Sunday, May 19, 2024

“IN A VIOLENT NATURE”

THE STORYWhen a group of teens takes a locket from a collapsed fire tower in the woods, they unwittingly resurrect the rotting corpse of Johnny, a vengeful spirit spurred on by a horrific 60-year-old crime. The undead killer soon embarks on a bloody rampage to retrieve the stolen locket, methodically slaughtering anyone who gets in his way.

THE CASTRy Barrett, Andrea Pavlovic, Cameron Love, Reece Presley, Liam Leone, Charlotte Creaghan, Lea Rose Sebastianis, Sam Roulston, Alexander Oliver, Timothy Paul McCarthy & Lauren-Marie Taylor

THE TEAMChris Nash (Director/Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 94 Minutes


It’s easy to be hyperbolic when talking about movies. “Best,” “most,” and “greatest” get tossed around all the time with little consideration as to what it actually means to give a film so lofty a descriptor. Writer-director Chris Nash’s “In a Violent Nature” doesn’t seem like the kind of film to be discussed in such elevated terms on the surface – it’s a small-scale slasher movie with a cast of unknowns and a first-time director. But the film’s ambitions are high, seeking to tell a familiar story in a totally unfamiliar way. And it manages to accomplish this mission in such a manner that it can truly be called groundbreaking. “In a Violent Nature” is brutal, nasty, and like nothing that’s ever been seen before, representing a bloody new leap forward in horror.

The film opens with a simple shot: an old broken window in a small abandoned building in the woods. It’s an unassuming choice for a first frame, but it proves to be a key to the film’s entire concept. Just as one looks out a window, taking in a surreptitious view of whatever may lay outside, the film offers an unexpected, voyeuristic perspective that audiences are rarely privy to. In this case, that would be the daily life and deadly journey of the killer in this slasher movie rather than his unsuspecting victims. Not long after that, Johnny (Ry Barrett), our merciless central figure, stirs in his muddy grave and emerges into the world, reborn after what’s clearly been a temporary measure to contain his evil in the ground. He immediately sets off in search of the gold locket hanging over his grave, which apparently has some sort of primal sentimental value. As is always the case in these types of films, it’s in the possession of a partying group of teens who’ve decided to make a cabin in the woods their site for merriment.

Johnny’s expedition isn’t an urgent one, and a good portion of the film is spent following him from a close distance as he roams the forest, showing the audience exactly what goes on when the killer in a slasher movie makes his methodical, steady-footed way in pursuit of his prey. Anyone hoping for a consistently bloody hack-fest will likely be displeased by this approach. But something that’s often missing from conversations about the 80s-era slashers that this film is referencing is that they’re often just as deliberately paced as parts of this film. Even the legendary original “Friday the 13th” is fairly uneventful until its last few minutes, except for occasional bursts of charmingly cheesy kill scenes (the excellent final scare of Jason leaping out of the water has almost certainly supplanted most people’s memories of the film’s previous 90 minutes).

But never fear; blood and guts do fly. The kills are simply horrifying, with an impressive mix of darkly creative murder designs and incredible special effects. One of them is so shocking and so completely new that it made my audience collectively and instinctively react before bursting into applause in appreciation of the director’s sheer gall. It’s the kind of horror movie that’s going to sear into your brain in such a way that you worry you’ll remember it on your deathbed.

Contrasting these astoundingly upsetting (and upsettingly astounding) kills is the dialogue of the soon-to-be victims. Following the killer as we are, the sound mix will catch their snippets of conversation as their executioner approaches them. And the chats they’re having are broad parodies of the banal, poorly-written lines that would be found in a classic forest-set slasher movie. The characters flirt poorly, mock incessantly, and actively disregard any possibility of danger. The dichotomy of such sophomoric dialogue with the grounded, graphic violence makes the kills even more distressing. The hunted characters have no idea what movie they’re in; their pursuer is calculated and considered. Just as they collide with him in such an aggressive way, so too do these two parallel screenwriting styles of the film. In some instances, this slamming together leads to some tonal uncertainty, making it unclear how the audience is supposed to feel or what they’re supposed to think of certain moments. This confusion may even be intentional, as part of the film’s pursuit to rattle its audience.

One aspect that this film isn’t purloining from “Friday the 13th” is the stunningly assembled craft elements. Unlike that movie or its mimics, “In a Violent Nature” is gorgeously shot, capturing its inarguably beautiful setting with clear affection. The editing uses several magnificent match cuts, and the kills are constructed in harmony with the editing, making it hard to believe the film was able to pull some of them off. Of course, it helps that the special effects and makeup work are spectacular, showing care and understanding of the importance of these scenes to the film’s success.

Every slasher movie needs a headstrong young woman at its center. Here, we have Kris (Andrea Pavlovic), an intelligent, even-tempered character brought to life with screaming ferocity. Her inevitable chase scene is thrilling, thanks to Pavlovic’s authentic state of panic. Later in the film, she runs into a character credited only as The Woman, played by Lauren-Marie Taylor (“Friday the 13th Part 2”). She delivers a monologue that serves as a thematic summation of the film, all about the unpredictable and untamable nature of, well, nature. Taylor performs it well, with the appropriate weighed-down spirit of being burdened with knowledge of the world’s darkest capabilities.

Sticking with the killer in a slasher film is a risky move, considering most of the fear brought up in viewers comes from the tension of waiting for them to appear. But “In a Violent Nature” manages to be tense, eerie, and unendingly troubling. It isn’t an easy film to take in, but for audiences willing to lean into its sickening energy, it promises to be a horrifyingly memorable experience. The world is nasty, within the movie and without, and the worst monsters it can spit out are closer than we think.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - This slasher, unlike others of its genre, follows the killer as he stalks his victims, and it's consistently thrilling and upsetting. The kills are morbidly creative and unforgettable, captured with gorgeous cinematography.

THE BAD - Some of the abrupt tonal shifts can be disorienting, even if that's intentional.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 8/10

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Cody Dericks
Cody Dericks
Actor, awards & musical theatre buff. Co-host of the horror film podcast Halloweeners.

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>This slasher, unlike others of its genre, follows the killer as he stalks his victims, and it's consistently thrilling and upsetting. The kills are morbidly creative and unforgettable, captured with gorgeous cinematography.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>Some of the abrupt tonal shifts can be disorienting, even if that's intentional.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>8/10<br><br>"IN A VIOLENT NATURE"