‘Random Acts Of Violence’ review: self-reflective slasher mixes horror with philosophy

Jay Baruchel's gutsy gore-fest poses an important question: do violent films cause violent acts?

If you’re a horror addict looking for your next fix, then might we suggest Shudder? AMC’s horror-only streaming platform has been putting out some fantastic original content of late. Apocalyptic thriller The Beach House arrived last month, scaring the pants off film fans with its tense action scenes and gruesome body horror. Then Rob Savage unveiled Host, his lockdown-set mystery about a seance conducted via Zoom. Both were brilliant, and both proved Shudder could mix it with the big studios.

Up next on the streamer’s slate is Random Acts of Violence – a brutal slasher from Canadian director Jay Baruchel. Adapted from the graphic novel of the same name, Baruchel’s small-budget gem follows comic book writer Todd Walkley (Jesse Williams) as he battles to create art in the face of apathetic critics who don’t understand his work. Struggling with a bad case of writer’s block, he decides to head off on a road trip with wife Kathy (Jordana Brewster), assistant Aurora (Niamh Wilson) and best friend and fellow comic creator Ezra (Baruchel). However, things take a turn for the worse when a mystery killer starts reenacting murders from Todd’s Slasherman comic…

Random Acts Of Violence
‘Random Acts Of Violence’ is out now on Shudder. Credit: Shudder

Stylistically, Baruchel takes a fly-on-the-wall approach to his work. Eager to shock, the filmmaker doesn’t shy away from showcasing the prosthetic department’s impressively gnarly effects work, which helps serve up some grisly moments. But the film’s ‘I90 killer’ isn’t just another excuse for a twisted psychopath to splash fake blood on the camera. Consumed with self-doubt, the mysterious villain is a complex, well-drawn baddie who has to psyche himself up before taking down each target.

Elsewhere, Baruchel’s well-paced screenplay is buoyed by some great performances. Brewster is perfectly cast as Todd’s wife Kathy. She couldn’t be more supportive of her husband but she’s also cut from a different cloth. Deep in research for her own book on the Slasherman killer, she eventually comes to agree with Todd’s critics who write his comic books off as senseless gore. Todd’s failure to see the effect of blood and guts on impressionable people is all part of the film’s central question about the impact of on-screen killings on society: do violent movies cause violent acts?

Random Acts Of Violence
Jesse Williams takes on the product of his own super-violent stories in ‘Random Acts Of Violence’. Credit: Shudder

Regardless of your stance on the film’s discourse, Random Acts of Violence is rare for its genre in that it succeeds in making the audience think. Its weighty subtext adds heft to what might have been another disposable slasher flick. Well done, Shudder.

Details

  • Director: Jay Baruchel
  • Starring: Jesse Williams, Jordana Brewster, Jay Baruchel
  • Release date: August 20 (Shudder)
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