IN A VIOLENT NATURE is a Masterful Exercise in the Slasher Sub-genre 

Ry Barrett as “Johnny” in Chris Nash’s IN A VIOLENT NATURE. Courtesy of Pierce Derks. An IFC Films & Shudder Release. 

Chris Nash’s In a Violent Nature is a slow burn and thought provoking Canadian Slasher that ultimately looks to attempt to do the same thing the Halloween reboots attempted to do, dig into the very nature of evil through the guise of a bodycount film. The film, which opens Friday is the “New Beginning” if you will of this particular hulking boogeyman, Johnny, who after dying horribly at the hands of the townspeople of the logging town of White Pines, is currently lying dormant where he was laid to rest after his second murder spree nearly a decade ago. The only thing keeping him in the ground and his soul at rest was his mother’s gold locket, which is of course stolen by a group of rowdy twenty-somethings on their way to a cabin for a weekend. 

Unlike most of these films however, we spend the majority of the runtime with Johnny, who stalks through the picturesque Canadian forest in grainy 16mm on his way to his next victim, looking for the locket. In a move to sidestep the Maniac remake controversy, rather than seeing from the killer’s POV, the camera hovers behind him peering over his shoulder, which feels almost like you’re playing a video game at times as the character travels from location to location triggering the events that unfold and activating his next victim. The practical kills here are grisly and downright insidious, which imbues our protagonist with a sinisterness that really outshines most, if not all masked killers who have bludgeoned 20 somethings going on 30 somethings over the decades. 

Ry Barrett as “Johnny” in Chris Nash’s IN A VIOLENT NATURE. Courtesy of Pierce Derks. An IFC Films & Shudder Release. 

Violent is a beautifully lensed atmospheric take on the “spam in a cabin” premise, paired with some rather impressive, yet brief performances. The film is shot in a full screen or 1:33 aspect ratio, which, while used to invoke the full screen VHS aesthetic, does so while showing what is capable of the format in the right hands. The beauty of nature in the frame is contrasted by the garish killer stalking through the trees and trails to his next victim, against a sparse forest soundscape. Less is definitely more here, since the lack of score really allows the viewer to concentrate on the stride and purpose of the killer’s stalk as his hunt for the locket propels him through the narrative, and from one kill to his next.

My only quip with the near flawless execution is a few lines of dialog tacked on at the tail end of the film, post climax. After the film has painted a nearly perfect picture of how the nature of evil and violence is brutal, beyond reason and unstoppable, which is good enough for any fan that’s seen a slasher. This dialog attempts to add some kind of logic or reason to what we just witnessed, and to dig further into actual motivations feels like an ill-advised afterthought given some of the kills here, which definitely cross a line, from evil to plain sadistic.(and a hell of a lot of fun mind you!) To me those moments implied something much darker contextually in the killer going that extra step, when being dead simply isn’t enough. 

Ry Barrett as “Johnny” in Chris Nash’s IN A VIOLENT NATURE. Courtesy of Pierce Derks. An IFC Films & Shudder Release. 

So while I loved about 99.9% of In a Violent Nature, that last .01% could bother a few folks and felt completely unnecessary from a narrative standpoint to me. Evil as a concept is always best left somewhat mysterious, because it’s so unquantifiable and the minute you start to attempt to define that, quantify that, logic has to come into play, and some of these kills purposefully defy that – that’s not a bad thing here. In a Violent Nature is a masterful exercise in the slasher sub-genre that offers up something new in the body count genre, bringing the grind-house into the arthouse and elevating the sub-genre thanks to its meta deconstruction and understanding of these films. It’s a gorgeous throwback (pun intended) that will no doubt please both the A24 and the Blumhouse set. 

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