences a towering presence who attacks without any regard for time, space, or motive. It’s that simplistic approach, alongside the unique narrative perspective, that sets “In a Violent Nature” apart from the rest of the pack. It also serves as a reminder of how rare it is to come across a slasher flick that can feel both old and new at the exact same time. 

Grade: B+ 

IN A VIOLENT NATURE opens in theaters Friday, May 31st.


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