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Random Acts of Violence Movie Review

Written by Stuart D. Monroe

Premiered on Shudder

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Directed by Jay Baruchel
Written by Jay Baruchel and Jesse Chabot
2019, 80 minutes, Not Rated
Premiered on Shudder on August 20th, 2020

Jesse Williams as Todd
Jordana Brewster as Kathy
Jay Baruchel as Ezra
Simon Northwood as The Man
Niamh Wilson as Aurora

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If there’s one thing we know all too well as horror fans, it’s the look you get from people who “can’t watch horror movies”. More often than not, there’s a judgment in that look. We see it, and it ruffles our feathers for good reason – the horror community is the most inclusive, decent, helpful, and shockingly “normal” group of like-minded people you’ll find anywhere in the world (yes, I’ll die on that hill). Still, the question remains: How do such good people come up with such awful shit? Where is that wellspring, and why is it so dark and tainted?

Todd (Jesse Williams, Cabin in the Woods) is the creator of Slasherman, a long-running comic about a brutal and prolific slasher who slays from behind the anonymity of a welder’s mask, and he knows that look well. Slasherman is the king of the hardcore comics. Todd takes his girlfriend Kathy (Jordana Brewster; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning) with him on a promotional tour from Toronto to the New York Comic Con along with his business partner and publisher, Ezra (Jay Baruchel; How To Train Your Dragon), and his personal assistant, Aurora (Niamh Wilson; Saw III). It’s a strange trip of bad vibes, and as Todd returns home to tiny McBain, someone begins fulfilling his comic’s horrific kills as elaborate tableaus. Slasherman is no longer just a fictional character, and Todd must face his own creation and (even worse) come to understand why he exists.

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From the opening frame, you are assaulted by color and comic panel-style framing in a film that’s equal parts graphic novel and live action brutal reality. When you name your film Random Acts of Violence, you’re contractually obligated to bring it on the physical violence, so it pleases me to say that Jay Baruchel and company have zero fucks to give about your sensibilities in that regard. The physical SFX are gleefully unapologetic; I seriously need some intestines intertwined about my Christmas tree and door wreath! The Man aka Slasherman (Simon Northwood; Code 8) brings a visibly human and psychotically angry menace to the screen. He’s a veteran stuntman with nearly 100 credits, which goes to prove the Kane Hodder Theory: when you want slashing done right, hire a stuntman.

Jesse Williams does his smoldering thing frequently here to great avail. He also manages to have solid chemistry with Jordana Brewster in a believable relationship. It’s a B-story that muddies the flow and creativity a bit, however, detracting from a solid secret storyline that’s told effectively and stylistically in flashback. Jay Baruchel’s character is sorely underused, as his natural delivery makes him the perfect indie comic publisher stereotype. Those aren’t major gripes, though – there’s just too much to like in Random Acts of Violence.

Random Acts of Violence is good-looking enough to be arthouse, graphic enough to piss some people off, and deep enough to make you examine the moral interplay bubbling right there below the surface. It’s a particularly lovely wink that Todd’s big issue is coming up with the ending for his final issue of Slasherman; Random Acts of Violence closes out with an ending that is enough to break you. The final tableau is a set-piece that should become iconic it’s so good, and the psychology behind the existence of Slasherman is the proverbial snake eating its own tail done well and proper.

This is Jay Baruchel’s first horror film as a director. I hope it’s not his last. I didn’t see his comedic outing, a sequel to the Sean William Scott-starring Goon series, so I don’t know what his comedy chops are by comparison (the two are kissing cousins, after all). One thing is clear after watching Random Acts of Violence, though – we should probably be giving Jay Baruchel “that look”.

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Movie: 4.5 Star Rating Cover
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About The Author
Stuart D. Monroe
Staff Reviewer - USA
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
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