In A Violent Nature REVIEW – An Indecisive Experiment

Fails to commit to its own POV.

In A Violent Nature
In A Violent Nature

There’s no denying that writer/director Chris Nash’s feature debut In A Violent Nature offers a unique and intriguing premise: what if a classic slasher followed the killer instead of the victims? The film’s long and overwhelmingly static opening shot promises something methodical and matter of fact, but the voices offscreen hint at what will ultimately doom the movie to an interesting concept that fails to deliver.

Three young men’s voices discuss whether or not to take a locket they’ve found in the burned out husk of a fire tower, and seconds after the camera pans over to show the locket, a hand reaches out and grabs it. Thus Johnny (Ry Barrett), whose backstory hues remarkably close to Jason Voorhees’s if you swap out camp counselors for loggers, is awoken and begins wandering the idyllic northeastern Ontario wilderness hunting for human prey.

Much of the film tracks behind Johnny as he walks through woods, fields, and along cliff sides, scenes that are perfectly in line with what In A Violent Nature ostensibly seeks to portray. Cinematographer Pierce Derks and Nash make these scenes pop visually. The Ontario wilderness pops on its own in their compositions, but they also make significant use of focus pulling and alternating after effects that rotate the film’s look between crisp digital, film grain, and VHS static.

Many of those compositions make clear why Nash has cited Gus Van Sant’s early 2000s death trilogy as an inspiration. It’s easy to draw a line between In A Violent Nature and Van Sant’s Gerry, which often follows its two central hikers from behind and was itself inspired by slow cinema icons Chantal Akerman and Béla Tarr. So there’s no doubt that Nash wants to be in conversation with these more abstract and uncommercial works.

Sometimes, as with the opening shot and the time spent with Johnny walking, the movie uses this style to strip the slasher down to its most base elements, the kills and everything that leaves us waiting for the next kill. But the movie refuses to commit to its own aesthetic experiment by including multiple scenes focused on Johnny’s victims.

The first of these cuts from behind Johnny as he walks up to a group around a fire to the center of that group. This could be an inversion of the point of view switch from central characters to killer-POV that precedes a death in many slashers, instead the camera remains with the group for an extended period as they speak in consciously inane dialogue and explain Johnny’s origin. The scene may be an attempt to include another key component of what makes slashers slashers, but it breaks the film’s concept of literally following the killer.

That In A Violent Nature also breaks this concept to cut away from some kills is bewildering. Cutting away from kills robs us of the glorious gore that’s presumably intended to harshly contrast with the monotony of Johnny’s wandering.

The kills we do see are remarkable though; which makes perfect sense given that Nash has worked as a special effects artist for nearly two decades. Two of the murder set pieces are sure to linger with viewers long after the movie ends; and one of those two is one of the most joyously and creatively grotesque sequences of violence that may have ever been set to film. The viscera and limbs that are spilled and split throughout the film are all rendered practically, adding that wonderful tactile feel to the gore that digital effects can never imitate.

Yet these delightfully stomach-churning scenes only highlight how the film fails us by cutting away often, and refusing to purely contrast them with Johnny’s silent hunt. There’s a version of In A Violent Nature that truly accomplishes its stated goal of following the killer in a slasher. As it stands, the movie fails both as a dumb fun slasher and as a formal experiment, leaving us with something that’s kind of nothing.

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In A Violent Nature
In A Violent Nature delivers on gore and beautiful scenery, but fails to commit to its own premise.