You can have your zombie pictures — real zombies or Rob Zombie splatterfests. Spare me your “Saw” sequels and “Halloween” abattoirs.
Entirely too neat and “pat” for my tastes.
For film violence to mean anything, it’s got to be personal, the stakes life-or-death from the start, the injuries and deaths grim and gurgling and difficult, because rarely does real life allow the simple “kill shot,” knock-out punch or single fatal slash of a knife.
“For the Sake of Vicious” is in the “Hostel” “High Tension” league — a simple, compact thriller about the struggles of three people to survive Halloween night, trapped in the same house, shedding blood and spilling it to draw a few more breaths.
It’s nobody’s idea of a great thriller. There are clunky moments and leaps in the plot that made me wonder if details had been left out. But it’s intimate, savage and grueling to sit through. Imagine what the poor actors endured.
A single mom nurse (Lora Burke of “Poor Agnes”) comes home from her shift to find a bloodied man on her floor and an armed intruder who cuts off all her avenues of escape. Exhausted or not, this broad’s seen it all and not going quietly, whatever this creep has in mind.
The creep? Of course he assures her “I’m not going to hurt you.” He (Nick Smyth of “Covenant”) even offers his name — “Chris.”
But with a couple of words we and she figure out who he is. His daughter was raped. She was the nurse on duty that night. And this bloodied fellow unconscious on the floor? He (Colin Parradine of “Defective”) happens to be the suspect who “got off,” the guy Chris has evidence was the rapist. He also happens to be Romina’s landlord.
Over the course of this evening, the guys will debate and re-hash the case, Romina will behave with suspicious unconcerned calm.
And then things turn bloody and bloodier and more and more complex. The bodies pile up on a kitchen floor already slippery with blood and littered with damage from earlier fights, and weapons.
There are several moments when the characters’ reactions to this or that — standing staring at a door lock that’s being picked from the other side, with the person doing the picking an eminent threat, for instance — are just…off. We can read ulterior motives into it or wonder what information we haven’t been given, which is sometimes the case. But such moments play as sloppy and dramatically inert.
“Vicious” is at its best at its most vicious. Everything and anything might be a weapon. Injuries are grievous, but don’t stop characters from gasping and grasping and struggling and pummeling as if their very lives depended on it. Because they plainly do.
The stabbings, slashings, bludgeonings and beatings go on and on, and what co-directors Gabriel Carrer and Reese Eveneshen are determined to show us makes you forget they’re Canadian, or forget the Canadian rep for “Ryan Reynolds nice.” No, this is “Deadpool” deathly.
“For the Sake of Vicious” doesn’t blink and rarely lets up, so much so that I found myself mouthing “Wow wow wow” at the carnage and in-your-face staging and photographing of the brawls and butchery.
The fights leave the characters straining for breath, the actors playing them panting and the viewer breathless, at times. That’s how violence is supposed to be in the movies — messy, personal, relentless and unsportsmanlike. If nothing else, these Canadians do a very good job of reminding us of that.
Rating: Unrated, savage, gory and extremely personal violence
Cast: Lora Burke, Nick Smyth, Colin Paradine and James Fler.
Credits: Scripted and directed by Gabriel Carrer and Reese Eveneshen. A Shudder release.
Running time: 1:21