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Cinema/TV, Film Notes

Fantasia Festival review – For the Sake of Vicious (2020)

My notes on For the Sake of Vicious (2020), which has screened at the Fantasia festival.

A home invasion/siege grand guignol, this plays out like a domestic, ultra-gory take on Assault on Precinct 13 – down to the synth thrumm that screws up the tension, and with an even more oblique, absurdist take on the action.  The characters here – and the audience – have to fill in the motivational gaps to guess why what’s happening to them on Halloween is going down – and you more or less have to set aside your ‘but why …’ response to go along with the action.

Romina (Lora Burke – from Lifechanger), a nurse/single Mom, clocks off after a long shift on October 31 and heads home only to find that Chris (Nick Smyth), an angry man, has dragged Alan (Colin Paradine), a bludgeoned local big-wig (incidentally, Romina’s landlord) into her kitchen and wants her to keep him alive as he forces him to confess to a hideous crime he has been acquitted of.  The first half of the film is a three-handed game, with miniature revelations and wavering loyalties, but when Alan is able to call a mystery associate (James Fler) what turns up outside the house isn’t a police response unit or Alan’s security detail … but a bike gang (the Skull Splitters) in devil or skull masks, who seem even keener than Chris when it comes to making Alan suffer, and who see anyone else in the house as collateral damage.

Directors Gabriel Carrer and Reese Eveneshen, who also co-wrote, go for spare, restrained narrative but unleash progressively more grue as characters survive an unbelievable amount of punishment, improvise weapons out of whatever comes to hand in the house (including, yes, the kitchen sink), refrain from explaining themselves, and keep on fighting dirty to the end.  It’s not free of action pic conventions – like the use of three or four hammer-blows, stabbings and gougings when a gun is easily at hand and too often dropped by butterfingers good and bad and ambiguous guys, and the absence of actual trick or treaters until they’re needed for counterpoint with the psycho bunch – and only Burke’s tough innocent provides a rooting interest in a scenario where everyone else seems to be getting what they deserve.

 

Here’s the Fantasia listing.

 

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