Debuting at Fantastic Fest 2019, the Canadian-American slasher horror film Random Acts of Violence is based on the 2010 one-shot graphic novel of the same name and is Jay Baruchel’s second feature film as a director (his first being Goon: Last of the Enforcers) and third as a screenwriter (after the two Goon films).
The film is about a comic book artist named Todd (Jesse Williams, The Cabin in the Woods), his girlfriend Kathy (Jordana Brewster, The Fast and the Furious franchise), his publisher Ezra (Baruchel), and Todd’s assistant Aurora (Niamh Northwood, Saw III-VI) going on a road trip to promote Todd and Ezra’s successful comic book Slasherman.
Despite living in Toronto, Todd and his friends travel to America to drive across the country and travel to small, rural towns to promote the last issue of Slasherman. The point of the trip is to serve as a sort of inspiration for Todd since he hasn’t thought of an ending yet.
The comic (in the film) is based on a true story and a real serial killer with victims piling up between 1987 and 1991. Todd is verbally attacked during their promotional tour since the comic is accused of glorifying the deaths of the victims and Slasherman is known for targeting women.
During the tour, a man puts on a welding mask like Slasherman and begins bringing the horrific deaths of the comics to life in the present day.
The horror aspects of Random Acts of Violence are done rather exceptionally. The kills are grotesque and memorable and the parallel between a serial killer thinking his “work” is art is intriguing. The triptych sculpture in particular is one of the nastiest horror sequences to come along in a while.
Blood and gore look to be mostly practical effects, as well. Prosthetics and make-up effects are becoming almost antiquated with CGI being the most common alternative in horror films.
CG can be added in post-production, so maybe that’s why it’s looked at as an easier method. But both seem to cost about the same and it almost seems like practical effects take more creativity on the filmmaker’s side rather than from just a visual effects perspective.
The most notable CGI effect in Random Acts of Violence is a house on fire in the final sequence and even this is combined with the use of actual fire in certain scenes.
The film juggles how far art should go. What should be considered art and what should be labeled as murder porn?
It explores some of these questions through Todd’s girlfriend Kathy, who is writing a book on the actual victims killed in the comic. She feels like the comic glorifies the killing while the victim’s never really had a voice.
It also explores the comic’s fanbase. While Todd has established a sometimes all too loyal fanbase, the question becomes what does that say about his audience? With everything being based on real events, the lines between fiction, controversy, and disrespect towards actual families are blurred and violated.
The ending is basically where Random Acts of Violence falls apart. It’s not that it doesn’t make sense, but it does make you wonder how someone could forget a key component from their past that ties into the disgusting events of the present.
The film seems to give homage to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre dinner sequence in its final moments while providing a convoluted explanation that is only semi-satisfying. Staying at sleazy motels in small towns feels like a nod to Psycho and the film featuring a masked psychopath as the killer could be a reference to one of many classic slashers.
Random Acts of Violence has some rather creative kills and just the right amount of brutality for a slasher horror film. Jay Baruchel shows potential as a director in the genre and it’s a fairly decent sophomore effort from someone who obviously has a lot of love for blood, gore, a rabid fanbase, and cult classics.
Maybe the film respectfully sticks to the source material, but a comic book artist being blamed for kills their art is based on feels like a tired concept. It also seems like it takes way too long for Todd and his friends to piece together the killer’s actual intentions in the film despite him blatantly calling them and giving them clues from the get-go. Random Acts of Violence is sloppy at times, but has just enough savage brutality and unique kills to be memorable.
Random Acts of Violence will premiere on Shudder Thursday, August 20.
- Inventive kills
- Practical special effects
- Art/horror aspect
- Its messy conclusion.
- Oblivious on-screen characters