In a Violent Nature offers a grisly new perspective on slasher movies


The hooded killer from In a Violent Nature pulls on a heavy chain with blood-soaked hands
Image: IFC Films/Everett Collection

It’s a patient horror film that’s almost a nature documentary

This review of In a Violent Nature was initially published to coincide with the movie’s premiere at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. It has been updated for the film’s theatrical release.

Logline

In a Violent Nature follows Johnny, a hulking creature who has been dead for years, as he seeks vengeance on the most recent group of teens to bring him back to life.

Longerline

The way In a Violent Nature reveals its plot is a huge part of the fun of the movie, so no spoilers here. Instead, it’s worth talking a little bit about the vibe of the movie, which is mostly pastoral, rather than bombastic and quick. Writer-director Chris Nash seems to take inspiration from Michael Myers’ slow but deliberate stalking in the Halloween movie series. Long stretches of In a Violent Nature are still, quiet, gorgeous shots of nature — sometimes with a killer lumbering through them, sometimes not.

This beautiful photography is a huge bonus to the movie, considering that most of the run time is devoted to Johnny walking from one place to another, in determined pursuit of his victims. Following a slasher-movie villain — part Jason Voorhees, part Michael Myers — mostly means watching him walking around, which seems perfectly intuitive when you see it on screen. In a Violent Nature makes these traveling scenes feel vibrant, purposeful, and intense, rather than like the drag they could have easily been.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a slasher if there wasn’t some slashing, and In a Violent Nature has plenty of that, too. The movie is full of gruesome kills, but Nash mixes the specifics up enough (from beheading to drowning to axe-throwing) that you never quite know what’s coming next, so the action never gets stale.

A figure with a mask on and two hooks in his hands stands facing a forest in the movie In A Violent Nature
Image: Shudder

What’s In a Violent Nature trying to do?

It’s hard to describe this movie better than its press release does: It’s been labeled as an “ambient slasher.” It’s a slow, methodical movie, with sparse dialogue and not much character development. But that still doesn’t really describe what In a Violent Nature is going for. It feels more like a nature documentary approach to horror, with a slasher villain as a true animal kingdom predator, stalking through a beautiful forest and watching his prey from the foliage.

Does In a Violent Nature live up to its premise?

Yes, but it might not be able to quite transcend that premise. In a Violent Nature’s endless forward locomotion and our slasher monster’s unflappable determination keep things interesting, and the tight 94-minute run time makes sure the story isn’t dull. But without the visceral release of tension in jump scares or surprise murder, the film feels like a constant build that never actually fully pays off. There’s no grand ending to cap off the story, which may be fitting for seeing the monster’s side of the story, but isn’t quite satisfying for an audience. Even so, the craft and uniqueness of In a Violent Nature make it well worth a watch.

The quote that says it all

This isn’t exactly a single quote, but watching Johnny lurk just outside the light of his teenage victims’ campfire while one of them tells his friends (and the audience) Johnny’s creepy origin story is an outstanding moment that casually reframes nearly every slasher ever made. We all know Jason had to be lurking just past the treeline during various scenes in the Friday the 13th franchise, but what exactly did he overhear while he was stalking his victims?

Most memeable moment

It’s hard to imagine finding a meme anywhere in a movie paced this slowly, but Johnny’s cold, dead, monstrous hands clasping around a necklace that says “#1 Motherfucker” is at least pretty funny.

Is In a Violent Nature good?

In a Violent Nature is good, it’s just good in a different way than you might expect from its premise. It won’t exactly fill the trashy slasher hole in your heart, and it definitely isn’t for the “Friday night at the movies” crowd that most slashers are aimed at.

But for horror fans, it’s a rare treat and a fantastic exercise in taking a genre in the opposite direction that everyone else has tried. In a Violent Nature may not spawn a franchise of Johnny resurrections, but there’s a good chance that every slasher that comes after it will take small bits of influence from the things In a Violent Nature does well.

When can we see it?

In a Violent Nature is in theaters now, and will stream on Shudder later this year.

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