RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE: A Dull Slice of Horror Pie

Jay Baruchel’s horror film is full of quips but short on wit.

Horror haven Shudder’s latest original release, Random Acts of Violence, is an ouroboros movie about the monsters we create, wittingly or not, and the havoc they can wreak. In its quest to blur the line between art and reality, the film gets lost in a morass of meta commentary that comes across as clever without actually having insights to pair with its quips. It makes for a movie that struggles to build and maintain momentum. And the film runs a trim 75 minutes, yet within that leanness still finds lulls. That’s the result of a story that doesn’t push past its premise and is content to poke and prod at its themes rather than embracing them. Random Acts of Violence is too scattershot to pull off what it’s aiming for. Missing the mark can still lead down compelling paths, if you’re searching.

Backed by Wade MacNeil’s pulsing score, Random Acts of Violence is about a comic creator, Todd (played by Jesse Williams), forced to reckon with the implications of his most popular work, the bloodsoaked saga of Slasherman. The biggest consequence is that someone has taken to recreating Slasherman’s death tableaus with real victims. Todd is forced to reckon with his potential role in the death of strangers and whether he is complicit. That idea has some teeth. But Todd’s reckoning has no bite. He’s more concerned with defending his work against his critics. But his wife, Kathy (Jordana Brewster), insists on numerous occasions that Slasherman is really a story about the victims of violence and the reverberations of arbitrary violence.

Todd and Kathy hit the road for New York Comic Con with Aurora (Niamh Wilson) and Ezra (Jay Baruchel) along for the ride. Along the way the foursome come across the Slasherman deaths, and the violence appears to be closing in on them. Between the creepiness they encounter on the roads and the creeps they encounter during book signings, it’s clear to everyone, save Todd, that his crowning achievement has created a monster.

The thing that holds back Random Acts of Violence is its overwhelming dullness. The screenplay, credited to Baruchel (who also directed the film) and Jesse Chabot, doesn’t raise any questions that it doesn’t have a snide bit of commentary for. The film comes off as being smug, but doesn’t deliver the goods to justify that attitude. Its characters are bland and the audience’s patience has run out long before the reveal that Todd and Slasherman are inextricably tied together.

Random Acts of Violence is an unpleasant film whose unpleasantness is reinforced by the screenplay’s thudding lack of a raison d’etre. It feels like viewers are being subjected to an onslaught of ugliness for no real reason, and that makes the Random Acts of Violence the deadliest thing of all: boring.

Random Acts Of Violence is now streaming on Shudder

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