With October right around the corner, I can already feel the cravings for horror movies and pumpkin beer starting to settle in. To be honest, I’ve struggled with writing anything new just because I’m so caught up trying to figure out what I should watch next. A couple higher-profile horror films were able to catch my attention recently: Joe Keery made me laugh and then wince in horror throughout his recent performance in Spree, and Netflix’s 1BR pulled me in quickly with an exciting trailer but the enjoyment fizzled out relatively quickly once I realized that it’s the same kind of story I’ve already seen one too many times.
Random Acts of Violence is another film that drew my attention for many reasons. First, it’s exciting to see Jay Baruchel (This is the End, She’s Out of My League) finally make the jump into the horror genre. Considering that people like Jordan Peele and John Krasinski have delivered wildly successful horror flicks over the past couple years, we’re living in what could be a golden age for comedians who dabble in horror and bring fresh perspectives to the genre. Second, who doesn’t love an over-the-top slasher? A friend recommended it to me recently, and I watched it without doing any research beforehand. I think that was pretty fortunate, because my perception would have been heavily skewed if I had done even a little bit of googling.
Earlier this week I started seeing this image circulating around horror Twitter, featuring a quote from Baruchel:
As a fan of horror in general, statements like the one above always tend to bum me out. There is absolutely truth in the notion that much of modern horror is stagnant and that there have been periods within horror’s history in which cruelty is fetishized. However, I believe that we are currently living in one of the best periods that horror has ever had. We are no longer in an age where we can scare the modern viewer with the fear of open water. We aren’t going to have another massive franchise that is entirely centered around the idea of capturing and torturing the average traveler. We live in an era in which the general public recognizes that horror is a medium that can speak to social issues and enlighten viewers.
Clearly, Jordan Peele has led the charge in bringing social issues like racial prejudice and inequality to the center of cinema discourse. His first two directorial efforts, 2017’s Get Out and 2019’s Us, will be remembered as two films that were able to provide brilliant social commentary without coming off as ham-fisted as, say, the Purge franchise. I am really hoping to see the Peele-produced Candyman remake pick up the torch and keep this trend moving forward when it premieres in October.
Needless to say, I was disappointed in Baruchel’s generalizing statement, but I was even more disappointed because I genuinely enjoyed the film. Random Acts of Violence was a breath of fresh air in regards to the slasher genre. The characters are all three-dimensional, the killer has a genuine motive, and the pleasing visuals are indicative of the film’s smooth execution.
There are few things in the world that I enjoy more than going out of my way to make myself angry. That’s why I still have a Facebook and that is why I spent time digging through Twitter replies to get some type of closure with this movie. It didn’t take me long to find that Jay Baruchel himself took to the platform to make sure that his horror debut wasn’t getting disregarded because of his statement.
I’m sure that there are thousands of things that Jay would rather be doing at 7:54 in the morning than defending a film that it took him years to make. I can also completely understand why he might speak differently to a room of potential investors than to a room of horror fanatics.
After enjoying the movie, becoming disappointed by the director’s statement, and then feeling some empathy towards Baruchel (who I truly believe is a fan of the genre), I felt compelled to type this article up quickly. Random Acts of Violence is not the next Friday the 13th, but it is an enjoyable film that deserves to see the light of day. I would hate to see Jay Baruchel get pushed out of a genre that he clearly loves just because of a throwaway quote that is being presented out of context. Should he made those generalized remarks about the horror genre in the first place? No. If I were in the exact same position, trying to sell one of my passion projects, would I say the same thing? Almost definitely.
Don’t let the drama keep you from seeing Random Acts of Violence, which is streaming now on Shudder!