Truly one of the strangest and most uneven horror-thrillers to come down the pipe in quite some time, The Violent Kind – the latest cheapo effort from the Butcher Brothers – is for the most part a bland, pedestrian venture, but at least it distinguishes itself somewhat – albeit rather incomphrehensibly – in its barmy third act. Whether you’ll perservere with it long enough to see that through, however, is another case altogether…
The film’s opening scenes are perhaps best described as resembling a modestly-budgeted porno, employing performers whose acting chops aren’t much better, albeit lacking any actual nudity. As a group of burly bikers and their girlfriends descend upon a remote Californian farmhouse to party the night away, each scene seems to set up any excuse to leer exploitatively at scantily-clad femmes rather than make even the least morsel of sense or even, really, just fess up to the veiled titillation that it is. The drama is utterly woeful, owing somewhat to the amateur performances, but mostly the rickety script, dredging up any and all manner of family strife and faux brotherhood stock dialogues you can think of. As such, it’s no surprise the line readings have all the gravity of a lunar landing, and not a tenth of the excitement.
Thesmall gang themselves are a rabble of garden variety biker stereotypes – aside from one, the “moral” individual, Cody (Cory Knauf), whose fate you can guess alongside the others – and far too much time is devoted to shallow excuses for character development when, frankly, the film’s target audience would probably rather you just quit the foreplay and get to the blood letting. For an 89-minute film with a pleasure-seeking audience, the lead-in is just too long; it finally gets to the good stuff at about the end of act one, as one of the girlfriends, Michelle (Tiffany Shepis), turns cannibal, with something wayward inside her plotting to do away with the semi-attractive cast.
Not depressingly low-fi though shot murkily nonetheless, there’s just nothing here you haven’t seen executed with more style and panache elsewhere. A cliché-laden script gives way to performances that can’t make it pass muster, and there’s no suspense or feeling of viseral engagement whatsoever, despite a fair amount of blood making its way into just about every scene. Even the internal fracas – of a biker job gone horribly wrong coming to the surface – can’t get the blood pumping, thanks to indifferent direction, shot with the undiscerning flair of most any straight-to-video feature. Similarly the forced pathos falls flat because the film’s cardboard characters are tough to warm to and the situation is punishingly dull, likely even to the less demanding tastes of the gore crowd.
Though a tad more thought is put into the curious third act, it still suffers from poor visual effects and make up as well as more than a few risible theatrical tricks, emphasising its low budget origins though failing to capitalise on any potentially kitschy appeal. At least it distinguishes itself slightly when the antagonists finally show up – a group of “rockabillies”, people who presumably stepped into the present day via a time machine from the 1960s, with the intent of raining down Hell on Earth by impregnating Michelle with their Queen. It’s a quirky, peculiar choice, though utterly incongruent with the preceding tone, and while the baddie actors – especially Giovanni Ribisi doppleganger Joe Egender – actually look like they’re having fun and ham it up appropriately, the charm wears thin in what is essentially an extended sequence of peculiar torture. Much like the rest of the film, the strangeness outstays its welcome, even if it arrives at a surprisingly interesting if clumsily conveyed ending.
It boasts more than its share of “WTF!?” moments in the third reel, but it’s not enough to salvage an otherwise tedious film that’s thin on charm and thrills.
The Violent Kind is released in the U.K. tomorrow.
This article was first posted on July 21, 2011