The EVILs of Slasherman! “Random Acts of Violence” reviewed! (Acorn Media / Blu-ray)

Comic book writer Todd has hit a writer’s block wall on the last issue of his one-shot, popular and extremely graphic series Slasherman based off the gruesome string of I-90 murders of the late 1980s where the killer murdered and mutilated his victims without ever being caught.  Looking for inspiration to conclude his life’s work, Todd, his girlfriend, investing publisher, and assistant head out on a road trip from Toronto to America, specially through the small town of McBain where the murders took place, but when recent mutilated bodies resemble the grisly deaths inside the colorful pages of his comics, the semi-fictional Slasherman story becomes full blown reality that places him and his friends in a maniacal killer’s path whose flipping through the pages of Todd’s murder-glorifying comic for inspiration of his own. 

Like many opinionated reviews before mine, I never imagined Jay Baruchel directing a horror movie.  The long time comedic actor with solid relationships working with other high profile comedians, such as Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, and Danny McBride in some of the best notable comedies on the side of the century, has stepped into the shadows and professing his admiration for the genre we all love – horror. Baruchel cowrites and directs his first horror film, the big screen adaptation of Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti’s “Random Acts of Violence” graphic novel. Fellow collaborator on the “Goon” movies, Jesse Chabot, branches out with Baruchel on the script and the two Canadian filmmakers yield an intense meta-gore picture focusing toward themes of lopsided public perspective and the glorifying of violence on other less physical mediums. Published in 2010 under Image Comics, the Gray and Palmiotti publication supplied a wealth of visceral material that unfolded faithfully in Baruchel’s Shudder distributed film as a stylish comicbook-esque narrative under the Toronto based Elevation Pictures, Wicked Big, and Manis Film production in association with Kickstart Comics and JoBro Productions. Palmiotti and Gray also serve as executive producers.



Struggling in the search for his perfect ending to Slasherman, Todd immerses himself in a cerebral fixation that envelops him more so then he would like to think.  Todd’s played by social activist and “Cabin in the Woods” actor Jesse Williams whose character is thrust into essentially making a choice, entertain his profession that earns blood money off the backbones of the I-90’s victims or subside his eagerness to finish his graphic novel and be team victim alongside his girlfriend Kathy (“The Faculty” and 2006’s “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning’s” Jordana Brewster) researching a novel that gives the slain victims a voice over their killer.  Brewster hasn’t changed one bit in a role that resembles a mature version of her “The Faculty” Delilah Profitt character complete with glasses and a thirst for reporting.  As a couple, Williams and Brewster hit little on their unconditional love  that’s apparent in the film’s final scenes.  Aside from their opening segment in their Toronto flat, their road trip is filled with Kathy berates Todd at times or Todd never seeming interested in Kathy or her work that’s seen counteractive to his own.  Affection is thin between them and I’m wondering if that’s more of the script writing than a flaw on Williams and Brewster who are credibility solid in their roles.  Same can be said about Jay Baruchel’s Ezra, the indie publisher sponsoring Slasherman, as the writer-director plays little to a publisher’s position of pushing the sales and marketing envolope and appears more to just be a tagalong friend with moments of quietly hawking.  Without much competition surrounding him, Slasherman is the most interesting character of the bunch from prolific stuntman, Simon Northwood.  With a 1000 yard stare that’s more menacing inducing than stemmed by trauma, Northwood brings the graphic novel character to all his glory as an aspiring artist in a contemporary parallelism to Todd who both see one another as their muse.  Northwood’s Slasherman is silently frightening, even more scary when he has to psych himself up to kill, and brings the physical stature of an unstoppable slasher genre maniac.  No one is safe from the merciless Slasherman, including those rounding out the cast in Niamh Wilson (“Saw III”), Clark Backo, Eric Osborne (“Pyewacket”), Nia Roam (“Polar”), Aviva Mongillo, and Isaiah Rockcliffe.   

The hyper violence lands more with a firm hand making good on film title.  Baruchel doesn’t hold much, if anything, back when rectifying violence as the monolithic theme while hitting a few thought-provoking notes involving the public’s perspective on the infamous legacy of serial killers and the tragic, forgotten memory toward their victims.  Somewhere in the gutting-clutter is a message of meta-existentialism tearing between that thin line of a person’s cause and effect actions.  Without the I-90 killer, Todd would not been stimulated into creating the deeply grim anti-heroic antics of Slasherman and, visa-versa, Slasherman would not have returned, coming out from retirement, if it wasn’t for Todd’s life’s work and lack of series conclusion for the Slasherman character speaking to Slasherman’s sanguinary artistic side.  One aspect stiffly hard to place your finger on is Todd’s connection with the town of McBain.  Other than a brief voice over exchange with Ezra, who mentions Mcbain is Todd’s hometown area, not much more of that pivotal connective tissue seizes grounding Todd, but the graphic novelist experiences a multitude of images streaming through his far off gazes, thoughts, and dreams. A boy, the boy’s mother who we know to be one of Slasherman’s victims because of Kathy’s research book, and the collateral damage of some great magnitude of violence surrounding them carry little weight to Todd’s psyche when struggling to piece his visions and these people’s bloodshed moment together and one reasonable theory that might explain that disconnect on our part is partially racially motivated, a detail indicative of gross assumption but a detail that can easily deceive you if you’re not knowledgeable enough about the cast you’re watching. My two cents is not randomized at all on Jay Baruchel’s “Random Acts of Violence” as it’s a brazenly deep and vicious first attempt horror in his own manic words from the glossy, leafy pages of the same titular graphic novel to the tellies of terror now on home media release.

Classified 18 for strong bloody violence and gore, “Random Acts of Violence” hits Blu-ray media shelves courtesy of Acorn Media International. The region 2, PAL encoded single disc BD25 has a runtime of 81 minutes and is presented in a slightly cropped widescreen 2.38:1 aspect ratio. A diverse hue palette of neon extricates Baruchel’s off-brand, real-time comic layout, creating a gritty, yet vibrant world all his own in a near window-blinds noir fashion. The tinkering of tints reaches almost Italian giallo levels without playing much with lighting and fog, relying heavily on the different neon vibrancy as if a colorist was right there pigmenting each scene as it played out. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound discerns very well across the board with robust dialogue that even with Williams’ slight lisp, every single word can be hung on. I didn’t think there was a ton of opportunity for depth and range as much of the action is in staged front side of the camera, but for what little there was, those areas saw solid, identifiable outputs. Bonus features include a zoom interview with a very animated Jay Baruchel providing the in depth inner works of the conception of his film while sporting a retro Montreal Expos ballcap, a showreel-esque promo entitled More Than Just A Scary Movie offers brief opinions, thoughts, and highlights on the film edited from longer, on-set interviews, and a look inside how to make an action scene. An on-your-toes, gut-wrenching slasher with a juicy slice of meta proves Jay Baruchel can wander into any genre and come out on top, but “Random Acts of Violence” has kinks to straighten out in this young director’s sophomore feature.

Become Evil’s Best Bud in “My Friend Dahmer” review!


Senior year 1978, right before the start of his 13 year killing spree, Jeffrey Dahmer struggled to fit into the high school equation. Spending much of the time in his makeshift laboratory, dipping roadkill into jars of acid to retrieve the bones that were still intact, Dahmer didn’t have many friends to socialize his unbalanced behavior. His interest in dissecting animals and an unearthed fascination with the same sex drove him to stay in serene isolation, but when his parents, between the marital spouts and his father’s projections, pressure him to make friends, to live an active lifestyle, Dahmer reduces himself to being the class clown for acceptance, catching the attention of three students who befriend him because of his classless antics. Just as his life begins to form something that similar normalcy, the familiar urges overwhelm when he fantasizes about a young male doctor of sleeping with his fresh corpse. With the inkling to kill creeping to ahead, Dahmer drowns himself in alcohol while still maintaining what’s left of his friendship that suddenly feels more like his exploitation for the benefit of others.

