The disturbing and brutal “Random Acts of Violence” is one of the more challenging films I’ve seen in a long while. The story explores the consequences of what happens when life begins to imitate art, and is guaranteed not only to make many viewers uncomfortable, but will also encourage some serious discussions about the depiction of violence (particularly towards women) in the media and society as a whole.
Todd (Jesse Williams) is one of the most successful R-rated comic book creators working in the medium. His violence-heavy “Slasherman” series is based on the true story of the “I-90 killer,” his comics depicting bloody acts of murder — but never honoring the victims of the crimes.
Todd is suffering from a bad case of writer’s block, trying to dream up the perfect ending to his deadly title character. Seeking creative inspiration, Todd and his partner Kathy (Jordana Brewster), assistant artist Aurora (Niamh Wilson), and best friend Ezra (Jay Baruchel) embark on a long drive from Toronto to Comic Con in New York City. Their adventure quickly turns into the road trip from hell as very bad things start to happen. As bodies pile up, the friends learn that a crazed fan (Simon Northwood) is using the “Slasherman” comics as inspiration for the bloodshed.
The horror here is truly horrific, not fun, and definitely not enjoyable. Baruchel, who directed and co-wrote the film, tries to find a deeper meaning behind the violence, raising serious questions about artistic responsibility and the murky morality of elevating a killer into a pop culture icon. The film doesn’t advocate for censorship, and it doesn’t draw a clear cause-and-effect between violent art and real-world brutality. But it does lay out serious criticism towards the media and society for giving free publicity to sickos after a horrific crime (books, newspapers, films, magazine, blogs, and television programs often deliver on the 15 minutes of fame so many killers desire, and many consumers lap up true crime tales), and denounces the use of such stories as an acceptable diversion that could be seen as legitimizing violence as entertainment.
Baruchel’s direction isn’t perfect, but he makes some quirky choices that add to the story. There are impressive horror effects, and he has a surprising command of atmospheric lighting, often cranking the creepiness factor up to an 11 with a simple green filter. He uses limited animation to drive the point home in this very violent and unsettling film. It may not be destined for a lifetime of repeated viewings, but it certainly is unforgettable.
“Random Acts of Violence” is not an easy film to watch. It’s cerebral and demands a lot from its viewers. Those seeking “just another slasher film” would be wise to look elsewhere, but more intellectual-minded filmgoers will enjoy the confrontations presented and the philosophical questions it brings to the forefront.
By: Louisa Moore