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The Independent Critic

Ry Barrett, Andrea Pavlovic, Cameron Love, Reece Presley, Liam Leone
Chris Nash
Rated NR (Equiv. to "R")
94 Mins.
IFC Films

 Movie Review: In a Violent Nature 
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I was out driving recently when I happened to drive by one of Indy's horror houses. Vacant now for years, this older residential home in one of Indy's lower economic areas was the site of a horrific crime that left seven members of a family dead in an ill-conceived search for money that never actually existed. 

I knew one of the victims and in the days after the killings I was struck by the matter-of-fact nature of it all. 

That's how evil works. Evil doesn't have an original score to tell you that it's evil. Evil, real evil, doesn't have well-timed jump scares and emotional rhythms. 

Evil is, quite simply, evil. 

This is the essence of writer/director Chris Nash's sublime indie horror In a Violent Nature, an IFC Films and Shudder release arriving in limited arthouse release this weekend and destined to build off of its successful Sundance Film Fest screening earlier this year. 

In a Violent Nature is both filled to the brim with horror genre tropes yet somehow also wholly original. The film sets off in the Canadian woods, a gold locket discovered underneath a fire tower by a couple of dudes staying at a nearby isolated cabin with their girls. As the guys are leaving the site and returning to their girls, we see the rustling of leaves and an outreached hand that tells us all is not going to be well. As the vacation teens sit around their campfire later sharing the tale of a "White Pines Slaughter," we're reminded that evil has a way of coming back to haunt us again and again and again. 

In most horror films, this set-up would be amplified by a menacing score and lensing designed to make us wonder when our killer is going to show up and who's going to be his next victim. Johnny, a practically zombified corpse clad in a vintage Vejan-Bader fire fighting mask, is our vengeful spirit seeking retribution for a 60-year-old crime against a "mentally disabled" young man whose essence we get glimpses of throughout the patient, reflective 94-minute running time of In A Violent Nature. 

Seemingly motivated solely by the desire to retrieve the stolen locket, Johnny sets his sights on the group of vacationing teens but ultimately slaughters anyone and anything that gets in his way. 

In A Violent Nature is devoid of an original score to guide our emotions. The killer himself is never a mystery. In fact, he's almost never out of sight. Instead, the wonder of In A Violent Nature, which I'm calling easily the best horror film of 2024 thus far, is that it manages to capture the primal, matter-of-fact nature of evil that strikes when it wants, who it wants, and without reason or purpose. Johnny, played to perfection by Ry Barrett (The Heretic), is perhaps scarier precisely because he's not really that scary at all until it's too late. 

Nash's inspirations are obvious here, from Malick to My Bloody Valentine along with an abundance of Friday the 13th. The lensing by Pierce Derks is masterfully creative, occasionally darkly humorous, and yet also remarkably straightforward. In a Violent Nature also has more than a little in common with Gus Van Sant's Gerry, though I also found myself thinking of Nicolas Roeg's 1971 film Walkabout. Derks's lens follows Johnny throughout as he trudges through the forest encountering victims both intentionally and happenstance. The kills here are both inventive and gory, a particular yoga encounter particularly dark and nervously hilarious and a certain woodchipper confirming for all of us just how a woodchipper can be used. 

It certainly doesn't end there. 

Shot in a 4:3 ratio, In a Violent Nature feels both retro and vibrantly contemporary. As In a Violent Nature winds its way through its journey, I was struck by an almost jarring empathy that I felt for Johnny, a few key moments in the film designed not so much to humanize him but to perhaps remind us that all evil arises out of humanity and nature. Despite the increasing brutality of his violence, I felt something for Johnny over and over and over again. Ironically, or more likely intentionally, we're never really afforded much opportunity to get to know our victims nor to really care about them. 

I loved every moment of In a Violent Nature, from its hyperviolent killings to its meditative meanderings and more. Chris Nash has created an indie work of wonder, a horror film both familiar yet also unforgettable for finding freshness within that familiarity. The violence, just maybe, became more jarring precisely because there was no original score guiding my emotions and no faux emotional resonance to immerse me in anything other than the matter-of-fact nature of the evil unfolding and the devastation it left behind. 

Easily one of my favorite films so far in 2024, In a Violent Nature is that rare arthouse slasher that is as beautiful as it is brutal. 

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic