In a Savage Realm Review: Traditional Gorefest Reimagined

Johnny wields an axe in In a Violent Nature.
Advantages
  • A mesmerizing visual style
  • Outstanding prosthetic and makeup craftsmanship throughout
  • Some inspired editorial cuts and instances of body horror
Disadvantages
  • A screenplay that excessively elucidates too frequently
  • An ending that only partially succeeds
  • Cringeworthy dialogue delivered by superficial characters

Writer-director Chris Nash’s In a Violent Nature is a dual tribute to the low-budget slasher films of the 1980s and a fresh endeavor to inject novelty into their familiar structure. It dedicates itself to both these pursuits with equal fervor — presenting scenes with such hilariously poor dialogue that they could seamlessly fit into any of the worst Friday the 13th movies, while adhering to a deliberate pace and visual approach that starkly contrasts the haphazard aesthetic of many low-budget horror series starters it draws inspiration from. The outcome is an experience that is simultaneously captivating and unsettling.

The film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, subverts the slasher genre by shifting its focus from the numerous victims to the killer accountable for their demise. This time, it’s the talkative, often vulgar adults and teenagers who occupy the background of the frame, while the silent, masked murderer takes precedence in the foreground as he observes them from close by. This simple visual choice enables In a Violent Nature to narrate a conventional slasher tale in a distinctly unique manner. However, while the film surpasses expectations, it frequently seems torn between its most sensational and artistic inclinations.

Johnny lurks behind Aurora in In a Violent Nature.

Nash, known for his contribution to 2014’s ABCs of Death 2, astutely wastes no time in establishing the narrative of In a Violent Nature. The movie commences with a fixed shot of a necklace hanging from a pipe’s upper end. Off-screen, a group of teenage boys engage in banter and local legends before one of them, against the advice of his wiser companions, takes the necklace at the focal point of the frame. Shortly after, the pipe it rested on starts to tremble, and within moments, the ground it was embedded in collapses, revealing the decaying corpse of Johnny (portrayed by the imposing Ry Barrett), an undead assailant, emerging from his makeshift grave.

Subsequently, Nash follows Johnny as he silently roams through the nearby woods, encountering bear traps and an unsuspecting poacher who meets a swift, bloody demise at his hands. Throughout his slow, lumbering journey, Johnny chances upon the same group of teenagers from the film’s succinct opening, with one of them enlightening his friends around a campfire about Johnny’s unsettling origins. Predictably, more blood is shed shortly after this exposition. Shedding blood is indeed a recurring theme in In a Violent Nature, occurring more than a few times.

For most of its 94-minute duration, the film trails a few steps behind Johnny as he stalks his unwitting human prey. However, when he catches up with his victims, Nash and cinematographer Pierce Derks deviate from the movie’s predominantly detached aesthetic to showcase Johnny’s killings in all their bone-crushing gruesomeness. In a heartfelt homage to classic Hollywood slasher films, In a Violent Nature transforms its numerous murder sequences into instances of both gut-wrenching horror and undeniable artistry. The film’s prosthetic makeup artistry is breathtaking, notably evident in a sequence where a young girl’s yoga session is brutally interrupted. This particular moment seems destined for viral circulation and extensive discussion among horror enthusiasts.

Johnny's hand reaches out to a terrified man in In a Violent Nature.

In a Violent Nature’s homage to films like Friday the 13th Part 2 is not only evident in its graphic on-screen deaths. The portrayal of Johnny, along with the film’s misguided inclination to overly expound on his motives and backstory, only accentuates the character’s resemblance to Jason Voorhees. While Nash’s bold attempt to blend his affection for both low-budget slasher flicks and arthouse dramas like Gus Van Sant’s Elephant (a notable influence) is commendable, the execution is not always as seamless as desired. Specifically, the film’s superficial characterizations of its shallow teenage and adult personas, coupled with their frequently dreadful dialogues, clash with its more thoughtfully crafted visual and stylistic decisions.

In certain segments, such as a nocturnal confrontation between Johnny and a Tommy Jarvis-like park ranger (briefly portrayed but memorably by Reece Presley), In a Violent Nature strikes a delicate balance between trashy slasher horror and art-house-inspired chilling terror. However, more often than not, the film struggles to fully commit to either direction, potentially hindering its ability to satisfy a broad spectrum of horror aficionados and make a lasting impact on the genre. Those seeking a violent, thoroughly gruesome slasher film may find satisfaction, but others might leave disappointed by In a Violent Nature’s failure to completely fulfill its promises.

The film doesn’t revolutionize the slasher genre but offers a fresh perspective to recount a familiar narrative seen countless times before. It’s an experiment that, despite its numerous merits, falls slightly short. Nonetheless, there are worse outcomes for a film like In a Violent Nature, which harbors enough intriguing cinematic concepts to hopefully pave the way for Nash’s next project. In a Violent Nature underscores Nash’s genuine talent and vision as a filmmaker. One can only anticipate that his next creative endeavor cuts straight to the core without faltering midway.

In a Violent Nature is currently showing in theaters.

Jenifer Yesmin

Dan is an enthusiastic and versatile content producer with a background in pop culture, entertainment, and sports. Over the course of his professional journey, Dan… More »

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