Review: 'Random Acts of Violence' gives slasher flicks a bad name
Courtesy of Shudder
Taking a break from his successful acting career to explore directing, Jay Baruchel‘s gory and visually succulent “Random Acts of Violence” attempts to coast on slasher movie goodwill by trying to incorporate a social consciousness (art imitating life) and though I’m a sucker for a bad horror flick, Baruchel‘s sophomore feature didn’t get me excited as much as it made me want to turn off the TV.
“Violence” follows Todd (Jesse Williams) the creator of the controversial comic franchise “Slasherman,” which is based in part on a real life serial killer who traveled along the I-90, snatched up victims, and slaughtered them in grotesque displays. Todd is seen as someone who glamorizes violence and profits off the families touched by the killer, and is consistently ridiculed by critics and his peers for dubbing Slasherman his “hero.” He tries to explain his way around the statement in a heated radio interview, but you can tell Todd has a deep admiration for his muse. It’s obvious he doesn’t care about the victims, so when a masked man begins tormenting strangers and killing folks in the way of his comics, it doesn’t leave an impression, until it starts happening to those close to him.
Todd’s girlfriend, Kathy (Jordana Brewster), doesn’t share his ideals, and her own project stands in contrast with his: a true-crime novella that isn’t about the knife wielding maniac, but the victims. Baruchel and co-writer Jess Chabot - who both adapted the film from a 2010 comic of the same name - are keen to update “Random Acts of Violence” to a modern lens, where programs “Making A Murderer” or podcasts like “Serial” are in the forefront of everyone’s minds. And for a brief moment or two, it almost feels like the filmmakers might touch on society’s deep fascination with killers and torment, but it quickly reverts to another mindless horror movie where people who we don’t know or care about (hence “Random” in the title) get brutally axed.
Which is fine, but don’t suggest your film is going to have a moral center to then turn around and become the exact movie you're trying to satirize. “Violence” aimless wonders from one unimportant set piece to the next, before throwing an overlong plot twist into the mix that tries to blur the line between an artist and his work.
Baruchel deserves credit for trying to present and explore an emotional journey, set to the backdrop of neon lighting and a pulsating, synthesized, soundtrack that yearns back to so many other films of the genre. And that’s the rub, “Random Acts of Violence” can’t understand its own purpose and identity. Either stick to senseless murder and mayhem and make that the game plan, or find a way to balance the two with a narrative that develops into something other than cheap gimmicks. For as much as “Random Acts of Violence” tries to describe and preach the importance of artistic integrity, one can’t help but notice this weary adaptation has none.
Random Acts of Violence hits Shudder starting Friday August 21st.