Now Streaming: RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE, Tomorrow on Shudder
Todd is the creator of the most successful R-rated comic book of all time, mirroring, celebrating even, a real life serial killer who once terrorized a stretch of interstate in America in the late 80s. Todd is about to wrap up the series but has hit a creative brick wall, desiring to give his readers more than just violence. Perhaps a road trip down through that section of highway on their way to a comic book convention will get the creative juices flowing? His girlfriend Kathy also sees this as an opportunity to speak with people in the area for her book about the murder spree, give a voice to the victims. With his publisher Ezra and assistant Aurora in tow the quartet heads into the heartland of America. When the killings begin again and they’ll discover there is a connection to this new spree of killings.
Baruchel and co-writer Jesse Chabot started to adapt the graphic novel from Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti back in 2011. There have been longer gestation periods for other projects but that is still a long time to get a project up off the ground and into your eyeballs. Was it worth the effort?
Reviewing Random Acts of Violence has been a lengthier process than usual. We had planned on having this review up in time for its Canadian release at the end of July, where it rolled out in cinemas and in true horror fashion more idyllically at drive-ins across the country. Because the first act of violence in the movie is so savage and visceral it really deflated us. It alone is so brutal, so ferocious, it stuck with us for days after. Some may even find it off-putting and disqualify the movie from that point on, finding it very difficult to stay on board. This set a clear tone for this horror flick; this is not your 80s style slasher movie.
Yet, as the killer inches closer and closer to our quartet we find that the violence moves further and further away from the viewer. Nothing else after that first act of violence matches it in ferocity but they can be equally disturbing in their frankness and execution. Color also plays a role in this diffusion when it is used to highlight the characters and the background like comic book panels. Together with Canadian cinematographer Karim Hussain and animator Andrew Gordon Macpherson, Baruchel does a good job of keeping a visual connection to the source material.
Themes in the movie range from fixation on the killer, like the fan who calls it his religion and makes a replica of the Slasherman’s trailer truck. Whenever something tragic happens we question how someone has the capacity to do harm to others. Todd’s assistant Aurora draws to get violent images out of her head, and Todd admits that he does the same. But then the question gets raised, what kind of mind thinks up these things? By the end we’ve come full circle and Todd understands his role in all of this, the consequences of his actions. What has his celebration of this serial killer's legacy done?
Random Acts of Violence is potentially off-putting on it’s first viewing, because of that ferocious first murder.We could have easily written it off and declined to speak of it ever again. Maybe it was the staying power of that first scene, that it on its own kept us thinking about the movie for days after, which made us come back to it one more time before deciding that we should be committing words to type. Coming back to it one more time allowed the shock to pass us by so we could look into the themes of RAoV and try to decipher what Baruchel and Chabot did with this adaptation.
Not content to deliver just a series of shocking kills for the purpose of entertainment Baruchel and Chabot delve deeper into serial killer culture. They explore it as an act of worship and devotion, to even the worst of us, so much that deities of worship must respond to our praise. Unlike a forgotten god in, say, Om in Pratchett’s novel Small Gods, this is a smiteful god, who once awakened, strikes out with horrific wrath and fury.
Random Acts of Violence
- Jay Baruchel
- Jay Baruchel (screenplay)
- Jesse Chabot (screenplay)
- Justin Gray (comic)
- Jimmy Palmiotti (comic)
- Jesse Williams
- Jordana Brewster
- Jay Baruchel
- Simon Northwood