A Fantastic Fest ’10 review
Directed by the Butcher Bros.
You can’t blame the Butcher Brothers – a.k.a. Mitchell Altieri and Phil Flores – for getting all ambitious on us after going Hollywood with April Fools Day. The warped minds behind The Hamiltons know, just as we know, that they are capable of so much more than that unnecessary, by-the-numbers remake. Unfortunately, with The Violent Kind, the Butcher Brothers feel such a need to reaffirm our faith in them that their gritty but way-out-there exercise in blurring genres never feels greater than its sum parts.
There are three – possibly four – films struggling for supremacy in The Violent Kind. With the exception of a brief opening scene, which indicates that something is rotten in the state of California, The Violent Kind kicks off in high gear as a rabble-rousing, motorcycle gang soap opera that would thrill the Sons of Anarchy crowd. This is when The Violent Kind is at its best and most compelling, which is regrettable to say considering its second-act crossover into out-and-out horror.
The Butcher Brothers devote a significant amount of time introducing us to the antiheroes inexplicably at the forefront of a mysterious plan to wipe out humanity. Members of a Northern California motorcycle gang currently under criminal investigation, Cory (The Hamiltons‘ Knauf), Q (Bret Roberts) and Elroy (Nick Tagas) think nothing of roughing up one of their drug clients in broad daylight. That’s how they roll. Well, maybe not so much Cory these days. Recently released from prison, Cory wants out of the gang his and Q’s fathers co-founded decades earlier. The gang, though, isn’t done with Cory. Infuriated that Cory’s sentence shone an unwanted spotlight on the gang, the leaders want to test Cory’s loyalty by ordering him to do border run, a humiliating task reserved for rookies and new pledges.
As proven by The Hamiltons, the Butcher Brothers know how to get into the screw-up heads of the social outcasts and misfits that populate their films. The first 30 minutes of The Violent Kind gives us a clear understanding of Cory’s desire to go straight and the complex nature of his relationship with the volatile Q, the jittery Elroy, and Q’s compassionate girlfriend Shade (Taylor Cole). Sure, they are all bad-boy biker archetypes, but that doesn’t take away from the sense that Butcher Brothers are both familiar with and comfortable navigating the devious world they inhabit.
When all hell breaks loose, though, everything that has come before is thrown to the curb. It’s understandable that Cory and Q must put aside their personal issues to fight an unknown and unseen threat. But there’s no long-term payoff to the investment that the Butcher Brothers make to fully develop these wild ones. They would have better off telling the story of these bickering best friends in a film that keeps its biker boots set firmly in reality.
The Violent Kind moves into horror territory at the end of a party at a house in the middle of the woods. Something assaults Cory’s ex-girlfriend Michele (the anything-goes Tiffany Shepis, leaving her rabid and ready to kill. How? Why? It takes almost until The Violent Kind comes to its jarring climax to understand the purpose behind the voluptuous vixen transformation into a razor-tooth, demon-eyed killing machine. But we know from the get-go it has something to do with the shadowy figures – led by Joe Egender’s Vernon – who lurk outside the house.
After spending 30 minutes fending off attacks by his ex-girlfriend, Cory comes face to face with Vernon and his equally malicious cohorts. It’s at this point The Violent Kind mutates again, this time presenting itself as a home invasion chiller that brings to mind Funny Games or the upcoming Mother’s Day. The Butcher Brothers revel in Vernon’s sadistic treatment of his captives, with Cory becoming his human punching bag. Too bad Egender dressed like John Travolta in Grease in keeping with of the film’s 1950ish undertones is so comically unrestrained as Vernon that he undermines all efforts to squeeze any tension out of this torturous situation.
It’s impossible to know went through the Butcher Brothers’ minds when they came up with their last-minute big reveal. Maybe they just wanted to blow our minds with something that wasn’t to be expected. But it doesn’t work. After all we have gone through, we just don’t buy the source of all this mayhem. There’s nothing in The Violent Kind that truly brings us to this moment. And, quite frankly, it’s more laughable than shocking.
Perhaps the Butcher Brothers came up with The Violent Kind just to test the limits of their imagination without giving a damn about the consequences. Bold? Yes, and you walk out of The Violent Kind appreciating what the Butcher Brothers have tried to do. But this artistic endeavor doesn’t make for the rewarding experience it could have been had they fully committed themselves to one particular genre or followed a single idea to fruition. They have talent. You can see flashes of the same promise in The Violent Kind that you saw in the dark and disturbing The Hamiltons. But they keep hurting themselves with their lack of focus and inability to satisfactorily finish what they start.