In a Violent Nature

Posted by Eddie Pasa on May 30, 2024 in / No Comments

 

Not Rated by the MPA (contains extreme bloody violence, drug use, and strong language – equivalent to a very hard R, bordering on NC-17, if not all the way there). Running time: 94 minutes. Released by IFC Films and Shudder.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, IFC Films, Shudder, In A Violent NatureOh, man. This was the one I was waiting for; if you’re a horror fan like me, how can you not love a Friday the 13th-style slasher film from the point of view of the murderer? Did you ever wonder how he manages to stay out of sight until the last second or catch up to his prey in record time? Or what he sees in his mind when confronted with vestiges of his past? (To be fair, we see a bit of that at the end of Friday the 13th Part 2…)

In a Violent Nature lives up to its name and the buzz going around. Writer/director Chris Nash has an obvious love for the conventions of the genre, especially the gory kill scenes; but for me, the fun is in the visual and aural aspects of the film. There is no Bernard Herrmann-ripoff score, no “ki-ki-ki ma-ma-ma”-esque sound cue to alert anyone to the killer’s presence; all we hear are undead Johnny’s (Ry Barrett) footsteps crunching through a forest as he tracks down a group of kids who’ve stolen a talisman that’s been keeping him buried and dead. Nash likes to toy with us, positioning Johnny in the distance and out of focus while the kids do their kid things – drink, smoke pot, make out, and razz each other for trying (or not trying hard enough) to hook up.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, IFC Films, Shudder, In A Violent NaturePierce Derks’ gliding handheld/gimbal photography gives us a view Johnny from behind for most of the film, following him on his path of bloody vengeance for being awakened. Also of interest is Derks’ use of the 1.33:1 aspect ratio afforded him; Nash wants us to feel like we’re back in the ‘80s watching his story unfold “on high-quality, stereophonic VHS” (apologies to Christopher Titus) and he’s chosen the only aspect ratio available to movie renters at the time. Those of us who grew up in the square-screen era will feel right at home with this, harking back to times spent late at night in a darkened room on the couch or on the floor in front of our tube television sets, wondering when the next scare was going to come.

One mystery In a Violent Nature solves is the seemingly impossible appearance of the killer behind their victims in any movie after we think their prey has run far enough. Especially when the killer only walks, such as Halloween’s Michael Myers or any Friday the 13th including and after Part VI: Jason Lives. The answer? Editing! Here, lengthy takes of Johnny walking the forest or over open ground are suddenly interrupted by… more lengthy takes of Johnny doing the same thing, only further along in his progress than when we last saw him. There’s a humor in these sequences where we think nothing’s really happening; seeing a series of these takes – cleverly cut together by editor Alex Jacobs and the sound editing department so the rhythm of Johnny’s footsteps stays constant – showing how fast Johnny can actually get from point A to point B while overlapping dialogue comes in over the soundtrack (thereby defining constancy in the film’s timeline – sort of) was funny to me.
(If you don’t understand what I’m saying, leave a comment below and I’ll try to explain it better.)

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, IFC Films, Shudder, In A Violent NatureNash’s lean script is straightforward with very little time devoted to character development or messing around. His aim was to make us feel like we’ve been thrown headlong into a sequel without having seen the series originator, and his way of introducing this world to us is by having us witness the act that resurrects the dormant Johnny, ten years buried (we learn it might not be the first time, though) and reduced to a campfire story. Which, of course, one of our hapless college-age kids tells, and it’s not far off from the drowning tale of Jason Voorhees: Being a physically and mentally disabled child, Johnny was picked on and killed by spiteful townfolk, with the authorities being complicit in a cover-up.

Slasher film conventions are lovingly toyed with, such as the supposedly unintelligent killer employing misdirection and lateral thinking to trap his victims. It’s humorous to see the other side of such staples, lie where the victim is distracted by a sound intentionally made by the killer and goes to investigate it; watching Johnny walk to his position where he’d normally be in a regular horror movie is, honestly, rather refreshing. Weirdly, Nash goes too far with some of these conventions and not enough with others; for instance, we kind of get to see the killer gruesomely murder someone and then stage the body for someone to find and be shocked, but it gets undone by Johnny using said body for another purpose.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, IFC Films, Shudder, In A Violent NatureAlthough a lot of time is dedicated to showing Johnny roving the forest to find these trespassers and enjoying his kills, Nash reins in the extravagance of similar films and rather pushes the balance toward gore and senseless mutilations. Johnny is revealed to be crueler than we think his cognitively stunted mind could be capable of, but taken in the context of a child playing with dolls and eventually contorting them into shapes for which they were never intended, it makes sense. Still, watching some of Johnny’s handiwork borders on the sadistic and misogynist; in the most brutal instance, a woman is folded in half and pulled through herself, a feat of strength and prosthetic effects mastery that results in one of the most sickening displays of realistic violence since those seen in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.

The concept of doing a whole slasher film from the killer’s point of view is well-executed here with both arthouse and mainstream touches. Conversations are rarely germane to the plot, only heard as off-screen chatter; it’s telling that I’ve mentioned no character names or the actors playing them, because they’re merely there to kick off the plot and serve as fodder. When Nash wants us to focus on what’s being said, he’ll take us away from shots of Johnny’s back and into the dialogue between the would-be victims. But we’re quickly reverted to seeing what Johnny sees as he stomps down his (en)trails of blood and rage. In a Violent Nature will be best appreciated by those familiar with genre tropes and conventions; to an outsider, it will look like pointless slaughter and boring shots of a guy walking. It’s an in-joke masquerading as a film, the enjoyment of which will depend on your own personal experience. Me? I think it’s a fabulous turn of phrase, even if some of it doesn’t quite match the films from which it draws inspiration.

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Eddie Pasa

Eddie is a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS). Since starting in 2010 at The Rogers Revue, Eddie has written for Reel Film News (now defunct), co-founded DC Filmdom, and writes occasionally for Gunaxin. When not reviewing movies, he's spending time with his wife and children, repeat-viewing favorites on 4k or Blu-Ray, working for rebranding agency Mekanic, or playing acoustic shows and DJing across the DC/MD/VA area. Special thanks go to Jenn Carlson, Moira and Ari Pasa, Viki Nova at City Dock Digital in Annapolis, Mike Parsons, Philip Van Der Vossen, and Dean Rogers.

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