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A Bloody Misstep: ‘In a Violent Nature’ Falters Despite Gore Galore

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The air at Sundance was thick with anticipation as horror aficionados gathered for the premiere of Chris Nash’s “In a Violent Nature.” With its premise of a vengeful spirit resurrected by the theft of a locket, the film promised a thrilling blend of supernatural horror and slasher mayhem. Now, everyone can experience the film when it hits theaters this Friday, likely leaving audiences with a mixed bag of gruesome delight and narrative frustration.

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“In a Violent Nature” starts with an atmospheric setup, unfolding the tale of Johnny, an undead figure awakened from a collapsed fire tower in the woods. His resurrection is triggered by a group of teenagers who unwittingly disturb his resting place by taking a locket. This act sets off a chain of bloody events as Johnny embarks on a relentless hunt to reclaim what was his. Director Chris Nash pays homage to the classic slasher films of the ’80s, echoing the relentless pursuit of killers like Jason Voorhees while injecting his brand of visceral horror.

The film’s strength lies in its creative kills and practical effects. Nash orchestrates scenes of carnage with an artist’s eye for detail. One particularly memorable sequence involves Johnny using a log splitter in a manner that is both inventive and horrifying, a testament to Nash’s twisted creativity. The practical effects are top-notch, delivering shocking and realistic gore, a rare feat in modern horror films. These moments of brutal artistry are the film’s highlight, providing the visceral thrills that slasher fans crave.

However, the film’s narrative structure is where it starts to stumble. The backstory of Johnny, rooted in familiar horror tropes of a tragic past and a quest for vengeance, offers little originality. The characters, from the reckless teenagers to the obligatory local authorities, are underdeveloped and serve merely as fodder for Johnny’s rampage. This lack of character depth makes investing emotionally in their fates hard, reducing the film to a series of grisly set pieces rather than a cohesive story.

Nash’s directorial choices also are a bit off. His decision to focus predominantly on Johnny’s perspective is a double-edged sword. While it provides a fresh take on the slasher genre, allowing viewers to see the methodical hunt through the killer’s eyes, it also results in pacing issues. Long, drawn-out scenes of Johnny stalking his prey can become tedious, testing the audience’s patience. This deliberate pacing is reminiscent of art-house horror, drawing comparisons to the observational style of directors like Terence Malick. Yet, in the context of a slasher film, it sometimes feels at odds with the genre’s inherent need for tension and urgency.

The film’s climax, intended to be a dramatic showdown between Johnny and the “Final Girl,” falls disappointingly flat. The change in perspective during this crucial moment detracts from the buildup, leading to an unsatisfying resolution that feels rushed and unearned. The final act’s shift away from Johnny’s point of view breaks the immersive experience that Nash had painstakingly crafted, leaving the audience wanting more from what promised to be a thrilling conclusion.

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Ultimately, “In a Violent Nature” is a raw attempt that never breaks away from the ‘idea stage.’ Nash’s use of natural surroundings and ambient sound design creates an eerie atmosphere that heightens the sense of dread, and the film’s commitment to practical effects over CGI is commendable, offering a tactile realism that enhances the horror. But all that needs a more seasoned hand in executing the story, characters, and pretty much everything else regarding filmmaking. Only the most hardcore horror fans will probably appreciate the work here – but we hope this isn’t the last attempt creatives make to change up the slasher genre.

RATING: 2.0 out of 5 stars.

In A Violent Nature is in theaters on May 31st, 2024.

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