FANTASIA 2020: “For the Sake of Vicious” Provides Action and Exploitation Sweetened by Halloween Flair

Review by: Geoff Arbuckle

Premiering at this year’s Fantasia Festival is the brutal action/exploitation/thriller For the Sake of Vicious directed by Gabriel Carrer and Reese Eveneshen who also collaborated on the story and script for this film.  In the press packet provided with the film, Carrer and Eveneshen spoke about how they wanted to provide a brutal, yes, vicious, film as a way to play around in darker corners of their minds while also reflecting a world that is tearing itself apart more and more each day.

They deliver on exactly that.  For the Sake of Vicious is not a kind film.  It’s not a rosy movie of heroes and happy vengeance.  It’s dark and brutal that deals with rape, pedophilia, adultery, shady business people who seem to have lots of money, and people without a lot of money or hope living day-to-day.  While that list varies from terrible, to worse, to bad things that happen to too many people, to real life struggle, it is also somewhat realistic.  Really bad and messed up shit happens every day.  We often can only see our perspective and when we’re hurt, when things are done to those we care about, we can often find nothing but darkness and pain and righteous vengeance to fall back on.

This movie juggles these things very well.

Our plot is very simple on the surface.  Romina is a nurse coming home after a long shift at the hospital and looking forward to taking her son out for good ol’ Halloween trick or treating.  She comes home to find desperate crazy man Chris in her home.  In tow, Chris has Alan.  Alan is who Chris suspects of raping and killing his very young daughter some time ago.  Alan has been beaten very badly by Chris and he wants Romina to keep his captive alive so he can finally get the confession he’s been looking for since Alan was acquitted for the crime.  However, soon waves of violent intruders arrive at Romina’s home and pushes the trio to their unexpected limits.

The plot feels simple, but there is so much more that is under the surface in this very frenetic 80-minute runtime.  Chris (Nick Smyth) is not just desperate, but his grief has driven him insane.  Unexpected connections between Alan, Chris’ ex-wife, and Romina makes this even more perilous for someone who has lost everything – and in desperate need to lash out for the injustice he’s been subjected to.

Romina (Lora Burke) is also now party to kidnapping at best, but torture and/or vigilantism at worst.  She served as Chris’ daughter’s nurse when she was brought to the hospital after the attack.  She, herself, is a seemingly struggling single mother who is now caught up in something she has nothing to do with and is only involved due to the accident of having been working at the hospital on the night the attack happened to the little girl.

Alan (Colin Paradine)…  Well, he’s fascinating.  He may or may not be guilty of what Chris thinks he is, but he’s not a good guy.  He’s got access to tough guys, but some of his associates have other ideas of their own.  He obviously has done at least some shady things.  A fingerprint was found in the little girl’s room which is maybe the only piece of evidence Chris has for Alan’s guilt, but that’s likely due to an association Alan had with Chris’ wife.  That just compounds the depths of pain and sorrow Chris has as he is forced to believe that Alan directly took everything from him.

This movie works well with its premise, style, great synthwave soundtrack (from co-director Carrer himself), and solid performances from Burke, Smyth, and Paradine.  The setting being mostly the kitchen where Alan is being kept helps build a claustrophobic feel and raises the tension as the invaders come pouring in through the door.  Speaking of the invaders, we have guys in Halloween masks, but we also have a guy with a motorcycle helmet.  That guy is my favorite because the helmet just strikes a fantastic image.  We’re even treated, well, as much as a brutal action/exploitation film of this sort can truly treat us, to a final boss of sorts that rounds out our final twenty minutes.

This has good action, some solid blood splatter, and really works well from an exploitation action foundation.  Some of the scenes in which Chris is working on Alan are painful.  Some of the fights with the invaders and Chris and Romina are brutal and shot inside a bathroom and in very close quarters putting us right into the moment and action.  I even appreciate that the levels of violence and the resulting gore of it even has a hospital nurse like Romina jumping and squirming.

But buyer beware…  This is not a movie that will likely leave you feeling all that great.  Our three leads each have dirt on them.  Some, obviously, much more than others.  They get very badly hurt.  There are themes that are very unsavory.  It’s very violent.  While the people you need to be punished are, it’s not without Chris and Romina needing to get a little savage themselves, and paying terrible tolls.  There’s even a dark ending that will leave you asking questions and legitimately concerned for one of the character’s mental well-being after the film’s goings on are in the past.

Overall, as a fan of exploitation and revenge movies, this checks my boxes for a solid, tension-filled, thriller and I think shows that Carrer and Eveneshen have quality ideas in those dark recesses of their mind.  If nothing else, it’s a good exercise in seeing some bad people get what’s coming to them as they prey upon the victim, the mentally infirm, and the poor single mom stuck in the middle.

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