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“Random Acts Of Violence” Is A Gnarly Passion Project From Jay Baruchel

Horror movies can easily get lost going down a path of just being a gore-fest or just being one big metaphor. The most successful efforts in the genre manage to do more than one thing, or at least aren’t completely simple to pin down. Jay Baruchel’s second outing behind the camera, the horror flick Random Acts of Violence, manages to do this with aplomb. Not only is it gnarly and gory, it’s peddling a message, one rooted in the creative process. Almost a decade after he first began to try to bring this story to the screen, it’s now coming out on Shudder and is well worth your time. For Baruchel, as well as fans of the genre, it’s worth the wait.

The film is a horror outing, one that seeks to ponder what the real life consequences can be when life imitates art. Here, it’s a violent comic book called SLASHERMAN, written by Todd Walkley (Jesse Williams). Todd is wrapping up the series, but he doesn’t quite have an ending yet. However, he knows it has to be a great one, as the book has a rabid fanbase, as well as strong detractors. As he gears up for a road trip with his wife Kathy (Jordana Brewster), assistant Aurora (Niamh Wilson) and best friend/business partner Ezra (Baruchel), one meant to take them from Toronto to a comic book convention in New York City, murders begin to be committed. Not just any murders, either, but ones inspired by Todd’s comic. While the group slowly start to realize this, they also become targets, and even victims, of the perpetrator. The longer this goes on, the clearer it becomes that Todd is also being asked to take artistic responsibility for what he’s created. Baruchel directs a screenplay he co-wrote with Jesse Chabot, adapting a comic series by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti. Supporting players include Clark Backo, Simon Northwood, Isaiah Rockcliffe, and more. Karim Hussain handles the cinematography, while the score is from Wade MacNeil and Andrew Gordon Macpherson (Macpherson also edits the picture).

Jay Baruchel proves himself not just a fan of the genre, but an effective director of it as well. He’s got the goods, leaning in to the gore, as well as the philosophical message at its core. This is clearly low-budget work, but that actually works in its favor. A more highly polished studio outing would have compromised his vision, for one thing, but it also would have dulled the effectiveness of the instruments he’s using. The violent nature of the work, the darkness at its core, the way it never pulls a punch, studio notes would have rubbed up against that from start to finish. By avoiding that, he’s not only made something more in tune with what he set out to do, but something that feels like it could have been made a generation prior.

Random Acts of Violence is fairly hardcore, so it’s not going to be for everyone, nor is it intended to be. It knows it’s a gritty little horror flick, and never shies away from that. Baruchel makes sure to lean in and embrace the genre, so while this won’t ever be a widespread smash hit, anyone who appreciates slasher movies, or horror in general, should get and applaud what he’s achieved here. It’s no easy feat, either, as there were a ton of ways this could have gone wrong. His talent behind the camera, as well as dedication to seeing this project through over a decade’s time, makes sure that never happens.

When it opens in a few days and hits the streaming platform Shudder, Random Acts of Violence is going to blow away some horror fans in need of new offerings. Those who don’t dig on the genre may be repulsed, but I’m sure Jay Baruchel would rather disgust those who just look at him for comedy, as opposed to letting down fellow horror buffs. Luckily, any open-minded viewer should be able to latch on to what he’s doing here. It’s hard to watch at times, but impossible to look away from.

Be sure to check out Random Acts of Violence, available to watch this weekend on Shudder!

(Photos courtesy of Shudder)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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