Villains is a very demented little movie. Everyone in it is, as the title suggests, a bad guy. They just have different levels of villainy. Some have redeemable qualities; at least one does not. Filmmakers Dan Berk and Robert Olsen put these characters into a story packed with dark humor. All kinds of madness ensues. Villains screened at the 2019 Cinepocalypse Film Fest.
Bill Skarsgard and Maika Monroe play Mickey and Jules, two fairly inept criminals who rob a gas station in the opening scene. During their escape, the getaway car runs out of gas on a remote road. The couple breaks into the only home they can find. They are soon discovered by the owners, George and Gloria (Jeffrey Donovan and Kyra Sedgwick). Something is very off about these people. They dress like they stepped right out of the 1950s, and George speaks like a perfect Southern gentleman, even when issuing deadly threats. And he does that on a regular basis, because he and Gloria have a secret they're desperate to keep from being exposed.
Villains has fun with the idea of two bad people facing off against two even worse people. George and Gloria have every intention of killing Mickey and Jules, who have every intention of not being killed. The big secret is eventually revealed, and the movie expands on it, adding a second, even more wacko layer to the story about halfway through. Mickey and Jules quickly realize that escaping unhinged people will require unhinged methods. The peak of this is a sequence in which Mickey has to convince Jules to do something unpleasant so they can escape handcuffs. It's a moment that makes you laugh and squirm simultaneously.
The ensemble cast is extremely tight. Skarsgard and Monroe have good chemistry as the manic, thieving lovers. Watching them repeatedly egg one another on is often funny. Kyra Sedgwick allows herself to go full weirdo, to great effect. We're not used to seeing her play someone as bizarre and broken as Gloria, and she milks it for all its worth. The standout is probably Jeffrey Donovan, who expertly uses George's genteel facade as a mask for true evil. At one point, the character has a line in which he insists that doing something horrific is actually an act of benevolence. The actor's delivery is suitably creepy.
Villains, it should be noted, is a very exaggerated film. George and Gloria are not even remotely realistic, nor is the degree to which they deal with their bizarre issue. Mileage may vary on how much you enjoy the picture, depending on your tolerance for that style. (A little goes a long way with me, but it mostly works here.) The sentimental ending also feels unearned. A film this twisted should have a more cynical finale.
In spite of those things, Villains offers a reasonable amount of entertainment, thanks to an enthusiastic cast, an impressive dark comic streak, and the fact that you genuinely cannot predict what's going to happen from minute to minute.
out of four
Villains is currently unrated, but contains adult language, sexual content, drug use, and bloody violence. The running time is 1 hour and 28 minutes.