Jay Baruchel is not fucking around! RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE is a genuinely terrifying film, and a must-see for genre fans.
The film is an adaptation of the 2010 one-shot graphic novel by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, a meta-horror story of two comic book creators whose character inspires a real serial killer to replicate the murders in their books.
VIOLENCE centers the focus on comic artist and writer Todd (Jesse Williams), who is struggling with how to wrap up his most popular creation: a superhuman serial killer based on a real killer dubbed the “I-90 Killer.” Todd wants to close the book on Slasherman and move on to more serious and satisfying projects, and while he’s happy to be well-known he isn’t thrilled with his rabid fanbase or the violent “candy” they want to keep consuming.
Todd and his business partner Ezra (played by Director Baruchel) embark on a road trip with Todd’s wife Kathy (Jordana Brewster) and assistant Aurora (Niamh Wilson) and all are soon the target of a Slasherman copycat who leaves cryptic messages for Todd and recreates the grotesque human “art” in his comics, leaving a trail of dead bodies in his wake.
There is SO MUCH going on in this film that I love! Violence is like the perfect mashup of DEEP RED and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Gorgeous red and green washes, surreal murder scenes, and a genuine sense of terror (I’m not just saying that because it plays into one my greatest fears: being stranded in a remote area) – it all works together to bring me everything I love about horror movies.
I also really appreciated that Barachul and his co-writer Jesse Chabot wrote Kathy’s character as more than just Todd’s wife. In addition to having her own arc which provides a counterpoint to Todd’s artwork by working on a book about the I-90 killer’s victims, she acts as Todd’s conscience, constantly questioning whether or not he’s aware of what he’s putting out into the world, and why.
Both the novel and film address society’s fascination with true crime, and question whether packaging glorified violence and selling it might actually inspire someone to carry out brutal murders. What is and what isn’t art — and how do we reconcile that we may be putting things out into the world that glorify violence? While I think the book does a fine job at that – the film really pushes those explorations into another direction and ends up feeling way more impactful to me. And yes, the irony of me enjoying the gritty details of this film as much as I did is not lost on me.
Anyway! Baruchel does an amazing job at framing things in a way that builds maximum tension and anticipation. Even when you can see what’s coming next, the way it hits you while watching takes your breath away. I’m a big fan of this front to back, and I’m excited to see his next horror film (assuming he makes another one).
RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE premieres in the U.S. on Shudder August 20. It is currently in select theaters in Canada. Read more about RANDOM ACTS in my quick interview with Jay Baruchel!