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Johnny swings an axe in In a Violent Nature 1

In a Violent Nature: An Old-Fashioned Gorefest, Updated

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Introduction Of Violent

Writer-director Chris Nash’s In a Violent Nature is a unique blend of homage and innovation within the slasher genre. It embraces the over-the-top gore and campy dialogue of the 1980s’ slasher films while incorporating a modern visual style and measured pace. Premiering in January at the Sundance Film Festival, Nash’s film is both hypnotic and jarring, delivering an experience that feels torn between its trashy roots and artful aspirations.


A Refreshing Focus

One of the film’s most notable features is its shift in narrative focus. Instead of following the typical victims, In a Violent Nature spotlights the silent, masked murderer, Johnny. By relegating the chatty, crass adults and teenagers to the background and prioritizing Johnny’s presence, the film provides a fresh perspective on the slasher formula. This visual choice allows a familiar story to unfold in a unique manner, offering a new take on the well-trodden genre.

An Unconventional Beginning

Nash wastes no time setting up the story. The film opens with a static shot of a necklace hanging from a pipe, accompanied by the off-screen banter of teenage boys. When one of them takes the necklace, the ground collapses, and Johnny (played by an imposing Ry Barrett) emerges from his grave. The narrative then follows Johnny as he wanders through the woods, encountering bear traps and an unsuspecting poacher, leading to a series of bloody encounters. The concise opening sets the tone for a film that revels in gore and craftsmanship.

A Balance of Horror and Craftsmanship

In a Violent Nature spends most of its 94-minute runtime following Johnny as he stalks his prey. When he catches up with them, Nash and cinematographer Pierce Derks showcase the murders in bone-crunching detail. The film’s prosthetic makeup work is particularly impressive, enhancing the visceral impact of the kill scenes. One standout sequence involves a young girl’s yoga session being brutally interrupted, a moment likely to be endlessly discussed and shared among horror fans.

Echoes of the Past

The film’s debt to slasher classics like Friday the 13th Part 2 is evident not just in its gore but in its depiction of Johnny. The misguided overexplaining of Johnny’s motivations and backstory draws clear parallels to Jason Voorhees. While Nash’s attempt to blend his love for cheap slasher films with influences from arthouse dramas like Gus Van Sant’s Elephant is ambitious, the execution is not always seamless. The paper-thin characterizations and often atrocious dialogue of the teenage and adult characters clash with the film’s more sophisticated visual and stylistic elements.

Moments of Balance

In certain scenes, In a Violent Nature finds a harmonious balance between trashy horror and cold terror. A nighttime showdown between Johnny and a park ranger (memorably played by Reece Presley) stands out as a moment where the film’s dual influences coalesce effectively. However, these instances are sporadic, and the film often struggles to fully commit to either its slasher roots or its artful aspirations.

A Divisive Experience

Ultimately, In a Violent Nature may not satisfy all horror fans. Those seeking a violent, nasty slasher film will likely appreciate what Nash offers, but others may find the film’s inability to fully deliver on its promises frustrating. The film’s unique approach and ambitious blend of styles make it an intriguing watch, even if it doesn’t leave a lasting mark on the genre.

In a Violent Nature is a testament to Nash’s passion for the slasher genre, offering a modern twist on old-fashioned gorefests. While it may not be perfect, it stands out as a bold, if uneven, addition to the horror landscape.