Sitges 2020 Review: VICIOUS FUN, The Name of The Movie Says it All
Never has marketing a film been so easy!
Q: So. What's your film about?
A: (points to title)
Joel is an obnoxious film critic and wisenheimer who writes for a national horror rag. One night Joel follows Bob, a threat to his imagined relationship possibilities with his roommate, Sarah, to get some dirt on Bob. Instead he stumbles upon a therapy group session for serial killers. Mistaken for one of the members Joel now has to rely on his whits and horror know-how to fit in with these monsters, or else he will be their next victim.
Evan Marsh is great as Joel. He really captures Joel's ignorance and naivite at first. He's just a loveable goof that is going to have to learn some things about himself, the hard way. The core of his story though is finding courage in other things and a purpose beyond being just a horror writer.
Like there’s something wrong with that!?! Say the guys who are hoping folks like me like their movie and give it a good review? I digress. More on that as we move along.
It’s nice to see Amber Goldfarb rather than just hear her. This isn’t a whoa, serial killer lady be crazy sexy, it is simply noting that a chunk of her career has been working as a voice actor in a lot of video games. A lot. Having done more than her share of bit roles in TV series and TV movies she also proves she is more than capable of handling a room full of boys.
It’s a joy to see Ari Millen working with the Black Fawn crew again after The Oak Room and clearly having so much fun with his role of Bob. He’s really chewing up every scene that he is in and Bob is the personality that drives the story. Likewise, we’re used to seeing Julian Richings do a lot of creepy things but he takes it to the next level, and really looks like he is enjoying his role of Fritz. “Grand Robert” Maillet gives so much appreciated size and menace for his Voorheez-like role.
Sean Baek is no stranger to supporting roles in genre fare (Killjoys, The Expanse, Utopia Falls) and we know he has some martial arts training. We say that because If beggars were choosers we would have liked to have seen more done with that. But that is what you get when you arouse our keen interest in that other genre, we automatically pay closer attention to how the director shoots that kind of action. So, shooting that style of action may be something different for Calahan, and that’s okay. Side note, it is okay for a Korean actor to play a “Korean” character.
Comedic mainstay David Koechner is the lure for those already not familiar with the Black Fawn brand. While the other actors will be familiar within the genre circles Koechner’s notoriety brings much appreciated exposure to one of the hardest working crews here in Canada, especially to fans of the comedic actor in the U.S. Having someone this recognizable in their cast is a bonanza for the production. He adds both street cred and draws more attention to this film than it usually would. As is expected Koechner is in top form and his brand is on point.
About the film, Vicious Fun isn’t a case where a horror nerd uses his vast amounts of cinematic know-how to beat the seasoned killers at their own game. This is not a meta-horror. Quite the opposite happens. His angle is quickly taken apart and holes big enough to dispose of the body are poked into his story and his real identity is exposed. Then things begin to escalate and the real bloody fun begins. Joel is way out of his element and all of his horror film knowledge means nothing.
Still, Calahan and screenwriter James Villeneuve understand there are limitations to how this first ‘chapter’ of this story in the restaurant plays out and there is only so much they can do there. They wisely move the action from there to keep the story fresh and fluid.
So. About the title.
It’s Vicious. There is no shortage of gore for us horror freaks. There are all sorts of stabbings and strangulations, by weapon or what is nearby. It’s gratuitous and gross but never breaches into the extreme. It’s entertaining, not nauseating.
There is a moment of spacial awareness that goes unchecked in one cringe worthy kill deep into the movie. I think because I’m neurotic that way I won’t let go of the thought, “Well that’s too much blood exiting from where now?” It’s just if this implement of death is this long and I can still see this much of it sticking out then there is now way it’s poking out the back and letting out that much blood. Again. That’s just me. Oh, wait. I see what you’ve done there Mr. Calahan. I’m being a Joel.
It’s Fun. Sure, a lot of the entertainment value in this movie comes from the kills. But, as Vicious Fun escalates and the scenario slips away from Joel it gets funnier and funnier. There is humor focused on Joel being the fish out of water, the case of mistaken identity and his organic response to the violence around him. There is also welcome talk about why he was at the restaurant in the first place, how wrong his motive was. Slow clap, Mr. Villenueve for not forgetting to address that.
This is a good review. I’m nitpicking a couple things but truly Vicious Fun lives up to its name. It has a terrific balance of horror and humor that will appeal to the masses, marking Vicious Fun as one of the best horror comedies of the year.