Sometimes a title tells you everything you need to know about a movie. Though For the Sake of Vicious saw a limited theatrical release in 2021, most horror fans will just be getting a look at it now as it pops up on streaming platforms. Both its tile and promotional material promise some old-fashioned Grindhouse cinema. There’s promises of the kind home invasion carnage found in 70s and 80s exploitation cult classics like House on the Edge of the Park or The Last House on the Left. Another under-the-radar entry from the last year, a small number of critics were reasonably impressed.
When overworked nurse Romina leaves her shift on Halloween night, she comes home to two unexpected guests. Chris, a man whose daughter was brutally assaulted, is hiding in her kitchen. And he has a man – beaten and bloodied – tied to a chair. But Chris’ hostage, Alan, denies being the assailant, which forces Romina into a terse encounter. Things only escalate when Alan’s ties to the criminal underworld show up to the house with no interest in distinguishing friend from foe.
For the Sake of Vicious Balances an Ambitious Mix of Thriller and Grindhouse
There’s two very different movies in For the Sake of Vicious. Despite the radical differences in style, both approaches are quite good while offering very different viewing experiences. For at least half of its runtime, For the Sake of Vicious is a single-setting thriller. It almost plays out like a stage re-telling of Roman Polanski’s Death and the Maiden (itself based on a play). Writer and directors Gabriel Career and Reese Evensehen effectively use ambiguous storytelling to leave plenty of room for uncertainty. That is, For the Sake of Vicious offers little exposition or set-up and doles out information in spare helpings. Career and Evensehen use Lora Burke’s ‘Romina’ as a stand-in for the audience. We learn things at the same time as Romina. Like her character, we can’t be sure what we can trust. All of this results in a tense mystery.
…For the Sake of Vicious offers little exposition or set-up and doles out information in sparse helpings.
But For the Sake of Vicious inevitably gives way to what its title promises. And on this front, Career and Evensehen deliver in buckets of carnage. The small-scale thriller gives way to something akin to Assault on Precinct 13 as our three disparate characters must team up to survive. Though the directors save their action for the final 20 minutes or so, what follows is pure Grindhouse violence. Expect plenty of cringeworthy shootings, stabbings, and bludgeoning. Nearly everything but the kitchen sink – a toilet lid gets involved – gets used in an almost nonstop onslaught. Career and Reese play with chaos, teasing a bit of dark humor, but largely just relying on the well-done gross-out effects.
For the Sake of Vicious Missing a Memorable Villain
How well For the Sake of Vicious works depends on your ability to check your brain at the door. Even its early quiet moments raise some logic problems and plot-holes. Just why Chris goes to Romina’s house in first place hangs on some pretty flimsy reasoning. And the ambiguous story-telling approach exacerbates these issues. Regardless of whether the movie sets itself on Halloween, it’s a little odd that so much shooting and a rumbling motorcycle gang don’t draw any attention in what appears to be a residential neighborhood. And as much as the exposition-light story creates early tension and mystery, it may leave audiences confused about what and why things escalate in the final act.
What’s missing from For the Sake of Vicious is a clear villain.
Fortunately, For the Sake of Vicious’ small cast capably carries the quieter scenes and sell the later chaos. There’s no recognizable faces among the characters – this is a true indie outing. All three principal performers are convincing. In particular, Lora Burke, playing our beleaguered nurse Romina, captures the right mix of initial confusion and subsequent resolve. What’s missing from For the Sake of Vicious is a clear villain. While Colin Paradine’s ‘Alan’ is definitely a bit shady, he’s never portrayed as outright antagonist. As the home invasion commences, For the Sake of Vicious relies on anonymous masked intruders with no discernible personalities. James Fler provides a late stand-in for a ‘head bad guy’ but it’s a mostly silent role that comes into the picture too late to make an impact.
Grindhouse Finale Should Satisfy Fans
In spite of some plot holes and gaps in logic, For the Sake of Vicious is a watchable thriller that delivers on what it promises. The big question for prospective viewers is a matter of patience. Though For the Sake of Vicious promises – and eventually – delivers Grindhouse violence, it takes its time and tells a very different story for about a third of its runtime. What proceeds its more exploitation fare is actually good, tense stuff that may arguably be better than what follows. Nonetheless, if you came to see 70s style violence you’ll walk away mostly satisfied.