Sunday, July 14, 2024

‘In a Violent Nature’ – review

*Contains spoilers*

Of course, it’s not just this review that contains spoilers – ultimately, that’s exactly what the film is. The much-heralded ‘In a Violent Nature’ looks to turn the slasher film on its head by telling the story from the killer’s perspective, giving us an insight into not just his motivation but the methods, the madness, and the mystery. We also get a good look at the group of young people he seeks vengeance against – a blood lust driven by the locket they find at the burned-out fire tower at which he was led to his death decades earlier.

In essence, it’s Penn & Teller without the entertainment factor. In fact, it’s not even that – given that the killer, Johnny, is mute, we’re given Teller showing us his tricks in silence, without so much as a ripple of applause. With us viewing the woods and the 20-somethings in Johnny’s shoes, there is no need for musical cues to build up dread nor stingers to help along any jump scares. This leaves the action as, at best, matter-of-fact – at worst flat and lifeless. Despite the heaped-on exposition given to us by the hunted young ‘uns, it neither leaves us sympathetic for the killer nor engaged with their plight. Johnny’s motivation is to retrieve a locket that will somehow calm his restless spirit. The fact he died when falling from a tower after being led there by kids is fine, but the tragedy of his fall is somewhat tempered by the fact that fell due to being scared. It feels more like a Fail Army clip than the cruelty of youth.

There are some clever touches – Johnny is seen to regularly be hidden in plain sight, unravelling the ‘magically disappearing bogeyman’. Sudden appearances are explained as circuitous routes and (perhaps even more so) irrational behaviour by the victims, who seem to go out of their way to miss opportunities to kill their stalker. It’s difficult not to have a ‘Friday the 13th’ in mind when this happens, abandoning an unchecked ‘corpse’ or leaving behind a useful weapon and leaving Johnny to wait for the right moment to get back to business.

Writer and director Chris Nash has a get-out-of-jail-free card – criticise a sequence for being irrational or idiotic and he can simply point to the films upon which these actions are legion; likewise, the wooden acting and inarguably awful script can simply be said to reflect slashers of yore. He boxes himself into a corner having killed off all but the one remaining girl and scrambles wildly to tie things up neatly. Of the available options, it’s easy to understand the choice, he ultimately made, though less so to forgive the route he takes to get there.

The kills are largely fun, inventive and executed well, which makes the fact it has sequences of such elongated nothingness that much more galling. If this is meant to point to the slasher genre as some chest-puffing revelation as to their often meagre quality, I think many would point out we already knew. The sight of Johnny emerging from the earth at the beginning of the film is as spooky as it gets – an attempt to humanise him playing with a small toy car reminded me of the scene in 1974’s ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre‘, with a besieged Leatherface clueless and traumatised by the repeated invasion of his privacy. Except, instead of nuance and internal turmoil, we’re given some make-up effects and sign-posting written in large bold font. A bit of a killer.

Daz Lawrence 

Judge for yourselves on Shudder


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