Slasher movies get a fresh style but there’s still no plot or acting

Film | Jorge Ignacio Castillo

In a Violent Nature
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2 out of 5

Horror movie hounds like myself are always looking for the next thing. Deconstruction? You bet. J-Horror? Gimme. Torture porn? Where do I sign up? Prestige scary movies? Hook them to my veins!

Imagine the expectations when, out of Sundance, comes In a Violent Nature, allegedly to answer the question “what if Terrence Malick made a slasher?”

The answer is, it would be as dull as you imagine.

Instead of a plot, In a Violent Nature has detour after detour, and spends an inordinate amount of time staring at the back of the killer’s head. At least Malick had sense of character development. Also, what’s with the awkward title? Why not just “A Violent Nature”?

The premise: from the same stabby mold as supernatural serial killers Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees and Victor Crowley comes, uh, Johnny — an immortal simpleton with mommy issues and a taste for blood. He operates in the woods (naturally) and has his eyes on a group of 20-somethings cutting loose at a cabin. Obligatory killing spree ensues.

So far, run of the mill, but here’s the kicker: the story is told from Johnny’s point of view. We get an idea of who the victims are based on inane dialogue, but they don’t matter. They only exist to get killed, and do they ever. The murders are average, except for one so over-the-top it may end up seared in your memory — yoga fans (and haters) might get a kick out of it.

In a Violent Nature is competently made. Director Chris Nash (ABC of Death 2: Z) demonstrates solid technique and paints over some shoddy acting. Do you get more insight from the killer? Not really, Johnny doesn’t do much when not hacking and dicing casually attractive youngsters. There’s comedy on the placement of his killing tools so the “right one” is available when needed, but bits about the homicidal maniac’s motives are few and far in between.

Instead of scenes of the killer lurking, watching and generally procrastinating between kills, we get a lot of static shots in front of which the action takes unfold… very… slowly. The approach gets old after half an hour, and one can’t help but wonder if the inability of the filmmaker to fill 90 minutes of content may have something to do with this choice.

Regardless, there’s at least a speck of merit (does merit come in specks?) in finding a fresh angle in a genre that has been coasting for decades. So, yay?