What a hell of an origins story! “My Friend Dahmer” is the 2017 biographical docudrama from writer-director Marc Meyers that becomes the looking glass into the catalytic events, or even last moments of hope to reform, infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. The film is a visual adaptation of John “Derf” Backderf’s graphic novel of the title. Backderf was also one of Dahmer’s only friends in high school and relates his experiences through exaggerated illustrations of his graphic novel. With in the film, Meyers notably recounts the pages of the Backderf’s novel with a story that puts Dahmer justifiably at the epicenter that focuses almost entirely from Dahmer’s disturbed and warped point of view of inner body interest, homosexuality, and standards of social acceptance. Rarely, does Meyers stray from that structure in obtaining the external thoughts and opinions of Dahmer’s friends, and perhaps even enemies, who’ve made some sort of interaction, but being that the novel is a work of someone else’s non-fictional perceptions and not of Dahmer’s, Meyers puts weight forthright with Backderf’s opinion with the characterized Backderf interjecting here-and-there on accounts that significantly courses Dahmer’s actions.

Surely an eye brow raising casting choice, Disney Channel actor and Kids’ Choice Award winner Ross Lynch enters into a polarizing role that is the pre-monster of Jeffrey Dahmer and creepily channels in a powerful performance the embattled younger image of the soon-to-be murderer, cannibal, and necrophiliac. Lynch portrays Dahmer as a rare emission of emotion and almost frighteningly stiff or mechanically with hunched shoulders just below his wavy blonde hair that wrap around the large and rounded rectangle glasses. New York City born actor Alex Wolff picks up the graphite pencil to spun out probably Dahmer’s closest friend John “Derf” Backderf. Perhaps in a way, Backderf had manufactured a piece of Dahmer’s destined genetic makeup and Wolff lays in the guilt, and the fear, thick when around Dahmer near the end. Anne Heche (“Psycho” remake) and Dallas Roberts (“The Walking Dead” and “Mayhem”) become Joyce and Lionel Dahmer, Jeffrey’s parents. Heche and Roberts seize every on screen opportunity to lay into one another, a persistent and regular difficulty that stemmed between Joyce’s mental and physical heath and Lionel’s withering patience for his anxiety riddled wife. The cast rounds out with Vincent Kartheiser Liam Koeth, Tommy Nelson, and Harrison Holzer.

Aside from the retelling of Backderf’s recollections, “My Friend Dahmer” shoots scenes right inside what was once Dahmer’s actual home in Ohio. That bit of realism adds monumental flavor to enrich the inherently dark subject matter of how a young Dahmer was subjected to compounding blows to his psyche in the short timespan that was his senior year. From his father tearing down his makeshift laboratory and junking his precious dead animal experiments, to his mother’s divorce inducing schizophrenia, and to being the class clown in order to make friends, Dahmer couldn’t maintain control over his ebb and flow urges and Meyer effectively highlights these chapters in Dahmer’s frayed playbook of life that tipped the scales of unfavorable malice.

FilmRise and MVDVisual present “My Friend Dahmer” on a AVC encoded 1080p High Definition Blu-ray with a 2.40:1, widescreen presentation. Through a vista of small town quaintness, picture quality immensely defines a cold embrace of a softer, fluffier effect. The color palette strongly reflects the whitewashed and faded of the era. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 stretches the ambient with a film that doesn’t necessary pack an audio punch. The dialogue is rendered cleanly and the retro soundtrack is a boost to docudrama with clarity and pace. Bonus features are a bit thin for a non-fictional individual with humungous notoriety and they include a brief interview with star Ross Lynch, Behind-the-Scenes slide show, and a theatrical trailer. “My Friend Dahmer” revitalizes the feelings and the chills that washed over us who are old enough to remember Jeffrey Dahmer’s grim-storied apprehension and, yet, director Marc Meyers is able to strip Dahmer of his monstrosity for 107 minutes and make him simply human as a young man with everyday problems without a ounce of parental, professional, or friendship guidance, funneling to the notion that we all have a little Jeffrey Dahmer in us.

“My Friend Dahmer” is on the Amazon today!