In a Violent Nature (2024)

by - May 31st, 2024 - Film Festivals Movie Reviews


a SIFF 2024 review

Gruesome Violent Nature a Dark and Twisted Love Letter to Outdoor Slasher Favorites

There is a moment in In a Violent Nature that will rightfully go down in slasher movie lore. It’s as innovative, revolting, unexpected, and inspired a grisly murder as anything we’ve seen from countless 1980s summer camp cult darlings or any fondly celebrated Italian Giallo. I can’t think of a single South Korean or Japanese favorite (that I have seen) that equals it. The festival audience I saw this one with was hooting, hollering, and excitedly squirming in their sears for every single second of all the obscene nastiness. There were even a couple of walkouts.

In a Violent Nature (2024) | PHOTO: IFC Films

The rest of the film? It’s fine. Better than that, even. But once you get past its relatively novel premise (an outdoor survival slasher told almost entirely from the perspective of the Jason Vorhees or Victor Crowley-type character) there’s not a heck of a lot more than that going on. Additionally, while it plays exceedingly well with a rowdy theatrical audience, I’m not certain it would work nearly as well outside of that environment. Not a big issue, but still one I cannot help but ponder.

On that latter point, I think my reticence has everything to do with execution. Writer and director Chris Nash, a vaunted practical effects and creature specialist making his feature-length debut, stages things with a documentary-like, borderline ambient precision that takes getting used to. This forces the film’s pacing to be stylistically methodical to the point it borders on tedious. This pursuit of “realism” means the ensemble is mostly giving stripped-down, almost comically drab performances, and while this is by design, it’s also practically impossible to care whether or not anyone other than the killer ends up alive by the end.

There isn’t much of a plot. Granted, considering the subject matter, there shouldn’t be much of a plot. But the basics are simple. Undead killing machine Johnny (Ry Barrett) is resurrected from his supernatural slumber when a gaggle of fresh-faced twentysomethings vacationing in the woods snatches a locket from a collapsed fire tower. Next thing everyone knows, his rotting corpse begins stalking them one by one, the unstoppable killer intent on dispatching all who get in his way before reclaiming the missing trinket he holds so dear.

For the majority of the 94-minute running time, Nash and cinematographer Pierce Derks (V/H/S/94) follow Johnny as he trudges his way through the forest stalking his prey. He gets drawn back to important locations from his past (notably his dilapidated family home and the local ranger’s station), picks up a few items to aid him on his killing spree (including the requisite scary mask and some nasty logging equipment), and has no problem coming up new and vile ways to dismember his various victims (the log splitter near the end was a nice touch).

We don’t really care about any of the campers. I do think this is something Nash thought about and noticed, however, because as events inched closer to the climax, the first-person aesthetic being utilized slowly gives way, and a few of the protagonists, most notably the plucky and determined Kris (Andrea Pavlovic), are given a bit more attention. Thankfully, as she’s the only member of the ensemble who gets to show more than a single preordained dimension, her performance agreeably stands out from the pack. Kris is a decent “final girl,” and I discovered I was more invested in her survival than I figured was going to be the case earlier on in the proceedings.

In a Violent Nature (2024) | PHOTO: IFC Films

There are callbacks to everything from The Burning, to the Friday the 13th series, to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, to even The Blair Witch Project, but Nash thankfully rarely overplays his hand as far as that is concerned. Most of the kills are spectacularly inventive, and the utilization of practical gore effects is wonderful. But the overall pacing of the material is wearisome, and I did glance at my watch on occasion, especially around the fifth or sixth time the camera went back behind Johnny and once again began observing him as he slowly plodded his way between the trees on a beeline toward his next murder.

Don’t get me wrong. I liked In a Violent Nature, and I loved watching it with an energetic audience in a crowded theater. Also, that aforementioned kill (it comes roughly around the midpoint) is simply stunning. It’s so unexpected, so torturously despicable, even if I wanted to forget about it, there’s no way I ever could. With all the uncomfortable laughter and head-snapping tension, my entire body hurt watching this sequence play itself out, and if Nash’s chiller offered up a bit more of that, my overall enthusiasm for his debut may have been far more effusive.

Film Rating: 2½ (out of 4)

Leave a Reply