Random Acts of Violence REVIEW – An Entertaining But Not Brilliant Slasher
The title for this movie is slightly misleading, as the plot explains why most of the murders are taking place, leaving me with my first of many questions about Random Acts of Violence. I went into the film knowing very little about the plot, just wanting a horror story that might be a bit fun and different, but I wasn’t expecting it to try to shine light on the debate of violence in the media, without telling me how to think about it.
The film is Jay Baruchel’s (How to Train Your Dragon, This is the End) second outing as a director and an adaptation from the 2010 one-shot comic of the same title by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray. The story follows a Canadian comic book creator who based his horror series off of a real murderer, but is now having trouble coming up with an ending for his tale. The cure seems to be a press and signing tour along the stretch of America where the victims were killed to kick up some inspiration, but this causes a string of new murders where art imitating life will inspire more death.
Random Acts of Violence starts off with a lengthy intro that gets the audience in touch with its two main characters, Todd (Jesse Williams) and Kathy (Jordana Brewster), while explaining the problems they’re facing in a calm and normal manner, but with a brief comic book section and tour of the killer’s abode that lets the audience know what to expect and the style the film is going for. Once they head off across the border with Ezra (Jay Baruchel) and Aurora (Niamh Wilson), the mood quickly changes and it isn’t long before we realize how scary it is to go into small-town America, especially when it has a murderous history. The setup is based on a solid story, and even with a lower budget, shows off an excellent presentation that is backed up by stronger acting.
Jay Baruchel’s name is heavily featured in the film, being attached as one of the writers, producers, director, and also an actor, but this is in a small role that doesn’t overshadow the other performers. You may recognize Jesse Williams from his run on Grey’s Anatomy, but many who play games know him as Markus, the robot protagonist of Detroit: Become Human. Former As the World Turns star Jordana Brewster is mostly associated with her role in the Fast and the Furious, but that may not convey how good her acting can be. These two stars put a good deal of emotion into their scenes and their chemistry carries a lot of the dialogue, making me concerned about how they’ll fare in the coming atrocities.
The scenes themselves are shot well, with several showing off intriguing camera work and a few lingering close-ups that stick out. The use of color and amplified darkness in some instances are strong, often elevating the subject or setting. Reds and greens are the main focus—with reason—with some nice musical touches that may feel all over the place but work in their individual scenes. The visual presentation is well done overall, but a few of the comic book-styled portions don’t quite fit and are easy to criticize.
The on-screen viciousness is handled expertly with a couple of moments feeling almost uncomfortable. It shouldn’t be a surprise that a film with a theme of not glorifying violence makes sure that the murders all look gruesome and unappealing, with no fun or comedic element to ever erase the morose tones. Much of the grotesque actions are carried out against women, and that is something that is pointed out at one point when Todd is being dressed down about his artistic creation. The film touches on these topics pretty well, like it wants to teach something, but never says anything that would come across as pushy—just a little finger-wagging at most.
The first two acts are excellently crafted and build something that could have been spectacular, but the third act drops the ball in several ways. The presentation seems to shift, dropping some of its earlier stylings for more classic horror elements and casting almost everything in red. It’s a visual change that doesn’t impress nearly as much as what we have already seen, even if there are still one or two inspiring choices buried in those final scenes.
The story also takes a swing with where its aggression comes from and how the violence is presented. There are small hints given earlier in the plot, but the elements that are revealed are aspects most would have guessed or assumed already. What’s left creates a potential plot hole concerning the main character’s past that may bother some viewers. If there were ever a creative horror movie that could have benefited from a small bit of telling along with its showing, it’s Random Acts of Violence.
This isn’t to say there aren’t some aspects I enjoyed about the ending, (mostly the killer explaining his reasoning and the resolution) but the ending didn’t satisfy me, especially considering what the rest of the film had already given. It isn’t a big conclusion and is only a little flashy, leaving the viewer to think more than revel in how cool it is. I enjoyed Random Acts of Violence but the lackluster final act keeps it from being a strong recommendation, which is a shame for something that seems so easy to enjoy.
Review screener provided
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Random Acts of Violence is an entertaining slasher flick about a horror comic creator and his muse that shows hints of substance and lightly prods social issues, but just falls short of leaving a lasting impression.
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