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RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE (2020) review

Neil reviews the upcoming Shudder horror release RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE. The film streams from August 20, 2020 in the UK and US.

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Random Acts of Violence (Shudder)

Random Acts of Violence will be available in theatres as well as to rent or own across all digital and on-demand platforms in Canada on July 31st 2020 and on 20th August 2020 in the UK/US via Shudder. 

Synopsis

What are the real consequences when life begins to imitate art? Comic book creator Todd Walkley, his wife Kathy, assistant Aurora and best friend, Hard Calibre Comics owner Ezra, embark upon a road trip from Toronto to NYC comic con and bad things start to happen. People start getting killed.

Review

Watching the trailer for Random Acts of Violence (above) you can be forgiven for thinking that actor/director Jay Baruchel has brought us yet another 80s inspired slasher movie.

The movie itself, as with the trailer, is bathed in sharp hues of rainbow colours and laced with a synth laden soundtrack. It’s Halloween meets Saw in all the best ways.

Based on the 2010 Image Comics book of the same name, Random Acts of Violence follows comic book writer Todd Walkley (Jesse Williams) as he embarks on a disastrous road trip to promote his comic, Slasherman, at a comic con in New York.

The setup is simple and obvious from the outset, there’s going to be a crazed fan out there who is inspired by Walkley’s comic. The screenplay, by Baruchel and Jesse Chabot, dispenses with any kind of subterfuge towards the film’s plot. Instead it lulls the viewer in to a false sense of security.

From the outset the core aspects of Random Acts of Violence all feel familiar. As the group set out on their road trip I felt I understood exactly what was about to happen next and how it would play out. There’s country roads devoid of life, gas stations with creepy attendants and plenty of cryptic phone calls.

But actually underneath all of that, Baruchel’s film is cleverly subverting the genre and constructing a complex metaphor for the violent behaviour which plays out on screen.

Laced throughout the film are a number of flashbacks to a young boy and his mother sitting down to Christmas dinner. There’s also images of the same boy in some kind of scrap yard inhabited by a man in a very similar mask to the Slasherman (and real) serial killer.

As the narrative of the film builds towards its conclusion both the violence and the metaphor escalate in to a huge crescendo. The closing moments of the film revealing a vicious circle which birthed both the Slasherman comic and the serial killer inspired by its events.

Whilst the moments of ultra horror may be tough to stomach, it’s really the metaphor that violence begets violence which is the toughest pill to swallow.

Williams carries the film brilliantly with Jordana Brewster’s opposing views perfectly reflecting much of what the audience is feeling. Baruchel and co-star Niamh Wilson are well utilised in their scenes and help to make the core cast feel a little more alive… until they’re not that is.

The set design, cinematography and sound design of the film are all perfectly inspired by the classic slasher movies of the past. There are echoes of all the greats throughout the design of the film and it all adds up to a gruesome yet cautious, self-aware love letter to the horror genre.

Verdict

Random Acts of Violence seems, at face value, to be another 80s inspired slasher film. But underneath there’s a deeply rooted metaphor for violence and an entirely meta understanding of crafting the perfect horror.

7/10

Random Acts of Violence is directed by Jay Baruchel. Baruchel also co-stars alongside Jesse Williams, Jordana Brewster, Simon Northwood and Niamh Wilson. The film is adapted from the 2010 Image Comics release by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti.


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