THE STORY – Comic book writers discover horrific events are related to a character they created.
THE CAST – Jesse Williams, Jordana Brewster, Niamh Wilson & Jay Baruchel
THE TEAM – Jay Baruchel (Director/Writer) & Jesse Chabot (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 80 Minutes
By Sam Howe
The “slasher film” is a genre that seems to be constantly threatening a resurgence but never quite manages it, despite a clear love for it from many people. That feels like a perfect metaphor for “Random Acts Of Violence.” It has some really entertaining moments and there is a clear love of the material here from all involved, but it also just falls short of being a truly good movie and reaching its full potential.
Todd (Jesse Williams) and his publisher Ezra (Jay Baruchel) have made their careers crafting a comic book based on a real-life serial killer called Slasherman. As the launch of the final issue approaches, they visit the very town where Slasherman committed his heinous crimes twenty years earlier. When they and their friends arrive, cracks start to show in their relationships and a new set of murders begin to occur, all of which are strongly reminiscent of imagery in Todd’s Slasherman comics. The mystery deepens as the frantic search begins to find the killer and understand Todd’s link to the events.
This is a traditional slasher film with plenty of gore and nastiness for those who like that sort of thing. It also very much plays into the current obsession with true crime novels/podcasts and how this over-exposure to violence, in all forms of media, can have a big effect on the wider society. With all these themes floating around, it is clear the film has a lot on its mind as it poses some interesting questions to the viewer, but whether intentional or not, it fails to offer any answers and therefore feels slightly unfulfilling.
The screenplay is the area that really disappoints above all else, as it is packed full of clunky dialogue and some plot revelations that may have been effective had they been handled in a more subtle and nuanced manner. However, that is not the way this film is operating. It sticks to every cliché in the horror movie book, which is likely an intentional decision on Baruchel’s part, but it just leaves the overall product feeling unoriginal, as opposed to the brave new ground that many films have been forging in the current horror renaissance.
As for the cast, the film is presented as an ensemble piece as these characters go on the road trip together, but in reality, this is very much a story about Jesse Williams’ character Todd and the rest of the cast are all supporting his story. Williams does a good job playing a very troubled man struggling with his past and who bottles up his emotions. He is mostly at his best when he is sharing the screen with Jordana Brewster. Brewster is a really talented actress (more than just that girl from the “Fast and The Furious” movies) and stands out from the rest of the cast, making it even more of a shame that in the second half of the film she is pushed to the side and given very little to do. There are times where the story feels like it may start to comment on the way women have traditionally been treated in certain horror films throughout the years, but it ends up regressing and falling into the very same trap itself. Wilson and Baruchel are commendable in their supporting roles but don’t really have enough to do either in order to register here.
There is one scene in particular that really stuck out and made me think that Jay Baruchel may have a real talent behind the camera. It is an excellent sequence set over the opening credits that manages to set the tone perfectly and feels ripped out of the pulpy comic books that our protagonist has made a living creating. If the rest of the film had lived up to the energy and style of this opening sequence, Baruchel would have had a genre classic on his hands. I am truly looking forward to what he does next because this is packed full of interesting aspects and flourishes. However, if he wants to get to the next level as a filmmaker then he needs to really improve the screenplay he is working with and aim for something fresher instead of sticking to the safety of genre clichés, as respectful and loving as they may be.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – A clear love of the genre. Stylish opening credits animation. Manages to maintain tension over the tight run time.
THE BAD – A real waste of Jordana Brewster’s talents. A poor screenplay. The film tries to make too many social commentaries and fails to effectively do any.
THE OSCARS – None