“Random Acts of Violence” – Movie Review

For decades gory violence has been the bread and butter for many horror films (particularly slashers), much to the dismay of those who argue that it inspires real violence.

Whether it was Tipper Gore’s anti-horror campaign in the 80’s to modern day condemnations of violent video games causing real life school violence, it’s an argument that is always around.

The vast majority of horror fans can attest that they clearly understand the difference between fun movie violence in something like Friday the 13th versus horrific real life violence we see in the news.

But it does beg the question, does the art go too far when it’s based on real violence? Jay Baruchel’s Random Acts of Violence seeks to answer this questions, along with a few others.

Following in the footsteps of Jordan Peele, Jay Baruchel is making his leap from comedy to horror, while co-starring in it too.

Beware the Slasherman
Opening with a really cool comic book sequence, we’re introduced to Todd (Jesse Williams) and his girlfriend Kathy (Jordana Brewster). Todd is the creator of an indie horror comic known as “Slasherman”, based on the series of real life murders along Route I-80 in the late 80’s/early 90’s (in real life I-80 has seen its fair share of disappearances over the years, however the “real life murders” this movie refers to are entirely fictional).

Along with his sole investor Ezra (Jay Baruchel) and his assistant Aurora (Niamh Wilson), the four of them embark on a journey from Canada down to the U.S. for a publicity tour that includes book signings and radio interviews.

They make for a fun ensemble, which makes it easier to get drawn in.

However, things quickly get awkward as one radio interviewer brings up the fact that Todd’s comic glorifies a killer, whose victims still have family members grieving. He’s forced to reconcile the fact that perhaps he is exploiting real life tragedy, and whether that’s a good or bad thing.

Kathy is even working on her own project, which focuses solely on the victims and their stories. It makes for a very interesting dynamic that leads them to clash later over ideologies.

However, Todd’s problems get infinitely worse when someone starts actually murdering people and arranging the grotesque crime scenes to mimic visuals from his comic book.

There’s plenty of material for the killer to work with…

He goes from having to defend his creation to having to defend his life and the lives of his loved ones, all because of the violence and carnage that he naively promoted.

A Lot to Take On
Having previously directed Goon, as well as many episodes of Trailer Park Boys, this certainly wasn’t Jay Baruchel’s directorial debut. It was however the first time that he attempted to take on something this deep, especially in horror. The film does a great job of using style and satire, but sometimes it feels like what it’s trying to say gets lost in that style.

It asks a really compelling question about whether life imitates art or vice versa, in the context of violence. As previously stated, most horror fans (myself included) will argue that horror movies don’t make people psychotic.

But as Scream so eloquently put it, “Movies make psychos more creative”. Just as Todd is forced to confront the fact that his work of art may have inspired someone (who was already psychotic) to commit heinous and evil acts.

Kathy’s research gives us a window into this idea, but the movie doesn’t spend much time on it sadly.

At the same time, he’s criticized for profiting and off of and glorifying real tragedy. Are horror creators guilty of this with movies based on real life events? And are we the audience complicit? These are all truly fascinating and thought-provoking questions that Random Acts of Violence barely scratches the surface of, but never dives deeply into any of them.

Overall, it’s a cool and creative movie that definitely has something to say, even if it doesn’t fully realize it. It’s very visually interesting and boasts some great performances, especially from Jesse Williams and Jordana Brewster. It could have amazing had it gone further, but instead it settle for good. And for most horror fans, that’s good enough!

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