Random Acts of Violence Review
Most will know Jay Baruchel either as the voice of Hiccup in the How To Train Your Dragon franchise, or perhaps as Seth Rogen’s buddy in several of the actor’s signature stoner comedies, including This Is The End and Knocked Up. What you might not have known is that Baruchel has dabbled with directing in the past with Goon: Last of the Enforcers, a so-so sequel to 2011’s hockey-comedy film Goon. Now, Baruchel has turned his gaze towards horror and bring us his take on the slasher in the form of Random Acts of Violence.
Todd (Jesse Williams) is a successful comic book writer, whose comic Slasherman has become a huge hit and is even based on a real highway killer. Todd, along with his wife Kathy (Jordana Brewster), his publisher Ezra (Baruchel) and assistant Aurora (Niamh Wilson) set out on a road trip from Toronto to New York for a comic convention. The trip doesn’t go to plan when people start gruesomely dying.
While Random Acts of Violence is riddled with issues, it’s hard to remember them when the film is so gleefully violent, in the best possible way. This is a good, old-fashioned slasher that touches upon some deeper themes, but it’s really the kills and the gore that are Baruchel’s main focus here and rightly so. While the idea of a tortured creator, who exploits real-life victims by turning them into entertainment only for it to inspire a killer, is something worth exploring, and Baruchel and his co-writer Jesse Chabot could have delved deeper, it’s not really what we’re here for and Random Acts of Violence gives you your money’s worth in spilled gust and torn limbs.
Williams, best known as the dreamy Jackson Avery in Grey’s Anatomy, makes for a sympathetic protagonist here, but the script doesn’t allow for much development for Todd. His arc is about as predictable as they come and it’s a shame there wasn’t a more exciting, fresh way to tell this story, but it still works and has been done to death for a good reason. Baruchel and the rest of the cast are perfectly fine too, but as with all horror films, most characters are there just to suffer and Random Acts of Violence doesn’t differ from that trope. And do we really expect it to? Most of the fun comes from guessing who dies first, in what way and who is spared, if anyone.
To say the film is gory and violent isn’t to say it lacks ambition. It is visually very stylish, clearly inspired by the classic Italian giallos and cinematographer Karim Hussain’s work elevates the often-schlocky script. While Random Acts of Violence doesn’t necessarily offer many, or any surprises, it’s still a fun slasher in an age where elevated horror is all the rage, and its hard to find a film that isn’t afraid of going hard on the gore just for the sake of it.
Baruchel proves to have a knack for groovy visuals and while Random Acts of Violence is far from perfect, its style and brutality are enough to make Baruchel an exciting new voice in the horror genre. He has great eye for kills and gore and stages it all neatly, but never holds back on it. While carefully and consciously toeing the line, Baruchel makes sure not to tip into bad taste with the violence. He isn’t afraid of showing the full extent of the carnage without lingering on the blood needlessly. If Baruchel’s next film is half as pretty and can pack a slightly bigger punch with its themes, we’re onto a winner.
Random Acts of Violence is available on Shudder from August 20.
Random Acts of Violence (2019)
Dir: Jay Baruchel | Cast: Jay Baruchel, Jesse Williams, Jordana Brewster, Simon Northwood | Writers: Jay Baruchel (screenplay), Jesse Chabot (screenplay), Jimmy Palmiotti (comic), Justin Gray (comic)