RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE (2019)
Todd Walkley (Jesse Williams from Cabin in the Woods) is the creator of the popular Slasherman comic book that is based on a real-life serial killer. To get inspiration for the final issue, he goes on a road trip to the area of the original murders with girlfriend, Kathy (Jordana Brewster), assistant Aurora (Niamh Wilson) and friend/publisher Ezra (Jay Baruchel). There is already some tension, as Todd comes under fire for sensationalizing a real life killing spree and Kathy is writing a true crime book about the actual murders. Those are the least of his worries, however, as someone is making cryptic phone calls to him and people start dying around him in recreations of his gruesome comic book pages.
This is a brutal and vicious slasher flick as directed by co-star Jay Baruchel from his script with Jesse Chabot, based on the comic of the same name by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti. There are some very effective and impactful kills and despite being renown for his comic roles, Baruchel creates a very intense and chilling tale of life imitating art and vice-versa. The Canadian actor/director gives the film some depth by having Todd finding himself right in the middle of the age-old arguments about the media sensationalizing violence, violence as entertainment and killers that get more attention than their innocent victims. As it causes friction between Todd and Kathy, it gives some emotional depth to the characters as the two lovers have different points of view on these issues. So, or course, there is conflict between them. Some surprise reveals in the last act also makes things a lot more personal, as we discover the details on who this fiend is, why they are doing what they are doing and why Todd has been targeted. It makes for a gruesome last act that really cranks up the intensity. Baruchel’s directing here evoked the 2014 The Town That Dreaded Sundown remake and his visual style is impressive with the use of comic book style coloring and animated comic book frames being used to tell the disturbing story. A bit of a familiar story, but one done very well here. The violence is very effective and nasty when it comes, though it’s just enough to not desensitize or numb you to the gruesome goings on. It remains quite unsettling. A very intense and effective movie about horror as entertainment, that is both an effective slasher and yet commentary on the line between inspiration and exploitation. Baruchel doesn’t preach and let’s you drawn you own conclusions.
The cast is small but really good. Jesse Williams makes an interesting character as Todd. We like Todd and his is never vilified, but we do question whether his use of a real-life serial killer as a basis for a comic book character was the right thing to do. WIlliams gives Todd a heart and he is not without inner turmoil as bodies start to fall and he feels scared and, more so, responsible. When the big reveals come, we understand him all the more. Brewster is good as Kathy. A strong independent woman who loves Jesse, but has her own feelings about his comic and it’s use of the death of real innocents for entertainment purposes. Her real crime book causes issues between them and the two actors portray that very well. The scenes of their confrontations on the subject are also well written. Baruchel is good in the supporting role of Todd’s friend and publisher Ezra. Ezra is one of the first to start freaking out over what’s going on, as is Aurora. As Aurora, Niamh Wilson creates an endearing character and while she is the least focused on, she makes her on-screen time count and we like this emotional and slightly eccentric girl. A good cast.
Despite making a name for himself with comic roles and stand-up, Jay Baruchel directs a very strong, atmospheric and unapologetically violent slasher film that is in itself a commentary on violence as entertainment and the possible responsibilities of those who make it. We get a likable character who is himself conflicted over the effects of what he has created, especially when it inspires someone to act out the horrors from it’s very pages. There are some intense and brutal kills and some unsettling last act reveals that really work well in keeping this film tense and disturbing. A very impressive horror from Jay Baruchel and a recommended watch that can be found on Shudder.