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Review: ‘Vicious Fun’ is a Viciously Fun 80s Synth Horror-Comedy

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Vicious Fun

Vicious Fun is the latest venture from the fine folks at Black Fawn Films, and it’s a banger of a horror comedy. It celebrates the horror genre — and everyone who loves it — with tongue-in-cheek humor and lots of gooey gore. It grabs you right from the first scene (by the throat, violently) and blasts off on a viciously fun ride that’s a true treat for genre hounds. A humor-laced rampage of knives and knuckles, Vicious Fun is an absolute blast.

vicious fun

Set in Minnesota, 1983, Vicious Fun follows Joel (Evan Marsh, Shazam!), a caustic horror movie critic who’s not-so-secretly pining for his roommate. After a night of heavy — heavy — drinking, Joel finds himself in the midst of a self-help group for serial killers. He must blend in, or be found out and face the sure-to-be violent consequences. Of course, Joel’s improvisation skills aren’t quite as honed as he’d like, and shit goes south real fast. 

This marks the feature film debut for writer James Villeneuve, and honestly he comes out swinging. The script is cheeky, self-aware, and consistently funny (greatly served by Marsh’s performance), and I will definitely be keeping an eye on his future projects. Paired with Cody Callahan’s vibrant direction and Jeff Maher’s stellar cinematography (the framing is excellent and I live for all the neon), Vicious Fun is undeniably a well-made film. We last saw Callahan and Maher’s work on the dramatic thriller, The Oak Room, and their drastic tone shift proves that these guys have some serious versatility. 

The music by Steph Copeland is fierce fun as she uses 1980s synth rock as her own personal playground. Any lover of synth horror is going to adore this score. Once the blood starts flowing, it opens up a whole can of awesome. The effects — by Shaun Hunter — are fantastic. As gory as the film gets, it never really loses that “fun” keyword in the film’s title. I’m likely going to circle back to that word a lot in this review, because really, that’s what this movie is. Just pure, vicious fun. 

It’s no surprise that all the technical elements of the film are on point — the Black Fawn team sure knows how to pick ‘em, and they (very wisely) keep them around. The end result is a fully cohesive project that doesn’t feel like a sum of its parts, it’s a completed whole.

The cast are all excellent in their roles; even the cannon fodder bumbling cops have perfect line delivery. Truly, this cast is great. Marsh plays flabbergasted and overwhelmed in a completely endearing (and very expressive) way that makes you really root for him to hopefully make it through this long, dark night.

Amber Goldfarb (Far Cry 5, Helix) as Carrie is cool, calm, collected, and impressively deadly; it’s clear that Goldfarb had a lot of fun in the role (behind all that steely attitude and eye-rolling). But Ari Millen (The Oak Room) as Bob steals the show. Between his if-Patrick-Bateman-did-Flashdance dance number (really… and yes, it actually works) and his emphatic line delivery, Millen proves once again that he can really command a scene. 

I may be biased here, because as a horror journalist (though I personally use that term loosely), Vicious Fun spoke to me on a molecular level. The dialogue — one monologue in particular, from Tony the cop — discusses the genre in very frank terms that add a bit of a meta flair to what is already a very already on-the-nose film. One of the killer characters wears a mask, wields a machete, and often has the misfortune of leaving one sole survivor. Another likes to dress as a clown. Bob dons a clear raincoat and has a collection of business cards. Anyone that’s familiar with the horror genre in any way will appreciate the homages. 

Another personal point of appreciation is the ending. Which I will not say anything about, because I’m not a monster, but I will say that Vicious Fun does not fall into formulaic traps of what “should” happen in the epilogue of an unrequited love story. For that, I am grateful. 

Tonally, it’s got a great energy and doesn’t let the pace drop for a second. There’s a lot to say about Vicious Fun, but really, if you’ve read this far, then you know you should just go see it yourself. You’ll have a lot of fun. And it will be vicious. Vicious fun. There you go. 

 

Vicious Fun is now playing as part of Sitges Film Festival.

Movie Reviews

[Fantastic Fest] ‘Piggy’ Filled With Incredible Heart and Wonderful Terror

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Piggy

Writer and director, Carlota Pereda fascinatingly creates a world in which we are given equal helpings of moments of big heart and a creeping terror. Piggy is one of those rare horror films that could have stood on its own without the horror and been an Oscar-worthy bit of effective drama. The turn from compelling drama to shifting genre is as refreshing as it is entertaining.

Piggy follows Sara (Laura Galán) a young girl who assists her family in their small-town butcher shop. Sara is often bullied due to her being an overweight teen. The small town and its cliques make for a soul-crushing daily life for Sara. She is constantly picked on, called names and even physically tormented by the popular bullies. When Sara ends up having to walk home following an assault by the bullies, Sara comes face to face with a serial killer who actually treats the young girl as an equal – not picking on her or poking fun. The duo begins their strange cat and mouse dance of constantly changing twisted mutual admiration.

The small quaint town featured in Piggy is very minimalistic – matching the incredibly stripped-down, heart-on-its-sleeve story. That atmosphere is one that makes for a brilliant spot to match Sara and her sensitive nature.

