Film Review: “In a Violent Nature”

Starring: Ry Barrett, Andrea Pavlovic and Cameron Love
Directed by: Chris Nash
Rated: NR
Running Time: 94 minutes
IFC Films and Shudder

Our Score: 4 out of 5 Stars

Is it possible to reinvent the slasher genre in the 21st century? I think there’s always a discussion about it, but I ultimately think it’s incredibly difficult, especially since some confuse reinvigorating with reinventing. It’s hard to transform the slasher genre because it’s solely built on the singular purpose of seeing people killed in brutal ways. I’m not saying it’s too simplistic, but I’ve rarely seen instances of films attempting to reinvent one of horror cinema’s greatest wheels. The most recent occurrence of reinvention is when Wes Craven unleashed “Scream” upon the world. That being said, “In a Violent Nature” comes pretty damn close.

I wasn’t sold immediately as “In a Violent Nature” opened on a deteriorating structure in the middle of a lush summertime forest. We hear a few men off-screen talking over the sounds of nature; birds, the rustling of trees in the soft breeze and the like. Then we see a locket necklace removed from a pipe shooting out of the ground. That removal is what causes our main character to emerge from the hardened, yet seemingly fresh dirt below. Johnny (Ry Barrett) crawls out of the Earth from his undead slumber and begins to shamble around the pristine woods around him. The cameras follow Johnny throughout “In a Violent Nature,” sometimes methodically, sometimes suspensefully, but ultimately with an unspoken purpose.

It’s easy to compare “In a Violent Nature” to a film like the remake of “Maniac,” where we see not only have a first person view of the killer’s world, but hear his internal monologue. “In a Violent Nature” is third person and we never get to hear what Johnny is thinking. You could almost say that we more or less see what happens during other slashers as our main killer lumbers towards an unspeakable goal or illogical destination. You can joke that in other slashers, the killer is generally just twiddling their thumbs or possibly checking their Instagram notifications as they await another teenage victim to slash and gash. Instead, we’re left to ponder for several long lapses what Johnny is doing. Revenge? Bloodlust? Boredom?

Come to think of it, I really wasn’t sold on “In a Violent Nature,” until the film’s second kill. The film juxtapositions these moments of brutality with Johnny calmly walking about. We see him as he encounters the stereotypical group of teenagers looking to camp in a place they shouldn’t be, and how he reacts. Johnny doesn’t necessarily react the way we’ve imagined Jason Vorhees or others before Johnny. Vorhees jump scares into the picture, machete in hand, and quickly mutilates his victims. Johnny just walks up. Is that what Vorhees, Krueger and Myers have been doing all along? Casually strolling up? Like slashers before him, Johnny seems focused on a singular notion, but what is that notion? What drives Johnny? At a certain point, does Johnny’s backstory answer our burning questions or merely attempt to explain the unexplainable? “In a Violent Nature” performs an autopsy and you’re left to wonder what all the different organs are and why some are disfigured while others aren’t.

The film checks all the slasher boxes, a memorable killer, creative and gruesome kills, the drowning feeling of isolation, and a pace that balances viciousness with quiet curiosity. Is “In a Violent Nature” a deconstruction of the genre, much like “Cabin in the Woods?” It’s difficult to say because the silence breeds speculation and ultimately makes the viewer deconstruct the film more than the genre. “In a Violent Nature” starts out as an homage and slowly becomes a social commentary like great slashers before it. Slashers have always tapped into societal trauma, like the breakdown of safe spaces, whether it be a pristine lake in the woods or the safety of a suburban community on Halloween. The main thing it tapped into was a fear of the unknown. It’s very human to be fearful or anxious of the uncertainty and unseen around us. It’s what made “The Strangers” so effective, murderers can come for you just because. So, in today’s digital age of data where we have access to a wide range of sources and information, we fail to remember one thing that “In a Violent Nature” reminds us of, some things will never be explained. Johnny, just like the universe, may just be random and cruel. While some may suffer fates worse than death, survivors will be haunted by its unanswered questions.

Panic Fest Film Review: “Birth/Rebirth”

Starring: Marin Ireland, Judy Reyes and Breeda Wool
Directed by: Laura Moss
Rated: NR
Running Time: 98 minutes
IFC Films

Our Score: 4 out of 5 Stars

You know you’re in for a good movie when a director is able to summarize their film without giving away too much. Before “Birth/Rebirth” began, Director Laura Moss discussed how the film was her own unique take on “Frankenstein” and how the idea has been simmering in her mind since she was a teenager. Even with that kind of spoiler in mind, one where I could expect the reanimation of a dead person, I couldn’t foresee what kind of horrors could be and would be mined in “Birth/Rebirth.”

