Writer/director Jay Baruchel may not have gained many new fans with his recent comments regarding the horror genre, but one thing is for certain: he practices what he preaches. Regardless of what his recent exposure to the horror scene has been or whether or not he has the right to criticize a genre that he just recently began contributing to, Random Acts of Violence is an aggressive and exhilarating experience.
The story is adapted from Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti’s graphic novel of the same name, and while I haven’t read it personally, a quick review of the plot synopsis makes it seem as if Baruchel stayed close to the source material. In Random Acts of Violence, a horror comic creator comes face to face with a sinister connection between the murders in his comics and a string of hyperviolent real-life killings during his most recent signing tour. In the film adaptation, Jesse Williams (Cabin in the Woods) takes on the leading role of Slasherman creator, Todd, while Jay Baruchel (This is the End) himself plays friend and Slasherman publisher, Ezra. Luckily, Williams and Baruchel, along with support from Jordana Brewster and Niamh Wilson, carry the relatively simple story with ease.
But if I’m being honest, the cast isn’t my primary focus when you name your film Random Acts of Violence and make it revolve around a motherfucker named Slasherman. When you come out swinging like that, you better deliver–and Random Acts of Violence definitely delivers. Baruchel deserves praise for the way he handles tension and violence throughout the film’s 80 minute runtime. The kills (or rather their aftermath) are extremely creative, and the scenes including them are constructed in a way that makes a long-lasting impact. In fact, one scene is so remarkable, there’s an entire special feature dedicated to the creation of it on the Blu Ray.
That said, Random Acts of Violence falls prey to many of the same pitfalls that other slashers fall into–and I say that as a person that adores the subgenre. Instead of doing something helpful, protagonists freeze and simply observe while bystanders are slaughtered in front of them, driving a car suddenly becomes a foreign and impossible task, and the pace dips into filler territory from time to time. But for every mark against it, there’s arguably a silver lining to it all. Cinematography, while a tad much at times, is certainly creative and interesting to look at. Some of the more elaborate camera movements even end on frames that resemble an actual comic. It’s pretty cool. There’s also a deeper conversation at play here. One that questions why people enjoy violent art, and why anyone would want to create it in the first place.
Ultimately, Random Acts of Violence succeeds in answering those questions while staying close and true to the source material that the production team was given. It can get a little melodramatic at times, sure, but the ferocity and bloodshed that Baruchel brings to the screen is seldom seen in American horror these days. In my opinion, his execution more than makes up for the few stumbles that he may have taken along the way. The journey of adapting the graphic novel to film began in 2011 while production didn’t begin until 7 years later. Hopefully we’re not waiting another 7 years for a follow-up from the Jay Baruchel and Jesse Chabot team. They have a future here if they choose to explore it–as long as Baruchel doesn’t piss everyone off along the way. Or who knows? Maybe that’s even better. Sometimes the boat is a little more exciting when it’s being rocked.
Random Acts of Violence is available on VOD, Digital, DVD and Blu-ray release as of Feb. 16th. As someone that has seen the film three times at this point through a digital screener, Shudder, and now Blu Ray, I wholeheartedly recommend the Blu Ray. Regardless, check this one out asap.