Jesse Williams as Todd Walkley
Jordana Brewster as Kathy
Niamh Wilson as Aurora
Jay Baruchel as Ezra
Simon Northwood as The Man
Co-Written and Directed by Jay Baruchel; Co-Written by Jesse Chabot
Random Acts of Violence Review:
Jay Baruchel has contributed a lot of great things to the world of cinema in his 20-plus years in the industry and though he may be best known for the How to Train Your Dragon franchise and some more outrageous comedies like She’s Out of My League and Fanboys, he’s had a number of projects which offer deeper messages and social critiques. With his second effort behind the camera, Random Acts of Violence, Baruchel has shown he’s found a great grip on delving into some timely themes and balancing it with some stylish and gory thrills.
Comic book creator Todd Walkley, his wife Kathy, assistant Aurora and best friend, Hard Calibre Comics owner Ezra, embark upon a road trip from Toronto to NYC Comic-Con and bad things start to happen. People start getting killed. It soon becomes clear that a crazed fan is using Todd’s “SLASHERMAN” comic as inspiration for the killings and as the bodies pile up, and Todd’s friends and family become victims themselves, Todd will be forced to take artistic responsibility.
In bringing Justin Bray and Jimmy Palmiotti’s graphic novel to life, Baruchel and writing partner Chabot take a different path in adapting the story, changing the driving conflict from a killer inspired by a contest of his favorite comic’s creators to the group happening to come across the real-life killer that inspired their comic and it proves to be a far more interesting path. In switching things from comics-based killer to killer-based comic, the writing duo choose to shift the spotlight from some of the toxic corners of the comic book community to the general exploration of violence in the media and its relationship with the real world and it’s handled with mostly successful results.
Some of the flashbacks and expository dialogue littered throughout the film does feel a little too on the nose and even muddles Baruchel and Chabot’s messages at times, but the majority of them do help tap into the interesting debate of life imitating art and vice versa and the questions raised are very timely and important ones. Violence in art, especially anything in the horror genre, has long been accused of influencing real world actions, and while the duo keep a mostly objective viewpoint throughout the film, it’s still fairly clear to see there’s a belief in a cycle of generational violence and it’s touched upon in mostly compelling fashion.
While one may argue that the film further loses the point of its messages with its gruesome and gratuitous violence on display throughout, it not only proves to be an outright joy for genre fans, but also a nice usage of its genre to further support its ideals, much in the same vein as Wes Craven’s Scream. Though not as meta as the Kevin Williamson-created franchise, there’s clearly a much more knowing approach on display throughout the film in comparison to other similar genre fare that will keep audiences on their toes for some exciting chills and thrills.
Having made his directorial debut on the so-so Goon: Last of the Enforcers, Baruchel showed he had potential behind the camera and with Random Acts of Violence it’s so apparent the passion he held for the project as it is an absolute stylish work of giallo-inspired art. From a color palette utilizing only a handful of shades to the clever usage of Dutch angles and animated sequences, the effort he put into making this film both a thematically rich and visually fascinating graphic novel brought to life is breathtaking and pays off in practically every frame of the film.
Though its story may occasionally miss its ambitious marks and there’s a lack of any kind of humor across its four central characters, Jay Baruchel’s Random Acts of Violence is an absolute treat for horror fans and filmgoers alike thanks to its timely messages, visceral and superb special effects, solid performances and stylish direction from Baruchel that should catapult him to becoming a sought-after talent for behind the camera just as much as in front of it.