Fantasia Review: For the Sake of Vicious

Merciless revenger's tragedy never blanches from violence

Nobody directs violence like Gabriel Carrer. There's something unrelenting, something apologetically disturbing and confrontational about how he portrays the cruelty that lurks inches under the surface of even the mildest-appearing people.

The Canadian director broke out with his third film, In the House of Flies, a radical and grueling re-invention of the hostage drama that, superficially, tied into the torture porn era but had darker, more philosophical intent. His follow-up, The Demolisher, found the unexpected shared ground between slashers and vigilante thrillers. Both pointed harsh fingers at the audience's attraction to vicarious thrills, and never let them off the hook, all the while melding and bending genres.

It makes sense that he would find a kindred creative spirit in Reese Eveneshen, who showed a fittingly matching flair for oppressive paranoia and visceral violence in his dystopian political SF parable Defective. Their new collaboration, For the Sake of Vicious, continues that trend of pushing the limits of staid tropes, this time by mixing the home invasion thriller with both rape-revenge and gangland machinations. What could have been an unwieldy mess in sloppier hands becomes an engrossing, unnerving descent into chaotic hyperviolence.

As a nurse, Romina (Lora Burke) is used to a little blood. What she's not expecting is to come home and find hyperventilating wild-eyed maniac Chris (Nick Smyth), with bludgeoned businessman and local crime boss Alan (Colin Paradine) tied up in her kitchen. They're bound together by a hideous act, one that has left Chris convinced that this random stranger that he met on one cruel night is the only person that will help him - which she does, for her own very particular reasons.

This is microbudget filmmaking that fills the entire screen. Most of the action takes place in one kitchen, while Carrer and Eveneshen pull quadruple duty (Carrer even wrote and performed the grinding, enveloping, and oppressive score under his musical psuedonym of Foxgrndr). The violence is relentless, as Chris tries to extract a confession from Adam, and then Adam's criminal associates turn up, wearing Halloween masks, with the supposed intention of rescuing him. Smyth goes big as Chris, but that makes complete sense: he doesn't simply have anything left, bar his revenge. It's Romina who has a path to follow, and it's Burke who provides the moral and emotional core. She's as broken as as both Adam and Chris, but Burke gives her a complexity that explains her complicity, right to the point that the accelerating violence means she has no choice but to pick up the nearest sharp object and join in.

Carrer and Eveneshen's world may be cruel, but it's not exploitative. It's dismal, but never tedious. It's violent, but not soulless. It's our world, like it or not.

For the Sake of Vicious is screening as part of the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, Quebec, Aug. 20-Sept. 2,

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Fantasia 2020, Fantasia International Film Festival, For the Sake of Vicious, Gabriel Carrer, Reese Eveneshen

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