close
close

An intensely interesting and slightly inconsistent slasher – creepy catalogue

What’s In a violent nature About?

A maskless Johnny walks to a house in In a Violent Nature (2024).
The killer, Johnny, starts out without a mask, but because the camera follows him most of the time, we only get to see his face about as much as we see Jason’s or Michael’s faces in any given amount of time. Friday the 13th or Halloween movie.

Think of the most stereotypical slasher film. A slasher film featuring an undead and unstoppable killer who is only talked about in local legends and creepy stories, and who kills a group of people in the forest in creative ways. That’s the exact premise of In a violent nature. What makes this film unique is the way it presents that all-too-familiar formula.

In a violent nature takes a generic Backwoods slasher movie plot and shows the audience what most other slasher movies leave out. This means that instead of following the last girl’s perspective, In a violent nature largely follows the killer’s perspective. The killer – who the campfire stories tell us is named Johnny – is brought from his not-so-final resting place when a medallion is taken from a simple gravestone. The audience then watches as the hulking, silent beast of a reanimated dead man stomps through the forest, searching for the lost medallion and violently slaughtering everyone it encounters.

In a Violent Nature (2024).
Johnny rises from his grave in this rotting structure deep in the woods.

In a violent nature is from writer and director Chris Nash. This is Nash’s first feature film as a director, although he previously directed the ‘Z is for Zygote’ segment in ABC of death 2 (2014), and he has an extensive resume in special effects, including being the creature effects supervisor on set Psycho Goreman (2020). The killer in the film, Johnny, is played by Ry Barrett, an actor with an extensive history in genre films dating back to 2005.

In a violent nature Judgement

A look behind Johnny in In a Violent Nature (2024).
This view will become very familiar and even comfortable to viewers In a violent nature.

In a violent nature is interesting because while the premise sounds like it’s a subversion of the slasher genre, that’s not the case. At least, not really, and not on purpose. In an interview published in issue 218 of Rue Mortuary, writer/director Chris Nash explains, “I wouldn’t say we’re subverting anything, it was never my intention to subvert anything.” Watching In a violent naturethat quickly becomes clear.

None of the expectations regarding the characters and the plot progression are undermined at any point during the film. The tropes and clichés of the slasher genre are firmly adhered to, and that’s the point. This is a slasher film with a plot structure that you have to know by heart. By staying in the killer’s perspective for almost the entire film, the fun comes from seeing what isn’t normally seen in slasher films. What this mainly boils down to is looking at what a silent killer is reminiscent of Jason Voorhees (especially from Jason is alive further) is doing in the time between the murders.

Johnny extends a hand to a victim in In a Violent Nature (2024).
He walks, he kills, he walks some more.

So what does an undead slasher do between kills? Mostly he walks. He walks slowly and methodically. When he hears someone, he stops and listens. Then he walks over and kills the person when he thinks he or she is alone. Then he walks some more, repeating the cycle until the inevitable final confrontation with the few remaining potential victims. There’s a bit more to it than that, but that’s the main focus of the film. Instead of seeing unwitting victims repeatedly isolate themselves and get killed, as we would see in many other slasher films, we’re watching a monster patiently walk around waiting to find someone to kill. What this change in perspective does to the slasher formula is interesting, but whether it’s entertaining or not will vary wildly from person to person.

On the positive side of the argument: In a violent nature is a unique and strangely immersive experience. Large parts of the film are filled with long, almost uninterrupted shots that simply follow Johnny from behind. There is no added music to increase the tension. The style of editing sometimes used means that it is not a complete objective experience, but it is often very close. The effect this has on the viewer is one of detachment. We see Johnny killing people, but there are no strong feelings of fear or disgust that directors usually try to instill in us. Chris Nash has stated that the film’s approach was similar to making a nature documentary, and in many ways it feels that way.

Johnny sits behind a tree in In a Violent Nature (2024).
Johnny is rarely distracted, but when he is, it gives the viewer a brief glimpse into this nearly impenetrable character.

But perhaps more than a nature documentary, In a violent nature also feels like the ultimate end point for the path many long-running slasher franchises take. As a slasher franchise churns out sequel after sequel, the focus of each successive film is often less on the victims and more on the killers themselves. It’s a natural evolution, as slashers often run out of main characters from film to film. In a violent nature is almost all about Johnny and his methods of killing, and his victims are all completely disposable. In this way, In a violent nature is like a late franchise sequel to films that don’t exist. That also makes it a sharp criticism of the genre as a whole, regardless of whether that specific comment was intended or not.

