Random Acts of Violence (2019)
Directed by: Jay Baruchel
Written by: Jay Baruchek, Jesse Chabot, Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Jesse Williams, Jordana Brewster, Niamh Wilson, Simon Northwood
RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE (2019)
Directed by Jay Baruchel
A Shudder Original, releasing on Blu-Ray and DVD from 23rd August 2021
Comic book writer Todd is looking to finally bring an end to his Slasherman comic book series but his work finally catches him up when life begins to imitate the art he’s created.
Directed by Jay Baruchel, who you may know more from his comedic roles in Knocked Up, Tropic Thunder and This Is The End, Shudder Original RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE is a slasher horror movie based on the 2010 comic of the same name created by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti.
The film establishes its backstory, where twenty years earlier in the town of McBain, the ‘I-90 killer’ began murdering his innocent victims, butchering them into grotesque sculptures. It’s these killings which inspired Todd’s comic book series, Slasherman, where the titular killer has gained a somewhat cult following amongst its readers. With his final issue looming, Todd embarks on a press tour road trip with partner Kathy (Jordana Brewster), assistant Aurora (Niamh Wilson) and publisher Ezra (Jay Baruchel). However, it seems someone is very keen to keep the ‘Slasherman’ alive when they encounter a number of brutal deaths seemingly inspired by Todd’s work.
RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE is incredibly dark with a raw depravity about it that made me feel quite unclean when watching. I watch a lot of horror movies for entertainment purposes but here I felt guilty in the act of viewing this film, expecting bloodshed and wanting to be scared.
In the movie, Todd’s partner Kathy is working on a book, interviewing the relatives of the I-90 killer’s victims, giving a voice to the unheard and forgotten. Kathy’s comments about how we need to focus on the victims and those who lost their lives to murderers, and not glorify or make a celebrity hero out of the killer, is bang on the money and turned this film from your average slasher flick into something which feels a lot more real. The sad truth about how this comment rings true is the media and the public can probably name most serial killers but next to none of the victims. We’ve seen over and over again countless movies and TV series created about real-life serial killers and the atrocities they committed. Whilst most modern-day horror villains, like Jason, Freddy and Michael, are only fictional creations, Slasherman, being based on a ‘real’ killer in the film’s universe, just left a bitter taste, especially when a fan turns up for a signing armed with a homemade diorama depicting a range of murders. Suddenly I felt bad for watching the film and bearing witness to the grisly murders, which didn’t feel as fictional as they might in a different film. It’s bleak, it’s nasty and, in a way, plain heartbreaking.
Despite these messages which RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE tries to hit home, the storyline of the film feels a little muted and jumbled. This is particularly evident in the last quarter of the film, but for a lot of it it feels like the characters haven’t quite left the starting block. Though they aren’t developed too much, I found the characters easy to invest in and every horrific action that is depicted on screen made me feel a sense of heartache. Perhaps it’s because of the brutality and violence involved with such innocent characters but it seems to gut-punch more-so than other slasher films I’ve seen.
As a horror villain, the simple design of the Slasherman character, with his welding mask and driving around in a mini bus/van, works well to create a sinister vibe. The buildup of his character, through animated scenes and discussions between Todd and his friends, creates him into a living, breathing boogeyman. Even a glimpse of his mini-van and was enough to send a shiver down my spine at what slaughter would ensue. Having him feature in the graphic novel only serves to build up the mythology even more, whilst newspaper clippings and case file notes weave a story about the carnage the ‘fictional-real-life’ killer has caused. What is real and what is fictional seems to blur as we often get a peek into the mindset of Todd, where inspiration, thought process and reconstruction meld as he attempts to put his story to bed.
RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE may lack the high intensity and typical tension we’re used to, preferring to slow-burn its way through its running time, but nevertheless it’s a savage slice of slasher cinema.