Jay Baruchel, best known for Goon: Last of the Enforcers and the voice of Hiccup in the How To Train Your Dragon franchise, sets comedy aside for his first attempt at horror with new film Random Acts of Violence.
Starring Jesse Williams and Jordana Brewster, the film follows comic book creator Todd Walkley and his wife as they embark on a road trip from Toronto to New York Comic Con, hoping to pick up some artistic inspiration along the way. However, everything isn’t all simple and easy on the road as strange things start to occur and people start to get killed. It eventually becomes clear that a crazed fan is using Todd’s ‘SLASHERMAN’ comic as inspiration for his killings, blurring the lines between art, artist, and subject. Random Acts of Violence is a slasher film about a comic book artist coming to terms with the fact his gruesome creations are coming back to haunt him.
Moving from comedy to psychological horror, Baruchel’s first attempt at the genre is a solid piece of work, demonstrating a clear passion for the premise. From the very opening scene, there is a distinctly creepy, unnerving and borderline uncomfortable atmosphere to the film that, coupled with the excellent performances from the actors, kept me engaged throughout the 90 minute run-time. The score is also excellently crafted, working to add to the tension and unsettling tone of each scene. As a big fan of any gore in horror films, each kill was entertainingly brutal and graphic, holding the film true to its name: there are indeed very random acts of violence throughout.
The plot of the film is also incredibly interesting and unique to the horror genre, with the two main characters’ careers as authors and comic book writers setting the backdrop for the exploration of the line between consumer and complicity – do we blame the artist for the violence their art promotes? The film addresses the issue of how a lot of people (myself included) are fascinated by the violence depicted in the media, in murder documentaries, almost to the point that we often forget the victims behind the brutal acts. I was also very impressed by how the reveal of the crazed fan as he catches up with Todd and his wife ties up all the strings of the plot up nicely, leaving for a satisfied ending.
However, despite being impressed with the message, plot and performances, I was distinctly let down by the bland characters and dull script. Almost preachy at times, the dialogue between the characters feels forced; I would have much preferred to have had more action and violent scenes between killer and victim which would leave less room for the long conversations in between. The film also opens and closes with ‘inspiring’ monologues which on the surface may seem deep, but once you get into the nitty gritty, are unnecessary, adding nothing to the plot of the film.
The characters also needed more development – personally, I found the assistant incredibly annoying and whether this was the intention, I was extremely satisfied when he died. Lacking depth to the personalities, I felt no attachment or emotion when the crazed fan came for the lead characters. This lack of depth is mirrored in the colour palette of the film. From the comic sequence at the beginning, audiences become distinctly aware this is going to be a bright and colourful movie. However, for me, this became merely a distinction, removing any visual depth or aesthetic to the frame. If anything, toward the end, the colour only made the film jarring and unsightly.
For me, this film is a mixed bag – it is not bad and is definitely worth a watch for any slasher/horror fans out there but there is also room for improvement. Overall, Random Acts of Violence is an excellent piece of work from Baruchel as his debut into the horror genre, an already saturated and difficult area to move into to begin with.
Words by Lucy Lillystone
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