However, there is a negative side to the road In a violent nature is presented to the public. The sense of detachment that the audience experiences can also lead to many monotonous sequences in the film. Watching Johnny sneak through the woods for extended periods of time will be interesting for some, but boring for others. Patience is rewarded in the form of some inventively gruesome murders, but not every murder is created equal. One particular murder scene is sure to be hailed as one of the best murders of 2024 when it comes time for the year-end awards, and a few others are copiously gory. But some of the murders happen off-screen, which could be a dampener for viewers hoping for more slasher gore. Additionally, the blunt, matter-of-fact manner in which most of the murders occur, combined with the over-the-top violence, adds a layer of black comedy that can feel tonally inconsistent with some of the other murders.

A bloody trucker cap in In a Violent Nature (2024).
The amount of blood displayed In a violent nature has been a major talking point, but die-hard horror fans will probably only point to two, maybe three kills that really take the gore to splatter movie heights.

The acting is also influenced by the style of presentation. The dialogue is corny, presumably on purpose to achieve a ‘generic slasher’ tone. But corny, hackneyed dialogue without the addition of music or stylized images comes across as humorous. It never rises to the comedic level of something like that Tucker & Dale vs. evil (2010), but you could make a strong argument for it In a violent nature because it is, at least in part, a black comedy. That’s actually not a bad way to watch the movie. Watching In a violent nature a ‘black comedy slasher’ is a perfectly viable and enjoyable way to approach it.

The biggest turn off In a violent nature is that the trick of strictly adhering to the killer’s perspective is not fully adhered to. There are two major breaks in the format. One happens early in the film, when Johnny is watching and listening to his potential victims, and the point of view changes from Johnny to the circle of friends sitting around a campfire. The other major change in point of view occurs towards the end of the film. Both scenes provide the greatest parts of the entire film, but they are excruciatingly annoying when placed next to the rest of the film. They take too much time away from Johnny, and they explain far too clearly the themes and ideas that would have been much more fun to glean from environmental stories, the overall tone of the film, and small snippets of half-heard conversations. They’re just not necessary. Even with its minimal story, even less story and explanation would have been preferable in a film like this.

Who will enjoy In a violent nature?

The forest surrounds Johnny in In a Violent Nature (2024).
The landscape in it In a violent nature is beautiful.

Other slasher films have followed the killer’s perspective (Maniac I’m thinking of the 1980s and 2012), but very few – if any – are presented in this way. In a violent nature has been described as an arthouse slasher, but that’s only true to an extent. It has an arthouse aesthetic, but is essentially a genre film. It’s for fans of slasher films looking for something familiar, but presented in a way they haven’t seen before. It’s also for indie horror fans who enjoy a film with a methodical pace, punctuated by some ridiculously violent murders.

And really, In a violent nature should be seen by most horror horror fans, even if you don’t like slashers. It’s an interesting take on the genre that’s worth discussing, even if you don’t find it particularly entertaining. By removing or changing much of what makes a horror film scary (e.g. the focus on the victims, the music, the pacing, the framing, etc.), In a violent nature is a grand experiment. For some, it illustrates why most slasher films aren’t made this way. For others, it’s a welcome and entertaining change from the typical slasher formula. Either way, it highlights some fascinating ideas about why we watch horror films and what makes them work for us.

Johnny walks into a lake in In a Violent Nature (2024).
With some changes, a movie like In a Violent nature would work extremely well as a film made in one long take, for example Russian Ark (2002) and the first half of One cut from the dead (2017).

Personally I thought In a violent nature more interesting than entertaining. Some of the kills are fun, and I really enjoy following Johnny on his journey, even in the slowest of times. However, I am not interested in the ending, it is too far removed from everything that precedes it, while at the same time it seems too clearly explanatory. I also would have liked the entire film to be even slower and more emotionless than it is. I wanted the victims to be even more faceless than they already are, especially the last girl. As it is, it seems like the filmmakers didn’t want that to be the case at experimental in their approach, and that gives the impression of a film made with half measures.

Read further

Meet the author

Chris Catt

Chris has a degree in film studies from Temple University campus in Tokyo, Japan. He is a renowned expert in the field of horror cinema.