All right, fiends, let’s get disturbed! I tend to build my double features based around my interests and what I find entertaining, but honestly, that can be short-sighted. I have long championed the opinion that just because a movie or genre is not my thing does not mean it is not good or worth a person’s time. Everyone has a right to their own opinions and tastes, and with that in mind, today’s double feature is one I have watched but don’t think I would put myself through again. Today’s territory is serial killers, and the movies are Random Acts of Violence and Found.
Random Acts of Violence is an intense horror-thriller released last year on Shudder. This movie has a brutal sensibility and enough gore to satisfy even the most jaded Gorehound. Todd is a comic book artist and creator who, along with his publisher Ezra, has made a name for himself with the comic Slasherman. The series is controversial because it documents the exploits of a real serial killer. As Todd readies the final issue, he begins to meet some of the book’s detractors, and these experiences make him question the morality of Slasherman. His girlfriend Kathy also has issues with the book’s morality and becomes increasingly concerned that Todd is cashing in on the real-life victims’ misery. Add to this the fact that Todd himself is also tormented by bad dreams and half-remembered events from his childhood, and the stage is set for a show-down. While all of this troubles Todd, he discovers Slasherman has begun his murderous spree again. And worst of all, he is a fan of the comic and begins recreating events from its blood-soaked pages.
The film is an impressive first-time film in the slasher serial killer genre. Produced, directed Jay Baruchel, who co-wrote Slasherman with the film’s star, Jesse Williams. Jesse should be no stranger to horror fans after starring in Cabin in the Woods, and it’s good to see him again here. Baruchel previously made a name for himself, starring in Seth Rogen comedies like This Is the End, She’s Out of My League, and the animated family fare of How to Train Your Dragon. Here, he really stretches himself creatively, and it pays off. Many people with that kind of background might opt to create a horror-comedy, but Baruchel does not. Instead, the film is gritty and humorless in a way that will undoubtedly appeal to fans of Rob Zombie’s films. Slasherman also proposes that maybe the voyeuristic quality of fiction and how we consume stories about serial killers is part of a desperate cycle of encouragement for the killer. Does a psychopath derive motivation from the attention of others? It may be an argument worth exploring, considering serial killers like the Zodiac sought notoriety for their acts.
Found, the second feature of this week’s Cineray takes the serial killer slasher genre and mixes it with the classic coming of age story. However, unlike many of those, Found is a brutal film, with plenty of gore and no qualms about placing it front and center.
Marty is 12-years-old and has accidentally discovered his brother Steve is a serial killer. He finds this out when he borrows Steve’s bowling ball and finds a severed human head inside the bag.
Marty attempts to come to terms with his brother by reading horror comics and watching horror movies. Because, despite this disturbing revelation, Marty still loves his brother. A confrontation finally occurs when Steve murders one of the bullies that pick on Marty, and it’s then that Steve explains he only kills black people because he hates them. Marty tries to reconcile with his brother but becomes sickened. Whether he wants to accept it or not, Marty knows he and Steve are heading for a dark resolution.
Found is a very dark film that leaves the viewer uneasy. One sequence, in particular, involving a low-budget horror film Marty’s brother has is rough. The film is called Headless and depicts a masked serial killer committing depraved acts of murder, mutilation, and necrophilia. That last one is especially gruesome, and if you factor in the film-within-a-film’s title, you can probably guess what happens. After Found was released, Headless gained a reputation and ended up being made after a successful Kickstarter campaign. If that film is anything like the short in Found, it is for a very particular gore crowd.
Found is very well made and looks great with solid camera work and acting. The gore is fantastic, and if that’s in your wheelhouse, then this movie is for you.
On a final note, I want to explain why I have problems with this particular genre. As I stated for both of these films, I think these are very well-made and ride a very fine line between exploitation and documentation. Certainly, serial killers are real, and when you consider these films and others like Angst, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, The House that Jack Built, and Maniac, what the filmmakers are usually trying to accomplish is a look into the moral character of their characters. Then again, this an entertainment medium, and sensationalism sells. But moral concepts aside, these films are difficult for me because they are neither fun nor escapist. Not every movie has to be purely entertainment; however, when I watch a film like Found or Random Acts, I have to watch light-hearted fare afterward in an attempt to purge myself of the experience. Often, movies like this feel mean to everyone involved, including the viewer. And while I do believe we should sometimes put ourselves through uncomfortable cinematic experiences to better understand things we might ordinarily deny or dismiss, there is a limit, and everyone’s is different. If you want to follow my lead and see if Random Acts of Violence and/or Found is beyond yours, the first is a shudder exclusive, the second on AppleTV and Tubi.