Written by: Adam Weis and The Butcher Brothers
Directed by: The Butcher Brothers
Starring: Cory Knauf, Joe Egender, and Tiffany Shepis
Reviewed by: Brett G.
“We’re just a friendly bunch looking for a good time...”
When you’re a directing duo that goes around calling yourselves “The Butcher Brothers,” I guess you’re bound to horror. A few years ago, these two guys (who aren’t really brothers), made The Hamiltons, which I felt was the strongest offering from the inaugural pack of After Dark films. After that, they did the April Fool’s Day remake that everyone (including our own Josh) hated. About a month ago, though, Tiffany Shepis alerted me that she’d be starring in their next effort, The Violent Kind; this naturally landed the film on my radar, and I thought I’d had it pegged as yet another typical exploitation flick, maybe some kind of revenge/vigilante-justice bloodbath. That was a fairly inaccurate assumption.
Cody (Cory Knauf), Q (Bret Roberts), and Elroy (Nick Tagas) are a bunch of biker types who belong to a gang; they’re a band of figurative brothers who have had each others’ backs since childhood. They take off to a party at a secluded farmhouse (you should know by now that there no other types of farmhouses); one of the other partygoers is Cody’s ex, Michelle (Shepis), who’s found a new old man. They go off to have some fun, but she comes back covered in blood, having seemingly been assaulted by someone…or something.
And then (the first of many “and thens”) weird stuff happens. A lot of weird stuff, in fact. Let’s just call it a cornucopia of weird because it throws a lot of stuff at you and hopes that it all sticks. Some of it does, some of it doesn’t, but I will say this: The Violent Kind is a sort of slithery snake that you can’t really get a grip on; just when you think you’ve got it figured out, it wriggles free and does something else. It’s sort of like The Hamiltons in the sense that I can’t say too much; to do so would ruin the enjoyment of watching it all unfold. I suppose I could invoke the name Stephen King because the menace hanging over the film is supernatural, vaguely ancient, and defies an easy description.
I can say with great certainty that The Butcher Brothers live up to not only their name, but the film’s title as well. It is indeed violent, gory, maybe even a bit gross in its insistence to completely mangle human flesh and leave a steady pile of corpses. It’s sort of over-the-top, I guess, as are some of the torture elements (or maybe this stuff is just clichéd at this point). Hang with me here, as it describes one of the film’s many plot twists, but our heroes eventually find themselves terrorized by another bizarre, occultist rockabilly gang. Their leader fancies himself as James Dean, but he’s also a master of torturous ceremonies a la Frank Booth. Their retro stylings mixed with their penchant for violence makes them another King call-back, and they’re kind of cool even if they do wander in from left field.
On the flip side are our good guys, which are a serviceable pack of gruff hooligans. They’re sort of white trash, but I hesitate to call them rednecks, so I’ll settle on calling them So-Cal cow-punks. I’m not sure I buy Cory Knauf as a grizzled biker type, much less one that just served hard time, but he is supposed to be “the sensitive one.” There’s good camaraderie among the cast though because it feels like there’s a history between the characters even though they’re thinly-written. Most of the actors here are young up-and-comers, but they’ve got pretty faces and handle things well enough. The most recognizable is Shepis, who once again manages to get naked while also putting on a pretty good performance. She starts out as just a really vindictive, cruel bitch--and somehow she becomes something much worse later on.
The Butcher Brothers are fine stylists. The Hamiltons showed as much, and this one continues to do so--it’s a very slick, polished production. Some of their CGI effects stretch beyond their budget, but there’s a lot of ambition at work. I especially like how they embrace graphic violence but aren’t afraid to be legitimately tense and suspenseful too. The Violent Kind is perhaps most surprising because it manages to be kind of creepy--there’s a lot left unsaid by the time it all wraps up, but you still manage to gather something ominous, sort of like the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Really, I could name off a ton of stuff that seems to have influenced this one. It still won’t give you a firm grasp of what it is, but here goes: it’s sort of like The Strangers, The Exorcist, and Night of the Living Dead had a demented baby that was raised by King. Don’t take that as an indicator of quality--it’s not as good as those, but it’s still sort of a blast anyway. This bad boy premiered at Sundance of all places, but now you can bring it to your living room with Image Entertainment’s DVD and Blu-ray releases. The high definition release is pretty solid and sports the usual crisp transfer and an immersive DTS-MA soundtrack. Special features are a little sparse and only include some deleted scenes, a making-of featurette, and the film’s trailer. These Butcher Brothers are someone I’ll keep my eye on. Reports indicate that they’re going to do a follow-up to The Hamiltons next, which definitely holds my interest. The Violent Kind is a fun diversion in the meantime though--it crams a lot into 89 minutes, and it doesn’t all work, but I’m guessing it’ll keep you entertained as you try to pin it down. Rent it!
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