Galán is breathtaking in her role as Sara. It’s an incredibly demanding and revealing role that constantly has her being abused both physically and mentally. The constant emotional terrorism surrounding her combined with body shaming becomes a terrifying small-town presence that ends up being more terrifying and warped than the habits of the serial killer.

Much like Sara herself, the film forces you to side with the serial killer. Despite, his cold-blooded actions against the people of the town, he still has a big enough heart to see Sara as an equal and someone who he even fancies at times. In any other situation its heartbreaking to realize that he and Sara could have easily been in a relationship if it hadn’t been for that whole serial killing thing.

Piggy

Piggy handles bullying and body shaming by shifting the tables and working the story with as much humor and fun as it works with serious themes. Incredibly, the serial killer isn’t as disturbing as the torment that Sara receives. The juxtaposition between those two things is an incredibly compelling exploration for film.

The film allows you to side with the killer and entirely has you cheering for Sara. Galán gives a breathtaking performance that will have audiences siding with her and willing to follow her down whichever path she chooses to take. Piggy is an incredible work that has as much heart and nerves as it does horror.

Piggy arrives in Alamo Drafthouses on October 7 and in theaters and On Demand beginning October 14. The film also won best horror film at Fantastic Fest.

4 eyes out of 5

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‘Bones and All’ Trailer Introduces Savage World of Cannibals and Lovers

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Bones

Call Me By Your Name and Suspiria director, Luca Guadagnino is back with a true masterpiece that explores cannibals and lovers. Bones and All is a fascinating film that currently has my vote for Best Film of the Year. It really is that good. It stars Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell in an incredibly brutal road trip film.

The official synopsis fo Bones and All goes like this:

BONES AND ALL is a story of first love between Maren, a young woman learning how to survive on the margins of society, and Lee, an intense and disenfranchised drifter; a liberating road odyssey of two young people coming into their own, searching for identity and chasing beauty in a perilous world that cannot abide who they are.

The film stars Taylor Russell, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, André Holland, Chloë Sevigny, David Gordon Green, Jessica Harper, Jake Horowitz, and Mark Rylance.

Get ready to dine with cannibals and lovely monsters when Bones and All arrives in theaters beginning November 23.

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[Fantastic Fest] ‘Hellraiser’ Fascinates by Carving New Damnation and Games

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Hellraiser

In a world of reinvention and retooling, there are often a lot of letdowns when it comes to our favorite films and TV shows. More often than not we are disappointed by the retelling. It is great to announce that David Bruckner’s recent Hellraiser reimagining is incredible and makes use of Author, Clive Barker’s original parts to incredibly give us the familiar while also carving its entirely own fascinatingly dark path.

Hellraiser tells the story of Riley (Odessa A’Zion,) an addict trying to live her life and resist all temptation. When Riley and her boyfriend burglarize a shipping container, they come upon the puzzle box. The box immediately begins to draw attention to it begging them to push and pull its corners. Little do they know that the box’s offerings will change their lives forever.

Hellraiser

The backdrop of Hellraiser is a dreary one. It is entirely filled with a sheen of darkness and grime throughout. The entire city and places the characters visit all become participating characters in the film itself. An amazing work of production design around every corner.

Director, Bruckner is commanding with the darkness. He is careful to control Barker’s bleakness and is great at it. Between himself and screenwriters Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski the trio actively and effectively manage to solve their own puzzle box of the macabre and the constantly invigorating.

The Cenobites are back with a fully new roaster of incredibly creative beings. Each of them has a patchwork of skin in which flesh itself is what they wear. There aren’t any more bits of leather clothing that brought the legendary, Doug Bradley to life, instead, their wardrobe is made organically. Another fascinating detail of their look is brought about by these carefully placed pins with pearl tips. A touch of The Hellpriest’s personal touch.

The Hellpriest just as revelatory as the film. Jamie Clayton pays homage to and simultaneously reinvents The Priest from the ground up. A head full of pearl-tipped pins along with the fascinating touches from The Leviathan that add pieces of the box to her as well as the same creative organic wardrobe utilized by the other Cenobites. Horror fans have nothing but a brilliant experience ahead of them. Clayton makes the role her own and brilliantly creates her own spine-tingling voice for the character. A terrifying rasp, that is delivered with authority making her lines stand out with imposing importance.

Hellraiser

Ben Lovett creates a brilliant score that moves and shifts around as much as the puzzle box itself. Throughout it is entirely its own with tiny shifts to single notes of the famous Christopher Young score. The entire thing is devilishly done and creates an entire audio Cenobite all on its own. By the film’s finale, Lovett and Young become one in a chill-inducing crescendo.

Hellraiser is a fascinatingly dark work that combines Barker’s worlds and sensibilities into a brilliant haunting cocktail. There are hints of Damnation Game, Weaveworld and of course The Hellbound Heart. The hands shifting this puzzle box were tender and caring with Barker’s material. That reverence produces one of the best Hellraiser’s to date. Bruckner’s film gets back to diving beneath the flesh of terror. Jamie Clayton entirely lives in and reinvents The Hellpriest in every turn. Hellraiser brilliantly cuts, carves and pulls nerves. Dark, provocative, and filled with Clive Barker’s brilliance – Hellraiser is finally back.

4 eyes out of 5

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