About twenty minutes into writer/director Chris Nash's In A Violent Nature we meet the group of early twenty-somethings we would have typically followed from the couple amongst them's duplex to the remote cabin in the woods where the six of them now sit around a campfire airing out grievances and ghost stories. Typically, key word here, we would have more context for said grievances and a deeper understanding about who each of these people are and how they play into each other's lives allowing for any kinship or tension between them to also play into the dynamics of their impending doom given the order with which they are dispersed. Again, typically we would have a focal point, our final girl if you will, who is highlighted early and earnestly before both the film and her world descend into a madness she would have never imagined on the sunny, optimistic-filled drive she embarked on upon our introduction to her. Instead, it is not until that twenty-minute mark that we meet anyone with a remotely optimistic viewpoint as Nash opens with dread rather than allowing his movie to descend into it.

The hook (pun intended) of In A Violent Nature is that it is told almost completely from the perspective of the killer. As is the case, much of what we're treated to are tracking shots of our antagonist lurking through very green, very lush, wooded areas until he comes upon his victims and then - without much forethought or hesitation - moves forward with some of the most gruesome gore you've seen at the movies. In many ways, this leads to the film being more an exercise in style and form than it does in story or theme. These are essentially iterations of scenes we've seen hundreds of times before in this genre with Nash simply looking for new ways of framing them. It's hard to imagine there was much of a script for the film, but likely more a collection of death descriptions along with the routing of our killer's journey. In A Violent Nature is a largely wordless affair, the only dialogue coming from the aforementioned group of twenty-somethings whose pre-determined fate more or less negates any interest in what they're talking about. This could both serve as a warning sign for those who feel it necessary to have characters to invest in and root for, but considering the tone Nash establishes early in the film it is understood this is not the point of his slasher. Instead, any ideas or commentary audiences pull from In A Violent Nature would seem to be wholly their own - the film itself serves only as a prompt.

Charlotte Creaghan, Andrea Pavlovic, Liam Leone, Lea Rose Sebastianis, Cameron Love, Alexander Oliver, and Sam Roulston star in In A Violent Nature.
Courtesy of Pierce Derks. An IFC Films & Shudder Release.

The obvious comparison for the film is Jason Voorhees and the Friday the 13th franchise in addition to any number of early 80's slasher flicks Jason gave rise to. Such inspiration is derived from both the template it follows as well as the aesthetic from which it is so lovingly borrowing. There are of course hints of other horror icons here as well - namely Michael Myers given how those films would frequently cut to Michael's perspective when he would lurk and kill - along with plenty of other homages to the horror subgenre throughout, but the most striking choice is that of chasing the intentional camp (again, pun intended). Based solely on the title and teaser trailer for this film it would seem what Nash was aiming for was something truly sinister, taking that camp born from the stilted acting, melodramatic delivery, and ostentatious logic often associated not only with the kills, but with stock slasher characters and transplanting those cues into a more grounded, realistic setting. No editing flourishes, no musical accompaniment, and most importantly - no give on the gore; this felt positioned as a peak into the genuinely deranged and not something that recognized the kind of ironic value those early slashers carried. Instead, In A Violent Nature very much leans into these qualities especially in regard to the stilted acting and (almost hilariously) long shots of our antagonist slowly walking after people who are running away and could have likely escaped if the movie didn't need them to die. There is certainly a way this could have been shot and cut differently that would make it a more depraved experience, but crafting a loving acknowledgement of the kinds of horror films that inspired Nash with a flipped perspective is understandable too - the campiness of the kills despite the brutality - allowing the audience to ease up on the depths of such immorality, making this more about how far the filmmaker and his practical effects team can push things rather than forcing us to think about the families of these victims in their most degrading, mortifying moments.

Of course, having a concept is one thing but executing on said premise in a fashion that doesn't feel tired and/or lose its appeal after revealing its hand is another task altogether. In A Violent Nature will likely either be someone's cup of tea or not and viewers will be able to identify which camp they fall into after the first five minutes. Nash is intentionally hanging on still frames for extended periods of time to the point one begins to question if they're missing something or if they're simply looking at the wrong part of the image. This is undoubtedly a play on some kind of overarching meaning the filmmaker means to pull from the project while also lulling the audience in, but it could definitely prove tiresome for some viewers. If the idea of following around this Jason-like figure, known here as Johnny (Ry Barrett), for ninety minutes in order to get a keen sense of the why and how as we stay in step with this monster sounds appealing it probably will be, but if that sounds either slow or boring or both then odds are you'll mentally check out prior to Johnny making his first real show of grisly pop art. There are long stretches of silence, no musical score is utilized with only momentary flourishes of organic soundtrack though there is some clever use of sound design throughout but especially in one of the more climactic moments that utilizes the unrelenting sounds of sharp objects hitting blunt surfaces - allowing the film to make a lasting impression in more ways than one. Nash utilizes the natural sounds of the forests, conversations between his non-Johnny characters, and the 4:3 aspect ratio to set an almost ethereal tone, but ethereal in the most demented way as it is the form within these choices that draws viewers into the nostalgia of the piece only for Nash to then reveal the function of it by delivering some of the most gruesome (and creative) on-screen violence that has ever graced the slasher genre. 

Johnny (Ry Barrett) is a Jason-like figure hunting down victims who venture into his territory or mess with his family heirlooms.
Courtesy of Pierce Derks. An IFC Films & Shudder Release.

It would be a disservice to give away any details of the techniques Johnny uses to incapacitate his victims, but maybe more interesting is the way in which Nash chooses to capture these killings. As has been mentioned, the tone is campy to the point it's almost overcompensating to make sure we the audience know that the movie itself is in on the joke yet the filmmaking is still very much a series of steady and concentrated sequences that show not only an understanding of the genre but a flair for how to pull what is really impactful about these moments to the surface. Whether it be through a unique vantage point that keeps all the action in-camera in what appears to be a single take or conveys certain terror through minimal movement while still crafting haunting imagery, Nash understands the essence of the genre is not wholly to freak people out for a few fleeting seconds in the moment, but to remain terrifying hours or even days after when you wake up in the middle of the night to what looks like more than a shadow in the corner or when you find yourself staring into what is seemingly an empty space but you could swear you saw something move. It's more than unforgiving, more than scary - it's haunting in such an eerie, creepy way that the chills are inescapable. Even if Nash's film doesn't quite reach these heights within every attempt there is still enough here to gauge his potential trajectory. It was a gamble to invert the slasher movie given we typically find the victims as the characters worth rooting for and the shock/surprise of when the killer pops up to hold much of the stories tension and there was certainly the possibility that by taking these perspectives away that In A Violent Nature would feel flat and emotionless. It's true we don't care much about the victims, that Johnny's backstory is just sound enough to have us buy into his violent fits, and while the final fifteen minutes or so almost completely undoes what the film has worked so hard to earn with its not-so-subtle, but precise solemnity In A Violent Nature remains an effective horror film if not solely for the execution of its executions, but for allowing audiences to unearth a few ideas along with its antagonist of a protagonist.

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