Celie (Judy Reyes) is a natural as a prenatal nurse at the hospital she works at. She brings her motherly warmth to work to help patients and others, but that warmth will disappear in a flash. Celie’s daughter, Lila (A.J. Lister) abruptly dies, leaving Celie with so much to ponder. On the flip side, we meet a morgue tech by the name of Rose (Marin Ireland) who goes about her work with about as much warmth as the corpses she digs around in. Celie and Rose are strangers, but Lila’s death is going to bring them together in horrific ways.

The mantle of Dr. Frankenstein could be divided up between Celie and Rose, who work together after Rose reanimates Lila. Celie, despite being unable to communicate with the daughter she used to know, tries in earnest to recover what she had by focusing on nearly every aspect of Lila’s life. Rose on the other hand takes a more rudimentary, yet scientific approach to Lia as she makes notes, runs experiments and monitors the overall situation. Sometimes the roles flip as time goes on where one character assumes the role of scientist and the other as parental figure. Because the reanimated Lila remains mostly quiet throughout the duration of the film, it’s difficult to tell what’s actually going on in her head as opposed to the emotional projections by Rose and Celie.

I can’t think of a “Frankenstein” reimaging or story that heavily shifts the narrative to a female centric one. The original story could be viewed as man’s attempt to control what humanity cannot control, life and death. In some ways you could argue the original doctor was also driven by a need to create. The ability to create a human life is not possible for someone born as a man, so Dr. Frankenstein had to create human life in another form. “Birth/Rebirth” seems to explain the passion and need to control life and death as that of a woman/parent. We see how Celie and Rose work with Lila to ensure she survives, the sacrifices both of them make, but is it more about science or more about basic maternal instincts? Rose is the calculating, numbers driven and scientific to all her approaches, but the longer she spends with Celie and Lila, the more something else is taking shape beneath her expressionless face. On the flip side, Celie also realizes the lengths she’ll go to obtain what she used to have, but must also reckon with what it takes to reach that goal.

The film’s ending, which will certainly be annoying to some, leaves more questions than answers. The audience is supposed to reflect on the idea of motherhood and what parenthood in general does to us. The morals of the film are constantly being debated by the characters and by their inevitable actions. Just like the Mary Shelley classic, “Birth/Rebirth” asks us to examine creation, life and death, through our own selfishness, our own sacrifices and ultimately what we are willing to do to secure and fulfill what we see as our obligations to our creations. “Birth/Rebirth” is a monster that you’ll be thinking about long after the credits and lights go up.


IFC Midnight’s “The Wretched” hits VOD May 1st

Whenever I see a film being released by IFC Midnight, it immediately gets my attention. “THE WRETCHED” is about a witch that moves in next door, definitely catches my interest. It is directed and written by Brett and Drew Pierce and stars John-Paul Howard and Piper Curda. It opens May 1st on Digital Platforms and VOD and is sure to be a real winner.

Here is the film’s official premise:
Following his parents’ separation, a rebellious teenage boy, Ben, is sent to live with his father for the summer and work at the local marina in order to gain some form of discipline. The idyllic tourist town offers little solace for him, however, as he is forced to deal with the local, privileged teens and his father’s new girlfriend. Ben’s problems grow increasingly disturbing when he makes a chilling discovery about the family renting the house next door. A malevolent spirit from the woods has taken ahold of the parents and starts playing a sinister game of house, preying upon the children and wiping away any trace of their existence. Ben’s suspicions of the supernatural horrors go unheeded and he launches a perilous crusade in order to put an end to the skin-walking witch’s reign of terror.

The film has been getting rave reviews from critics across the net. After reading that premise and watching the trailer (see below) it doesn’t seem to be a big gamble for this film. While you watch you can also check out bob casino to not only win big with this killer film but also in real life. If you need more proof here are a few of early reviews:

“A polished, well-paced nightmare [with] a playfully Hitchcockian suspense approach… likable performances keeping us emotionally grounded.”

  • Dennis Harvey, VARIETY

“A viciously good time.”

  • Kristy Strouse, FILM INQUIRY

“In the vein of Disturbia or Rear Window with a dark fairy tale makeover.
The witch is worth the price of admission alone.”

  • Meagan Navarro, BLOODY DISGUSTING

Here is a little bit about the filmmakers Brett and Drew Pierce:

The Pierce Brothers are the writing/directing team behind the zombie cult hit DEADHEADS. From childhood they have been obsessed with the horror genre, having grown up amid the production of Sam Raimi’s cult classic THE EVIL DEAD, for which their father served as the photographic effects artist. Previously, Drew Pierce has worked as an animator and storyboard artist on various projects such as “Futurama,” THE INTERVIEW, and THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS. Brett Pierce has worked in production as well, most recently in the development department on various reality shows for Netflix, History Channel and A&E. This is their second feature film.