In a Violent Nature

If you’ve ever watched a Friday the 13th movie and wondered what those events were like from Jason’s perspective, you won’t want to miss In a Violent Nature. This clever – and mind-blowingly gory – horror movie follows the psychotic villain rather than the innocent victims. That concept is so ingenious it’s hard to believe no one has done it already. Writer/director Chris Nash is clearly an aficionado of ‘70s/’80s slasher flicks, and he turns it into something more than just a gimmick.

The opening image is of a locket that a couple of offscreen men remove from the base of an old fire tower out in the middle of the woods. As soon as they leave, a hulking figure emerges from the ground. This is Johnny (Ry Barrett), and we’ll eventually learn the significance of that locket. For now, all you need to know is that he’s determined to get it back. The camera follows Johnny as he puts on an old fireman’s mask and stalks around the forest, viciously slaying the unlucky group of campers who took it.

Did I say “viciously”? Somehow that seems too mild a word. Barbarically, savagely, or brutally might be a better fit. Outstanding special effects make the murders look stomach-churningly real. Every horror buff has viewed a scene where a character’s head gets bashed in. That’s often achieved by having the killer start to swing down a large object, then cutting to a close-up of a fake head getting crushed. Here, it’s done in a single shot, with the victim screaming as a massive rock hits his head.

That’s mild compared to the moment that earned In a Violent Nature serious pre-release buzz. Festival screenings reportedly had people fainting and vomiting at one particularly gnarly kill. (Someone even made an audio recording of a horrified audience’s reaction.) Violence-wise, it’s not really any worse than most of the stuff serious horror fans usually see onscreen; it’s more that the manner in which this individual dies is sufficiently deranged as to leave you unnerved.

But this is also a major part of the appeal. Big chunks of the movie are the camera following behind Johnny as he stalks through the woods. Whenever he stumbles upon a camper, he lets loose with violence. No emotion, no dialogue, just carnage. Taking this approach shrewdly gets at why characters like Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers are scary – they’re like murder machines with an almost primordial instinct to kill. The supernatural element embedded in that defines the appeal of cinematic slashers. They cannot be escaped. All the “mundane” shots of Johnny walking actually build suspense because we see him being emotionless and unstoppable. It’s eerie.

The campers are seen occasionally, although a lot of times they’re just offscreen so that we only hear them talking as our killer sneaks up on them. (The banal dialogue is a spot-on recreation of the F13 pictures.) Nash is especially savvy in that regard. Although his motive may be personal, the victims are impersonal to a guy like Johnny. He’s carrying out a single, unwavering directive. Keeping the campers non-distinct forces us to see them exactly as he does.

In a Violent Nature takes everything we know about slasher flicks and presents it in an intense new way. Giving a masked slayer his own POV – and having us prowl with him - is uniquely chilling.

out of four

In a Violent Nature is unrated, but contains strong language and extremely graphic violence. The running time is 1 hour and 34 minutes.

© 2024 Mike McGranaghan