Written by James Villeneuve and directed by Cody Calahan, ‘Vicious Fun’ just might be one of the best films to be shown at the Blood in the Snow film festival in 2021. There’s no doubt that many horror fans, especially horror writers with magazines such as Horror Facts, will enjoy this horror comedy.
Joel, a caustic 1980’s film critic for a national horror magazine, becomes entangled in the world of a self-help group for serial killers. In order to avoid becoming the next victim, Joel attempts to blend in with his homicidal surroundings.
During the prologue, we see a murder, which sets up the game plan for ‘Vicious Fun’.
Joel finds himself at a bar late one night as he snoops on the guy who’s dating his roommate, on whom he has a crush who was meeting at the venue after hours for a self-help session for serial killers.
In the restaurant’s back room, Joel sees what he initially believes to be an AA meeting after falling ill, passing out, and waking up. Joel is mistaken for absent and not yet acquainted with new member Phil. Then he hears people talking, and realizes they’re in a support group for serial killers. Unlike AA, this gathering focuses more on bragging and sharing homicide tips than on overcoming addiction.
Despite being neither a serial killer nor a psychopath, Joel must pretend to be one in order to avoid being slaughtered by either vampire Carrie, psycho clown Fritz, cannibal Hideo, thuggish Mike, or both military man and group leader Zachary. Calahan interweaves the bloodletting with witty asides and the pacing picks up substantially, all of which combine to create a witty but flyweight entertainment.
Vicious Fun’s premise fits well with the 1980s era. There is no heavy reliance on pop culture references in the film. Time period acts more as set dressing, paying homage to a decade known for unbeatable killers and countless slasher films.
Joel and Carrie have some of the best dialogue in the movie, as Carrie tries to teach the nerd how to deal with love, as well as how to escape the serial killers when they detect that he might not be one of them.
Additionally, the film contains many moments of horror that would’ve been appropriate for the time period, so those familiar with that era won’t be let down by the bodies piling up. Hopefully, there will be a sequel to this.
It also pays homage to other films such as Assault on Precinct 13 and Joel’s clothes are clearly references to Back to The Future.
One of the most impressive aspects of Vicious Fun is its ensemble cast. Marsh’s nervous energy helps set the comedic rhythm for scenes as the eclectic gang of tropey slasher villains clash and argue. There is a lot of comedy in this film, and despite some jokes you can see coming a mile away, there are still some clever delivery techniques that help them succeed. In addition to its horror aspect, it never forgets to bring fun and impressively gruesome kills to the table, especially when Joel teams up with Carrie to survive the night together and remove the killers.
It seems as though ‘Vicious Fun’ is trying to convey a point with Joel, which is that 80s comedies glorified a style of behavior now seen as at best insensitive and at worst creepy. Joel is expertly portrayed by actor Marsh, embodying that type of young protagonist from the 1980s without ever showing malice. Our understanding of it is so thorough that we wish Joel came to his realizations sooner.
Now, the film has a few small flaws, mostly in small details. Among them is a visual flaw. For those who have lived in the 1980s or remember the 80s well, the film’s version of the 80s is much brighter, much more colorful, and much more neon-filled than the real thing. People who remember the 1980s will remember that the 1980s were much darker. It is important to note, however, that the bright colors and the exaggeration of the 80s make this a lot more enjoyable to look at, and this look here is well executed. Jeff Maher’s cinematography brings all of this to life in a gorgeous way, giving the film a great look, something that helps balance the gruesome discussions and contents quite well.
There isn’t much going on beneath the film’s surface other than the obvious gag of having a dopey film critic as the center of the plot. Still, it’s interesting to see Joel discover something other than reviewing movies he’s good at. The continuous cinema references are amusing. Nothing is ever even remotely scary since Calahan keeps the tone so ridiculous. However, there are also a lot of great jokes along the way, such as some gleefully cheesy one-liners and some rather innovative ways to die.
It was important for Vicious Fun to stand out amongst so many films and shows relying heavily on fun 1980s vibes and nostalgia. Despite coming close, it required a little more effort. The story seems to be just beginning for Vicious Fun because by the end, it feels like it just got started. In the end, Vicious Fun feels like a love letter to those horror movies that grew up with, and for those who remember the movies that influenced it, it might just remind them of the potential this genre has for having a bloody good time.
If you have Shudder pop this one on tonight, its pretty good and I give it 4 out of 5 stars.
Founder and Lead Developer for Horror Facts independent horror magazine.
Husband, Sailor and Independent Writer