In A Violent Nature movie poster

In A Violent Nature

In theaters May 31, 2024

Rated

,

94 minutes

Directed by:

Starring: , , , ,

In A Violent Nature (2024) has ambitions of being the auteur’s slasher film. Writer-director Chris Nash cut his teeth on a gruesome story in the final segment of ABCs of Death 2 (2014), “Z is for Zygote”, so there was promise. Unfortunately, for a feature-length horror movie that hinges on thrills, slashes, and tension, it takes a very long time to get from A to Z.

A locket in an abandoned shack is removed by curious, if thieving, young people in the woods for drinking, sex, and campfire tales, releasing the undead physical entity Johnny (Ry Barrett), imprisoned for years beneath the dirt. Johnny looks like another familiar slasher, Jason Voorhees from the back. A few kills and a lot of walking later he reaches our seven campers, and one by one, picks them off. Don’t worry, there’s a Final Girl who meets another iconic (but not quite) Final Girl.

This can’t be a spoiler, it’s a horror movie.

In a rather heavy exposition dump delivered by people for whom acting appears to be a second, if foreign, language, we learn Johnny is either the restless spirit of a crispy child (in a 6’4” brute of a body), or maybe Johnny’s father taking revenge, or who knows, because it’s all supposed to be myth and fairy tale and spooky. Put “undefined horror” in air quotes, and you’ll catch my drift. What it is, however, is very familiar, and that’s not a good thing.

In A Violent Nature cribs from the classics in a way that is supposed to feel like an homage, but it’s very by the numbers. Johnny looks like Jason right down to the mother worship and magical charm to keep him in place. Later, he gets an ax and a mask. You know what, if there were an abandoned summer camp nearby, we could almost pretend this was a reset of the Friday the 13th franchise. Were it not for the mask that screams Harry Warden, the insane cannibal of My Bloody Valentine (1981), and Chekov’s Arsenal littering the woods in not-so-subtle foreshadowing, you could almost believe this was an original story.

But it won’t let you.

In A Violent Nature is 94 minutes long, which is approximately 65 minutes longer than it needs to be. There is a lot of walking, think It Follows (2014) if the POV was the virus instead of Maika Monroe’s character, except more aimless. Johnny walks a lot and we get to watch him walk, which isn’t nearly as thrilling as the trailers would lead you to believe. There’s no tension in determined walking, and he didn’t have audiobooks to listen to. The long periods of walking are broken up by the long periods of swapping stories that would only scare a sheltered four-year-old. Maybe it was intentional as a throwback to low-budget films of the 70s and 80s, but all of the dialogue felt forced. It stopped mattering if the characters had names because none of them had the kind of chemistry you would expect from “friends.”

Dear directors and screenwriters, stop gathering archetypical Red Shirts no one would believe had friends. Stop forcing them to make bad decisions to further a paper-thin story. If you want them to flirt, maybe have them watch a few romantic comedies to see how it’s done. We have couples who don’t like each other, friend-groups that single out the weakling and attack, and the chronically drunk/high fifth wheel who’s going to stumble into the pitch-black woods to find a bar to get laid.

No, he’s not.

What In A Violent Nature does have going for it are the practical special effects, and the on-screen kills are definitely worth noting. They’re wet and squishy and they make your mouth pull down in a frown that could touch your chin. That’s gold. There just aren’t enough of them breaking up the interminable walking.

In A Violent Nature feels like someone put all of the classic slashers into ChatGPT, that’s how generic it feels. Easter Eggs in horror movies are supposed to be subtle, not spotlighted. I’m not interested in an on-screen catalog of Gex X horror movies. I want to know what the director learned from those nights with contraband Blockbuster VHS movies. When one character watches another character get brutally stabbed in an extended display of rage for three minutes, everyone has forgotten why they were there.

This is a horror movie version of “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, but not when we’ve seen it all before.

In A Violent Nature (2024) is unrated because it’s going to Shudder, and Shudder ain’t a part of no nanny state! It would however be rated R for swears, bear traps, forced yoga, manual decapitation, run-ins with log splitters, lots of stabbing, and unhinged, often pointless, violence.

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Movie Reelist Contributor: MontiLee Stormer
MontiLee Stormer is a writer of horror, dark and urban fantasy. She’s also is a troublemaker, concocting acts of mayhem and despair for her own selfish pleasure. An avid movie watcher, she prefers horror but will see just about anything if you're buying. Poltergeist (1982) is her favorite movie and she actively hates The Shining (1980) due to its racism, misogyny, the butchering of the source material. She could host a TEDtalk on this single subject. Writing about herself in the third person is just a bonus.

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