Road trip slashers are fun. These horror films often open the door for creative kills, mystery, and a kind of tension that only comes from being stalked across different cities. Sadly, its been a long while since horror fans have gotten an s-tier road trip slasher. But that’s where the Shudder Original Random Acts of Violence comes in. Directed by Jay Baruchel and written by Baruchel and Jesse Chabot, the film brings both nostalgia in the way of tropes and also pushes the slasher subgenre by adding in a theme that revolves on the question of making a career on violence.
Adapted from the popular 2010 horror graphic novel by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti of the same name Random Acts of Violence features a star-studded cast including Baruchel, Jesse Williams, and Jordana Brewster and the chemistry between one of them is what helps propel the film’s tension. While the characters themselves as shockingly great, they’re not the focus of the film. While that may be weird to say, the film’s attempt to investigate what happens when someone legitimized cruelty for profit is fascinating.
The film follows comic book creator Todd Walkley, his wife Kathy, assistant Aurora and best friend, Hard Calibre Comics owner Ezra, as they embark upon a road trip from Toronto to NYC Comic Con as he tries to come up with an ending to his R-rated series, “SLASHERMAN.” Todd’s comic is based on a real-life serial killer who was never caught. A continuation of his murders, the comic series is one of the most successful R-rated comic runs despite the controversy of profiting from the victims and the killer’s crimes. Using this road trip as a promotional tour, Rodd begins to have his comic’s premise pushed, as well as the way he defines the killer of the series: a hero. Along the way with stops in rural towns with creepy motels, people around them begin getting killed. It soon becomes clear that a crazed fan is using Todd’s 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.
The effectiveness of this film is two-fold. It excels in showcasing creative and memorable kills and body horror images but it also drives home the moral discussion that has become even more relevant with the proliferation of true crime. How do you talk about those who commit monstrous crimes without legitimizing the monsters and their violence itself? While offering thrilling gore, Random Acts of Violence also holds a mirror up to art, society, and violence. But beyond that, does the responsibility fall on the artist or the readers who consume the art? While the film doesn’t offer an answer, it does spark a conversation. Specifically, for Todd, it’s easy to maintain a distance from the new murders, even it becomes that there is a copy-cat. But when the people close to him become targets the separation between his life, the killer, and his comics begins to blur.
As a fan of true crime podcasts, I’ve been able to be present a lot of conversations about when does discussion becomes idolizing, and when does monetizing a creative endeavor becomes monopolizing on personal tragedy. While this is a parallel conversation to the one had in the school, Kathy represents those who focus on the victims of violence, looking to tell their stories. While Todd is more focused on telling the story that uses violence as art. This dichotomy between the two leads lets the film have a natural conversation without feeling like forced moral platitudes.
In addition to offering some striking commentary, Random Acts of Violence also utilizes color and shadow to create a stifling atmosphere that winds up being vibrant at the same time. But while the film’s live-action scenes are stunning, the animation and comic panel overlays used sporadically to bookend important moments is striking. They feel like fever dreams as much as animations and adds a level of stylization that pulls the film together.
When all is said and done, the only fault I can find in Random Acts of Violence is wanting more from Kathy and Todd. While we get their discussions on the theme of the film, we don’t get too much about their personal relationship after the opening of the film. Instead of husband and wife, they feel like strangers. I would be apt to put this as intentional, but the fact that there is no hint at a larger riff, makes it feel like their relationship exists to simply push the theme instead of benefiting the characters.
Overall, Random Acts of Violence is a stellar film. It’s filled with gore and creative kills that will satisfy any slasher fan and adds a narrative that directly confronts the way people create and consume media. There is a lot in this film to excite viewers when it comes to Shudder later this week. And I mean, I’ve been waiting for a return to a good murderous road trip, and this film gives us that.
Random Acts of Violence will be available on Shudder August 20, 2020.
Random Acts of Violence
- Rating - 8.5/108.5/10
Random Acts of Violence is a stellar film. It’s filled with gore and creative kills that will satisfy any slasher fan and adds a narrative that directly confronts the way people create and consume media. There is a lot in this film to excite viewers when it comes to Shudder later this week. And I mean, I’ve been waiting for a return to a good murderous road trip, and this film gives us that.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.