Timing is everything. And Canadian slasher Random Acts of Violence perfectly situates itself to address a divisive issue. Last year some critics accused Joker of celebrating toxic male rage and violence. Following George Floyd’s tragic murder, debate quickly turned to movies and television shows that glorified police officers. Now Canadian actor and director Jay Baruchel’s Random Acts of Violence tackles violent media and the responsibility of those who create and profit from it. Yes, Baruchel takes quite a departure from past work with this trippy, meta-slasher.
Comics writer Todd, along with wife, Kathy, take a road trip to find inspiration for the final issue of his series, Slasherman. publisher, Ezra, and his assistant, Aurora take a road trip to find inspiration for the final issue of his series – Slasherman. Extremely violent, Slasherman takes its inspiration from a series of unsolved murders along the I-90. Hoping to cure his writer’s block, Todd et al re-visit the sites of these past murders. While Todd struggles with his ending, Kathy tackles her own original work – a book about the I-90 victims. But mysterious phone calls and a string of new murders follow Todd and his friends. Life appears to be imitating Todd’s art. Each of the killings is ripped straight from the pages of his Slasherman series.
Random Acts of Violence A Gruesome, Tinted Nightmare
Though Baruchel is an odd choice to tackle the graphic novel of the same name, he pulls of the grim subject matter. As compared to other slasher movies, Random Acts of Violence is not a ‘body count’ movie. Moreover, Baruchel’s treatment of the material is quite disturbing. Less emphasis is placed on elaborate set-ups or traditional scares. Instead Baruchel frames the violence in a more grounded fashion. It’s explosive, uncomfortable, and uncompromising. Some impressively gruesome special gruesome effects accompany these scenes, increasing the movie’s uneasy atmosphere.
Moreover, Baruchel’s treatment of the material is quite disturbing. Less emphasis is placed on elaborate set-ups or traditional scares.
In addition to his handling of the movie’s violence, Baruchel demonstrates a flair for visual style and suspense. Similar to the Giallo, Baruchel favours washing scenes in neon reds, greens, and yellows. As a result, Random Acts of Violence occasionally takes on a disorienting, nightmarish quality. Todd’s confrontations with his ‘Slasherman’ strike the right atmospheric, haunting tone. At times, Baruchel overstuffs the movie with stylistic touches, including a handful of animated scenes. While it’s clearly intended to parallel the movie’s themes, it proves distracting at times.
Random Acts of Violence Confronts the Celebration of Male Violence
With its commentary on violent art, Random Acts of Violence ventures into somewhat familiar territory. From Natural Born Killers to Funny Games, several filmmakers have tackled the subject with varying results. To some extent, Baruchel falls into the same trap as these directors – his movie about violent art is pretty violent. However, Baruchel and co-writer, Jesse Chabot, take a different route to their social critique. As mentioned above, the movie’s violence is brutal yet doesn’t feel celebrated or fetishized. In addition, Random Acts of Violence tackles its subject matter much more directly, particularly with Jordana Brewster’s ‘Kathy’. In what’s arguably her best role in years , Brewster’s pursuit of a story that centres victims rather than their killer taps into a very real debate that has emerged in recent years. Her character contrasts with Jesse Williams’ ‘Todd’ who insists on an ambivalent detachment from his art.
…the movie’s violence is brutal yet doesn’t feel celebrated or fetishized.
As the movie hits its climax, Baruchel and Chabot raise even more complex ideas. Without giving anything away, Random Acts of Violence questions what comes first – real-world violence or the violent art. Don’t expect any clear answers. Not surprisingly, Baruchel and Chabot opt for some moral ambiguity. But the thriller’s indictment of not just male violence, but its creators, sets the movie apart. While it doesn’t quite solve the ‘challenging violence with excessive violence’ dilemma, Random Acts of Violence still proves to be a pretty cerebral horror movie.
Random Acts of Violence a Brutal, Challenging Horror Movie
With his most recent directorial effort, Jay Baruchel successfully shifts paths in a darker direction. Random Acts of Violence mixes disturbing violence, unsettling atmosphere, and stylish visuals into slasher with a purpose. Not everything works perfectly – some of the visuals become excessive. But Baruchel keeps a steady grip on the story and its timely subtext. The end result is an intense, but quirky, horror movie that leaves you with some challenging ideas.