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Violent Kind, The
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by Mel Valentin

"Must-see low-budget indie horror."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 53RD SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Since filmmaker Sam Raimi made the move to big-budget, effects-heavy Hollywood films (the "Spider-Man" trilogy) from the inventive low-budget horror films that made his name (e.g.,, the "Evil Dead" trilogy) , his absence has left an opening for horror filmmakers to throw buckets of blood, gore, and black humor up on screen (no, Raimi’s disappointing "Drag Me to Hell" doesn’t count). Likely by intent, the aptly named Butcher Brothers ("April Fool’s Day," "The Hamiltons," "Lurking in Suburbia"), a pseudonym for California natives Mitchell Altieri and Phil Flores, try to do just that with their latest, "The Violent Kind," a gleefully bizarre genre mash-up that premiered earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival (their second film to receive that privilege).

The Violent Kind centers on Cody (Cory Knauf), a twenty-something biker fresh out of a prison stint. Setting aside self- and other-doubts about returning to the biker life, Cody joins two friends, Quentin (Bret Roberts), the natural leader (and thus alpha male) and Elroy (Nick Tagas), the obvious follower/beta male. Despite that reluctance, Cody eagerly joins in on a curb stomping of two degenerate types. Cody, however, has a difficult relationship with Quentin, made all the more difficult by the obvious physical attraction between Cody and Quentin’s longtime girlfriend, Shade (Taylor Cole). To get into the biker gang’s good graces, Cody reluctantly agrees to a dope-smuggling run across the California border. Before he can go on the smuggling run, though, there’s a biker party at a remote cabin in Northern California to attend.

At the party, Cody crosses paths with a bitter ex, Michelle (Tiffany Shepis), and Megan (Christina Prousalis), Shade’s college-age sister. While Michelle taunts Cody with her latest boyfriend, Cody ignores her for Megan’s Ivory Girl charms. After the party breaks up, leaving only Cody, Quentin, Elroy, Shade, and Megan behind, The Violent Kind makes the first of several, abrupt genre shifts, from biker melodrama to supernatural horror. Michelle leaves last, but returns drenched in blood, apparently possessed by a ravenous, sex-deprived demon, setting up an obvious, if no less entertaining riff, on The Evil Dead and The Exorcist (bucketfuls of blood are spilled).

While Cody and the others decide what to do about Michelle, The Violent Kind shifts genres a second time, adding a home invasion by a rival rockabilly gang that seems to have stepped out of a ‘50s-era juvenile delinquent flick. Led by the sociopathic Vernon (Joe Egender), the violent gang includes characters with names like Jazz (Joseph McKelheer), Murderball (Samuel Child), Trixie (Mackenzie Firgens), and Pussywagon (Ilea Matthews). They take pleasure in torturing Cody and the others (Vernon turns Cody into a virtual punching bag) while promising a world-changing event at the stroke of midnight. That promise sets up the one, last genre shift, a change hinted at the title, (obvious once you’ve seen The Violent Kind), one best left unspoiled, but also a shift that’s bound to sour less moviegoers unwilling to accept one more, (perhaps) jarring turn.

Whatever you might think about all the genre-shifting and genre-mashing (or is it teeth-gnashing?) in "The Violent Kind," it’s clear that the Butcher Brothers are risk-takers. They’re more than willing to risk audiences walking out of movie theaters, turning off their LCD HDTVs, or shutting off their computers all in the name of entertainment. On that level, "The Violent Kind" never fails. The Butcher Brothers trimmed an early, longer cut that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, resulting in tightly edited scenes, sharp transitions, and just enough character development (for a genre film) to make audiences care about the fates of Cody and the others. The Butcher Brothers also deserve credit for pulling together a (mostly) talented cast and obtaining (mostly) grounded performances, especially from the six co-leads (e.g., Knauf, Roberts, Tagas, Cole, Shepis, and Prousalis). The actors in the rockabilly gang play their parts more broadly, sometimes too broadly, but more often than not, they add to "The Violent Kind’s" overall entertainment value.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=20127&reviewer=402
originally posted: 05/01/10 02:00:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2010 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2010 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Fantastic Fest 2010 For more in the Fantastic Fest 2010 series, click here.

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