For the Sake of Vicious (2020) Review

It’s Halloween. Nurse Romina (Lora Burke) finishes her shift and intends to head to her mother’s to pick up her daughter. First, there’s a quick stop at home. Of course, this quick stop turns out to be the beginning of an awfully long night as Romina discovers an intruder (Nick Smyth) in the place and that he has a bruised and bloodied hostage (Colin Paradine) tied to a chair for good measure.

Romina’s first instinct is to get out of the place and call the cops but the intruder begs her not to, introducing himself as Chris and explaining that Alan, the guy bound to the chair, is responsible for a dreadful attack on Chris’ daughter – an attack for which Alan was tried and subsequently acquitted. Alan also happens to be Romina’s landlord and he appeals to her sympathetic nature in an attempt to convince her of his innocence but Chris is hell bent on getting a confession.

Has Chris been blinded in his quest for justice or is Alan hiding something? And will any of them be ready to deal with the bunch of masked individuals who are about to descend on Romina’s house?

Running a tight 81 minutes, Gabriel Carrer and Reese Eveneshen’s film begins as a tense three-hander in which Romina attempts to somehow get to the truth of the matter and keep Alan alive despite Chris’ desire to bash his nemesis with a hammer whenever his interrogations fail to elicit any information. At the halfway point, For The Sake Of Vicious shifts gears and switches to a kinetic, breathtakingly violent home invasion actioner set within the confines of Romina’s modest abode.

The dialogue is sparse in that second half, focusing instead on a series of increasingly desperate and bloodthirsty skirmishes in which folks are shot, skewered, stabbed and stomped. Oh, and thumped with a kettle at one point. The incredibly down and dirty approach to the confrontations works extremely well, with excellent stunt work and editing, shot in close quarters so the viewer is virtually participating in the action.

Even as someone who’s become a fairly hardened horror hound over the years, this still had the capability to make me wince. Just wait for the sequence with the little pieces of broken glass, or maybe you’ll glance away from the screen when you realise what’s coming. Both the fight co-ordinators and the practical FX people are kept busy and both do a rather fine job.

Performance wise, Lora Burke is on reliably impressive form as our down to earth, no nonsense heroine, less physically intimidating than those around her but to be underestimated at your peril. Burke was one of the main players in Justin McConnell’s superb Lifechanger (McConnell’s name appears in the end credits here) and she’s similarly great here in a role than paints Romina as a fighter in all aspects of life.

As Chris, Smyth bursts on to the proceedings as the kind of pop-eyed psycho that might seem a slightly obvious ploy to throw initial suspicion on to his character but he launches into the role with gusto and the reveal of his backstory does at least give context to his initial snarling and shouting. As the story proceeds, he shows another side to himself as the consequences of his actions dawn on him.

Paradine, as Alan, does good work in creating a character who’s difficult to read. His pleas of inculpability may be true but there’s something else about him which could be read as sinister or just a natural reaction to a situation in which his life is being threatened. As you’d expect, this isn’t made clear until late in the day.

Eveneshen’s screenplay doesn’t exactly delve into the moral complexities of the initial situation – and utilises the Halloween setting sparingly, which is actually rather pleasing – but in a genre that often heads for the slow burn, less is more approach to stave off any budgetary and staging concerns, it’s refreshing to watch a movie that delivers such an unashamed visual battering to both its viewers and its players on resources that were clearly not vast.

Carrer and Eveneshen took on multiple roles for this movie. They’re both credited as producers, production designers, set costumers and B camera operators. As mentioned previously, Eveneshen was on scripting duties and also edited the film, created some of the special effects and supervised the post. Carrer, meanwhile, was responsible – along with Foxgrndr – for the excellent, ominous electronic score.

The possible effect of having fingers in too many pies can mean that some or all of those aspects of the finished product are neglected but that isn’t the case here. Yes, it’s possible that the sensory pummelling of the final forty minutes results in the viewer watching too much of it through their fingers to be able to stop and admire the technical expertise or the set-ups but from my point of view there was absolutely nothing which hinted at a of lack of craft or time.

Subtle it ain’t, For The Sake Of Vicious is genuinely not for the squeamish and may come across as unrelentingly reprehensible to some but I was impressed by its ballsy, all-action stylings and its unapologetic drive to be as grimy as possible. It’s the kind of movie that rekindled the frisson of those 80s video nasties for me. In the back of your mind, there’s a voice telling you that perhaps you shouldn’t really be enjoying this but to fans of exploitation cinema such as me there’s something oddly, obliquely joyous about such unfettered, unfiltered carnage.

Signature Entertainment presents For the Sake of Vicious on DVD & Digital Platforms 19th April

Movie Rating: ★

★ ★ ★ ☆ 

Trailer:

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Darren Gaskell

Darren is a writing machine, producing content for a range of channels. You can catch more of his content at The Strange Colour Of Deej's Reviews and The Horrocist. You can also follow him on Twitter.

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