Film Review: In A Violent Nature

Film Reviews

In A Violent Nature
Director: Chris Nash
IFC Films, Shudder, Zygote Pictures
In Theaters: 3.31

Where were you the first time you saw Friday the 13th? I remember it like it was yesterday. I had gotten home late at night from work, my Mormon mom wasn’t home and my kid sister, a young burgeoning horror fanatic, was still awake, waiting up so we could watch the classic slasher for the very first time together. My excitement died almost instantaneously, though. I remember thinking to myself as we got about halfway through, “this?this is it?” and “holy shit, that is Kevin Bacon!” Disappointed was an understatement. Though after, In A Violent Nature, I’ve come to the realization that maybe I was quick to judge the slasher and all the things it did right back in the day. 

Chris Nash’s directorial feature film debut, In A Violent Nature, premiered at Sundance earlier this year. Piquing just about every horror fans interest about four months ago with the infamous 64 second teaser trailer that mostly featured a quiet and serene lake dock, up until the last four seconds. As the film got closer an   d more trailers released, we learned this was going to be what Nash called an “ambient” (yes that’s right, there’s no score at all) slasher told from the perspective of the killer—who could be (and most definitely was) described as a carbon copy of the one and only Jason Voorhees. mask reference and Lauren-Marie Taylor (Friday the 13th: Part 2) cameo included.

The film starts off strong with a very arthouse-y shot of a gold necklace hanging on a rusty pole in a decrepit and mostly burned down firetower. We watch in a tight 4:3 aspect ratio as our supernatural killer, Johnny, digs himself out of the ground and begins his rampage against our visiting college students and local park ranger. We eventually learn through (what I’m hoping was referentially on purpose) poorly written and (again, hopefully a reference) poorly executed dialog, Johnny’s clichéd and tone-deaf backstory. We also learn that this is not his first rampage and, much later, learn that there is a way to stop him. 

Not to film-nerd-jaculate all over you, but this film is an impressive and technical visual feast on many levels. Before Nash took his turn at directing, he worked in special effects on films like Psycho Goreman. It’s there where he met the SFX-artist-turned-film-director, Steven Kostanski (The Void). Kostanki, wearing his Lead Effects Supervisor hat, is so confident and in his element during this film. I found myself asking in disbelief, “how the fuck did they do that?” anytime we witnessed an absolute gorefest of a kill. Looking at you, yoga girl cliff scene. One after another, Kostanski keeps you engrossed by brutally orchestrating a gorgeous cacophony of gruesome killings.

Cinematographer Pierce Derks work also hooks you in from start to finish. Sure, the Bob Ross-esque backdrop does a lot of work for him. Though I can confidently say, I will never need to see the original 70% of whatever the first cinematographer shot after watching (and reading about) Derks’ work. (Side note: this film went through production hell and was almost entirely re-shot with an almost completely different crew and lead actor. This would be hard for even the most skilled director.) Derks played around with the camera tracking aspect of the film and basically played Lego with a bunch of different equipment so he could easily follow our killer through the woods,giving the film its entire feel and playing with us viewers psychologically. It’s hard to believe this is only one of his first feature films, though certain shaky tracks and aerial shots do work against him at times, giving away to the lack of experience. Oh sorry, did I get it in your eye?

All that being said, I understand and appreciate where Nash and crew thought they were going. It’s very promising technically and, maybe with a better script, could’ve paved the way for a refresh that the slasher genre is so desperately begging for. The film was set up for failure the second it got slapped with the Friday the 13th comparison. It’s lackluster and poorly delivered. Hell, even Lauren-Marie Taylor’s monologue was pretty damn awful. I don’t care for any character at all and have no stake in Johnny’s murderous game. It proved that a lot of the cliché slasher tropes we roll our eyes at, do in fact, work and they work pretty damn well. All the best parts of Friday the 13th are what this film is missing and those things are exactly what motivates us, the audience, to get invested in the film’s plot, not just it’s aesthetic. –Yonni Uribe

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