In a Violent Nature
Photograph: Altitude
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In a Violent Nature

4 out of 5 stars

Pack your rucksack for a spectacularly gruesome, devilishly inventive backwoods slasher

Phil de Semlyen

Time Out says

Heeeere’s (another) Johnny! Unlike his namesake in The Shining, the killer in this surprising spin on the backwoods slasher isn’t messing about with a slow mental freefall. He starts enraged and gets ragey-er, emerging, undead, from the soil of a whisper-quiet forest and having it echo with the screams of his victims as he pursues a stolen keepsake.

Homaging classic horrors like Evil Dead, Friday the 13th and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, while smartly subverting their rhythms and ingeniously switching viewpoint from victims to killer, writer-director Chris Nash has delivered a debut to pin you to your seat. 

The Canadian filmmaker invites you to ride shotgun with a decaying, hulking and faceless monster known only as ‘Johnny’ (Ry Barrett). Camera fixed over his shoulder, third-person-shooter style, he lumbers through the woods dispatching a gang of horny, bickering twentysomethings in increasingly gruesome style. With flies buzzing around his decaying flesh, and the disquieting sound design cranking up every trudge, axe-blow and snapped bone, this remorseless ramble builds to a crescendo of violence will have gorehounds whooping and everyone else reaching for the barfbag. The implied stench is so palpable, you’re glad William Castle isn’t still around to Smell-O-Vision this one. 

Someone whose hallmarks are all over this singular shocker is foley artist Michelle Hwu, a games developer-turned-sound wizard who must have got through piles of melons in creating the hollow thwack of smooshed skulls. The violence ramps up to a third-act frenzy that makes full use of the timbermill setting. 

Someone doing clifftop yoga does get downward-dogged to death

In a Violent Nature is never spoofy – okay someone doing clifftop yoga does get downward-dogged to death – but there’s a seam of self-awareness beneath its bloody topsoil. It’s the kind of horror-literate film where the hammy dialogue, cheesy mythology (its ‘White Pines Slaughter’ is very Blair Witch) and thinly-drawn dead meats will go down best with the midnight crowds. A scream queen of sorts emerges from the slaughter – Andrea Pavlovic’s panic-stricken Kris – but more emotional connection with the characters wouldn’t have gone amiss.

The kills, though, are vividly gnarly, and the naturalistic approach lends a hypnotic unearthliness to this unusual, eerie horror flick. It’s rare for something this necrotic to feel this fresh.  

In UK cinemas Jul 12. In US theaters now.

Cast and crew

  • Director:Chris Nash
  • Screenwriter:Chris Nash
  • Cast:
    • Ry Barrett
    • Andrea Pavlovic
    • Reece Presley
    • Cameron Love
    • Charlotte Creaghan
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