Review by Sean Boelman
As the title suggests, For the Sake of Vicious is a nasty little thriller (and that’s a compliment), but it also lives up to the lack of purpose that it implies. Satisfyingly brutal but simple in nature, Gabriel Carrer and Reese Eveneshen’s film is mindlessly fun, even if it feels like something fundamental is missing.
The film follows an unsuspecting nurse whose Halloween night goes to hell when she finds a crazed man holding someone hostage in her house before a group of ruthless armed invaders arrive on her doorstep, forcing her into the crossfire. There’s a lot going on, and it’s both simple and convoluted at the same time, a blend of revenge thriller and home invasion horror tropes that never quite blend together.
It feels like there are two very separate storylines happening in the film, and despite the filmmakers’ attempts to connect them, they still feel like disparate entities. The first half of the film is a talky and torture-filled mystery, only for this to be abandoned for a prolonged and action-packed finale. There’s no denying the adrenaline it will provide to the viewer, but one will be left to wonder why they should care.
The character development in the film is rather weak. The protagonist is compelling, if only because she is the innocent party whose hand was forced in the situation. The other two leads are supposed to be ambiguous, their alignment constantly shifting from good to evil, but this is abandoned heading into the final act. And the big bad villain isn’t particularly interesting at all.
Ultimately, a lot of the film’s issues come down to the fact that a lot of things feel unfinished or interrupted. There are a lot of threads and tones started throughout that are dropped at various points. Certain portions have a darkly comedic undertone, while others are gravely serious. Character growth is hinted at but never built upon. It is a sense of consistency that would have helped the film significantly.
The three leads — Lola Burke, Nick Smyth, and Colin Paradine — have great chemistry together. It is their performances that carry the first half, which is otherwise built around less-than-stellar dialogue and a lot of repetition. Thankfully, the more rapidly-paced back half gives them a lot more room to breathe.
The real draw of this film is how impressive the action sequences are. There are some brutal practical effects for the gore that look truly amazing. The stunts are at a caliber much higher than expected for an independent production like this, and they’re shot in a way that never ceases to impress.
For the Sake of Vicious may not deliver in terms of storytelling, but it does provide exactly what it promises. Although some more compelling character work would have went a long way in making it have more of an impact, its carnage is entertaining to watch.
For the Sake of Vicious screened as a part of the virtual edition of the 2020 Fantasia Film Festival, which runs August 20-September 2.