‘In a Violent Nature’ Movie Review: A Scary Campfire Slasher

Have you ever been sitting in your home, watching a nature documentary, and thought, “What this majestic vista needs is a little more murder?” Then you are A) weird and B) in luck. Writer and director Chris Nash apparently also feels that way, and he has given us In A Violent Nature, a new horror film eventually coming to Shudder.

Slashers aren’t always my favorite in the horror genre. I’m considerably more interested in being frightened than being grossed out, and slashers don’t generally provide much in the way of dread. But while this movie is decidedly a slasher, it has the dread you’d expect from a more traditional psychological thriller. 

A scary campfire story come to life

The story is a pretty typical, scary campfire story that is told to us literally from a group around a campfire. When a young boy is tortured and suffers an accidental death at the hands of his tormentors, his soul is tied to a small golden amulet. When someone in a group of young campers pockets this necklace, Johnny (Ry Barrett) comes back to life to exact revenge on those who would disturb him. The lore in this is flimsy in the way that the lore of most campfire horror is flimsy. 

But this film isn’t here to deliver a great story. It’s here to deliver some of the gnarliest kills I’ve seen in a slasher in a while. 

Because this movie is told largely from the first-person perspective of the killer, this isn’t a movie laden with jump scares, which is what allows it to have that sense of unease at all times. We know he’s right there. We can see his next victim doing her morning yoga. We can see her swimming in the lake. We can see him talking on his phone by his car. You want to scream at them to run away, but you know that there’s no escape. 

In a Violent Nature simmers in the best way

This is a movie that takes its time. There aren’t frantic chase scenes. There isn’t chaotic, shaky cam footage. There isn’t a lot of shrieking or fighting back. Everything happens slowly and methodically. And that applies to the murders as well. The first killing happens off-screen, so you may be tempted to worry that this isn’t going to pay off in the horror department, but don’t fret. These aren’t quick throat slashes and move on. Johnny takes his time with each victim, allowing the gore and viscera to really splatter all over your screen. 

This film is reminiscent of classic films like Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, as well as the modern classic It Follows. When Johnny dons his mask, it’s hard not to think of Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees, but he isn’t bound by a single weapon. Johnny is a resourceful, relentless killer zombie, so he is able to present the audience with a bevy of brutalities.

What amplifies the horror is the excellent sound design in this movie by designers Tim Atkins and Michelle Hwu. From the first squelch of mud as Johnny emerges from his forest tomb to the relentless thrum of the log splitter, waiting to split more than logs. The sound combines with the visuals to bring this film a sense of realism that is deeply uncomfortable. 

This is a fascinating movie because it doesn’t exactly redefine the genre in any significant way. Young adults on a camping trip being picked off by a relentless killer? Seen it. A mindless murdering machine driven by some dark force? Nothing new there. Even the first-person perspective has been done in horror gaming for a while now. There is nothing going on that we haven’t seen in another slasher movie, but they are combined in ways that genuinely feel unique and unsettling. The final seven minutes of the film are an absolute masterclass in tension-building. 

I wouldn’t say that there are any stand-out performances in this. All of the actors, including Barrett, fade into the background as we watch the horror unfold. The character doesn’t matter nearly as much as the action and the scenery. No one distracts from those elementsbut no one elevates the movie beyond them.

Because we’ve been primed to expect jump scares, scream queens, and non-stop action, the slower, more methodical pace of this movie may be off-putting to some. If you’re looking for a movie that has impressive themes or a rich story, this is not the movie for you. But if you’re looking for a movie that is heavy on gore AND atmosphere, I definitely recommend In A Violent Nature. Though it may make you rethink that morning yoga session on the bluff.

In A Violent Nature will be in theaters on May 31, 2024 and on Shudder later in the year.

Learn more about In a Violent Nature at the IFC Films website. 

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