Todd Walkley (Jesse Williams) is a writer who has made a living off the success of his horror comic Slasherman, a series based on the true life serial killer that plagued a small town over 20 years before. As Todd announces that the series will come to a close (with no idea how to finally end the story in the last issue), he decides to take a road trip to the town where it all began to find some inspiration. Their presence seems to have awakened something, as a series of new murders begins to follow them… murders that clearly draw their influence from the Slasherman comics.
First of all, if you go into the film thinking that you’re getting a fun-filled horror comedy due to Jay Baruchel being the creative force behind this project, you’re in for a rude awakening. Baruchel brings the big guns (and knives) and there really isn’t a funny moment to be found. This film is angry and mean and unrelenting. And honestly, that is exciting. Baruchel has been talking about wanting to make a horror film for a long time, and now that he has the opportunity, it’s exciting to see him trying to stretch away from what we have come to expect and go into completely new territory.
The movie is a bold one. In its quest to examine the relationship between fiction and real-life violence, it doesn’t shy away from the intensity. I found this to be a strength, but it definitely won’t be for all viewers. If you’re going to ask questions about societal relationships with violence, you do yourself a disservice by shielding your audience from the brutality that you are examining. This film leans into every violent moment and doesn’t cut away from the viciousness onscreen.
The film’s examination of the relationship between violence and media is an interesting, albeit imperfect one. The ultimate message is definitely muddled, but it puts some interesting talking points out there for audiences to follow. Does our society (particularly in the States) celebrate violence? Is violence in fiction permissible or does it speak to a larger problem? In particular, the film has some very interesting things to say about our obsession with true crime stories. Our fascination with murderers like Ted Bundy or the Zodiac Killer tends to hold them up and almost celebrate them, while their victims, the lives that the killers have taken and ruined, are relegated to a body count.
Whether or not this fascination feeds into an ongoing cycle of violence is a question that is not easily answered, but Baruchel does his best to at least bring it to the forefront and invite conversation. Random Acts of Violence is a film that, while not perfect, asks some interesting questions while offering up some truly terrifying scenes. When it all comes together, it feels like it could have benefitted from a bit of additional footage to bring the story together a little more cohesively, but it’s definitely worth a watch.
Movie Score: 3/5
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