Random Acts of Violence Movie Review
What to say about Random Acts of Violence, the new slasher film from Jay Baruchel? Well, it’s a horror film.
Not a particularly memorable horror film, however. Delightful are the right kind of low-budget, streamlined (it’s only 80-minutes long), concept-driven horror flicks, and Random Acts of Violence has nearly enough violence, gore and silliness to work… but it never shakes that “been there, done that better” feeling.
The cast is slightly recognizable, with Jesse Williams (Gray’s Anatomy, Cabin in the Woods), Jordana Brewster (The Fast and the Furious), and Baruchel (Knocked Up) all on screen, but their presence all but demands that they give us a better movie, setting expectations maybe just a little higher than we would for a no-name indie horror movie where a bunch of truly dispensable actors get chopped up. Even though it’s Baruchel’s movie, the main cast all seems just a little too old and established for the material.
The material isn’t terrible, but to say that Random Acts of Violence is actually worth your time would be a stretch. The less discriminating of horror fans may not mind it, but considering this film is largely debuting on Shudder means it’s going to run into the buzzsaw of horror fans who know horror.
The movie starts off strong enough, with a fairly grounded and disturbing attack sequence on a deserted road. But even early enough, it’s hard to tell what vibe Baruchel was going for: this sequence, while a little bloody, isn’t particularly scary, and not once does the sophomore director attempt to establish any real sense of dread, terror, or suspense, which should be table stakes for any horror movie--especially a slasher film.
It does boast a couple mildly gory deaths, but you’re not going to walk away grossed out or bragging to your friends about how fucked up it is, either.
Ultimately, and sadly, it’s hard to care about any of the characters. Williams was great in Cabin in the Woods but is saddled with a pretty lame and unappealing role here, a real shame considering he’s the lead protagonist. Brewster largely has to deal with the same problems. The rest of the characters are immediately expendable, but since you don’t care about who lives or dies, none of what’s going on really sinks in.
The killer isn’t very remarkable either, and by the time he comes into focus in the third act, his motives or backstory simply don’t matter. Baruchel and co-writer Jesse Chabot try a little too hard to tie things back to the in-film comic book that is apparently inspiring the killer; the ending flames out, literally and figuratively.
There are worse movie experiences than Random Acts of Violence, but it’s hard to think of a reason to spend 80 minutes watching this shrug-fest given the immense amount of entertainment options at your fingertips. As horror goes, it’s the wrong kind of violence.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.