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RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE (2019)
Directed by Jay Baruchel
Written by Jay Baruchel
Starring Jesse Williams, Jordana Brewster, Jay Baruchel, Niamh Wilson, Isaiah Rockcliffe, Clark Backo, Victoria Snow, Eric Osborne, Nia Roam, Aviva Mongillo, Wade MacNeil, Amir Sám Nakhjavani, Kyle Gatehouse, Mark Andrada, & Simon Northwood as the Slasherman!
There’s a lot of passion and power put into RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE. I think the themes writer/director/actor Jay Baruchel really wants to say something important with this gory slasher film. So let’s try to get into the nitty gritty of it and eventually I’ll let you know if it’s worth checking out.
A indie comic book creator Todd (Jesse Williams) has risen to fame writing and drawing a violent horror comic book SLASHERMAN. But just as SLASHERMAN is coming to a close, Todd gets writer’s block and doesn’t know how to end his long running title. So Todd decides to go on a road trip for inspiration with his publisher Ezra (Jay Baruchel), his eager assistant Aurora (Niamh Wilson), and his girlfriend Kathy (Jordana Brewster) who happens to be writing a story based on the victims of the I-90 Killer, the serial killer that SLASHERMAN is based upon. Just when Todd announces the end of his series, it appears the real I-90 killer is back and following Todd and Co. on their road trip, leaving a trail of dismembered bodies and blood spattered everywhere.
Now, I think if Jay Baruchel wants to have a career in making horror films, he will be quite successful. Baruchel has a large appetite for carnage, filling RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE with all sorts of horrifying imagery, bodily dismemberment, and complex emotional situations the characters have to get through in order to survive. There is no holding back on the carnage in RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE. Bodies are twisted and mutilated. Much blood is shed. It’s a very messy movie and not for the squeamish. And while there have been a million and one slasher films, Baruchel manages to keep everything interesting with plenty of action and character parsed throughout. Baruchel also takes a lot of pages from comic books themselves, not only coloring the film in bold and bright colors, but utilizing colors such as orange, green, and purple. I know from reading about Stan Lee and Jack Kirby that colorings in these particular hues make for a disturbing and uneasy effect when used. That’s why all of Spider-Man’s villains are green, purple, and orange. I also know Baruchel to be a comic book fan, so I’m sure he knows about this color scheme as well as he paints practically the entire film in this off-putting palette in order to subliminally cause discomfort for the viewer. It’s a fun bit of color theory that really does work.
Baruchel is also smart enough to cast some very talented actors in RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE. Jesse Williams is the kind of protagonist you can’t help but root for. While he does have super-model good looks, as does his girlfriend played by Jordanna Brewster, both actors are good enough to make us see the soul beneath that perfectly moisturized skin. Williams is put through the emotional ringer in this one and does a fantastic job of conveying a broad array of emotions that you don’t see in your typical slasher flick. Baruchel himself is rather restrained in his role of Ezra, toning down the neurosis that has become his calling card in most of his roles. Maybe it was because he was so focused on the filmmaking, but he definitely is not his usual comedy relieving self here.
If the film has a weakness, it’s when it tries to get heady about the violence it depicts on screen. RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE, which is an adaptation of a comic book by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, tries to pose a philosophical argument about the depiction and often glorification of violence in society and the media, while at the same time drenching the viewer in more blood, gore, and violence that one would see in ten typical eighties slasher films. Brewster’s Kathy is portrayed in sympathetic light, having to be paired with the deeply flawed Todd (Williams), but also sometimes feels unsupportive by choosing to write a book giving voice to the victims of the I-90 killer and seemingly supporting the criticisms of Todd’s comic being aggrandizing towards the act of killing and insensitive towards the victims. It’s an interesting argument and one worth delving into, but the story provides no answers to this conflict as it simply devolves into a wanton bloodbath in the final moments. All of that bloodshed washes away any argument had in the film prior and makes the lengthy scenes discussing the subject feel somewhat meaningless by the end.
Still, for a first time feature directorial effort, Baruchel delivers a blood red slash-fest that rarely stalls or stops spattering blood until the final reel. RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE may have failed at conveying a deep message, but it does deliver a gory good time.