- Director: Cody Calahan
- Writer: James Villeneuve, Christopher Warre Smets
- Stars: Evan Marsh, Amber Goldfarb, Ari Millen, Julian Richings, David Koechner, Robert Mailet
Set in 1983 and revolving around a horror film critic, reviewing Vicious Fun feels like a dare from writer/director Cody Calahan. I’m game.
We meet Joel (Evan Marsh) while he is interviewing a horror film director. Young and brash, Joel fancies himself someone who knows more than the director and is very free with his opinions regarding the filmmaker’s recent work. When pressed how he would do things differently, Joel has what seems like a solid answer, but later in the film, another character will quickly point out the myriad reasons why it’s actually not a solid idea and this basically sums up Vicious Fun: a really good idea that flounders within it’s own cleverness.
Joel’s feelings about his roommate will inevitably lead him to a bar where he imbibes far too much and passes out in a utility closet, only to wake up while group therapy for serial killers is taking place. The leader of the group, Zachary (an always excellent David Koechner), assumes that Joel is actually Phil and sits him down in the circle of sharing. After hearing Mike (Robert Mailet) speak about his kill style, which amounts to being a generic slasher who wears coveralls and a mask while killing people at sorority houses and campgrounds, “Phil” is now expected to share his expertise and experience. This is where his great idea that he shared with the film director comes in: he says that he’s a cab driver who kills at random and it’s a perfect cover because he is in no way connected to his victims. Consisting of an assassin, a military expert, a man with a clown fetish and a mysterious woman who we know is tough because she has thick eyeliner and slicked back hair, the group is mostly impressed with Joel’s story. That is until the last member of the group shows up.
Bob (Ari Millen) is an 80’s Ted Bundy, all wrapped up in bottle blonde hair and a Member’s Only jacket. When he hears of Joel’s serial killer cover, he immediately pokes holes in the plausibility and, ultimately, they all figure out that Joel is just a regular guy who shouldn’t be there and now they have to kill him. Wackiness ensues and Joel finds himself partnering up with Carrie (Amber Goldfarb) to try to escape.
Carrie is also not who she seems and while she is tasked with being the brains of the film, she is also a bit one note. She has a book with her kill list in it and it looks a lot like the kill list of a certain bride who is really good with a samurai sword. And that’s the thing: so many elements of Vicious Fun look and feel so familiar that the line between homage and straight up pilfering is fuzzy at best. So, much like Joel, I sit here sounding like an asshole who thinks they can do better. I do not think that I can do better: not by a long shot. I do, however, expect more from the premise, the actors and the filmmakers involved based upon my past viewing experiences.
Part of the Black Fawn Film family, Vicious Fun has lots of visual shout outs to other films from the same production company (I even reviewed one of them.) and it’s this love of film that is infectious and strangely endears me to the movie. Cinematographer Jeff Maher captures the candy colored esthetics of the 80’s and the synth score is fun, but also feels far too familiar at this point. In fact, why the film is set in the 80’s was a huge question mark for me. Joel’s Marty McFly vest and Bob’s dad jeans are all currently on trend as is an 80’s vibe and score. Speaking of Bob, Millen clearly had a great time inhabiting the role, but at times it was confusing as to whether or not he was trying to channel Matthew McConaughey a’la Texas Chainsaw Massacre 4 or if he was doing his own version of Patrick Bateman, neither of which he needed to do because he was best when he was just being Bob.
There is lots of gore, some genuinely funny moments and while the ending isn’t exactly believable, it does set up another interesting premise. The most intriguing character in the film didn’t get nearly enough time to shine and despite my back and forth on this film, I would definitely be in for seeing where the road leads after the credits rolled. A grab bag of shout outs, nods, knowing winks and 80’s references, Vicious Fun is a horror comedy that tries really hard, but doesn’t quite stick the landing.
Played as part of The Blood In The Snow Festival