‘In a Violent Nature’ Review: An Intensely Interesting and Mildly Inconsistent Slasher

In a Violent Nature is a must-see for slasher fans, even if the concept turns out to be more interesting than entertaining for some viewers.

In a Violent Nature opened in theaters on May 31st, 2024.

Table of Contents

What is In a Violent Nature About?

A maskless Johnny walks towards a house in In a Violent Nature (2024).
The killer, Johnny, starts off without a mask, but with the camera usually following behind him, we only get to see his face about as much as we see Jason or Michael’s face in any given Friday the 13th or Halloween movie.

Think about the most stereotypical slasher movie. A slasher flick featuring an undead and unstoppable killer who is only spoken about in local legends and spooky stories, and who murders a group of people in the woods in creative ways. That’s the exact premise of In a Violent Nature. What makes this movie unique is the way it presents that overly familiar formula.

In a Violent Nature takes a generic backwoods slasher movie plot and shows the audience what most other slasher movies leave out. This means that rather than following the perspective of the final girl, In a Violent Nature mostly follows the perspective of the killer. The killer—whom campfire tales tell us is named Johnny—is brought out of his not-so-final resting place when a locket is taken from a simple grave marker. The audience then watches as the hulking, silent beast of a reanimated dead man stomps through the woods, searching for the lost locket and violently slaughtering everyone he comes across.

In a Violent Nature (2024).
Johnny rises from his grave located in this rotting structure deep in the forest.

In a Violent Nature is from writer and director Chris Nash. This is Nash’s first feature film as a director, though he previously directed the “Z is for Zygote” segment in ABCs of Death 2 (2014), and he has a lengthy resume in special effects including being the on-set creature effects supervisor for Psycho Goreman (2020). The killer in the movie, Johnny, is played by Ry Barrett, an actor who has an extensive history in genre films dating back to 2005.

In a Violent Nature Review

A view from behind Johnny in In a Violent Nature (2024).
This view will become very familiar, even comfortable, to viewers of In a Violent Nature.

In a Violent Nature is interesting because even though the premise sounds like it’s a subversion of the slasher genre, it isn’t. At least, not really, and not on purpose. In an interview published in issue #218 of Rue Morgue, writer/director Chris Nash explains, “I wouldn’t say we’re subverting anything, I never intended to subvert anything.” Watching In a Violent Nature, that quickly becomes clear.

No expectations concerning characters and plot progression are subverted at any time during the movie. The tropes and cliches of the slasher genre are firmly adhered to, and that’s the point. This is a slasher movie with a plot structure that you are supposed to know by heart. By staying with the perspective of the killer for nearly the entire film, the fun comes from seeing what usually isn’t included in slasher movies. What this mostly amounts to is watching what a silent killer reminiscent of Jason Voorhees (especially from Jason Lives onward) is doing in the time between kills.

Johnny reaches a hand towards a victim in In a Violent Nature (2024).
He walks, he kills, he walks some more.

So what does an undead slasher do between kills? Mostly he walks. Slowly and methodically, he walks. When he hears someone, he stops and listens. Then he walks over and kills the person if he thinks they’re alone. Then he walks some more, repeating the cycle until the inevitable final showdown with the few remaining potential victims. There’s a little more to it than that, but that’s the main hook of the movie. Instead of watching clueless victims repeatedly isolate themselves and get murdered like we would see in many other slasher movies, we watch a monster patiently walk and wait until he finds someone to murder. What this change in perspective does to the slasher formula is interesting, but whether or not it’s entertaining is going to vary wildly from person to person.

On the positive side of the argument, In a Violent Nature is a unique and strangely compelling experience. Large portions of the movie are filled with lengthy, nearly unbroken shots that simply follow Johnny from behind. There is no added music to heighten the tension. The style of editing used at times means it’s not a completely objective experience, but it’s quite close a lot of the time. The effect this has on the viewer is one of detachment. We watch Johnny kill people, but strong feelings of fear or disgust which directors usually try to elicit from us are absent. Chris Nash has stated that the approach to the movie was similar to making a nature documentary, and in many ways that’s how it feels.

Johnny sits behind a tree in In a Violent Nature (2024).
Johnny rarely gets distracted, but when he does, it gives the viewer brief glimpses inside this nearly impenetrable character.

Maybe more than a nature documentary though, In a Violent Nature also feels like the ultimate endpoint for the path many long-running slasher franchises take. As a slasher franchise pumps out sequel after sequel, the focus of each consecutive movie is often less about the victims and more about the killers themselves. It’s a natural evolution given that slashers tend to run out of protagonists from film to film. In a Violent Nature is almost all about Johnny and his killing ways, and his victims are all utterly disposable. In this way, In a Violent Nature is like a late-franchise sequel to movies that don’t exist. That also makes it a sharp criticism on the genre as a whole, regardless of whether that particular commentary was intended or not.

However, there is a negative side to the way In a Violent Nature is presented to the audience. The sense of detachment the audience might experience can also lead to many monotonous sequences throughout the movie. Watching Johnny stalking through the woods for extended periods of time will be interesting to some, but boring for others. Patience pays off in the form of some inventively gruesome kills, but not every kill is equal. One particular murder scene will certainly be lauded as one of the best kills of 2024 when the time comes for year-end awards, and a few others are abundantly bloody. But some of the kills happen off screen which might be a downer for viewers hoping for more slasher gore. Also, the blunt, matter-of-fact way most of the kills occur, combined with the violence being so over the top, adds a layer of black comedy that can feel tonally inconsistent with some of the other kills.

A bloody trucker hat in In a Violent Nature (2024).
The amount of blood shown in In a Violent Nature has been a major talking point, but seasoned horror fans will probably only point to two, maybe three kills that really push the gore to splatter-film heights.

The acting is also affected by the style of the presentation. The dialogue is corny, presumably on purpose to achieve a “generic slasher” tone. But corny, hackneyed dialogue delivered without the enhancements of music or stylized imagery comes across as humorous. It never rises to the comedic levels of something like Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010), but you could make a strong argument for In a Violent Nature being, at least in part, a black comedy. Which actually isn’t a bad way to watch the movie. Watching In a Violent Nature a “black comedy slasher” is a perfectly viable and enjoyable way to approach it.

The biggest letdown of In a Violent Nature is that the gimmick of sticking strictly to the killer’s perspective isn’t fully adhered to. There are two main breaks in the format. One happens early in the movie when Johnny is watching and listening to his potential victims, and the point of view changes from Johnny to the circle of friends sitting around a campfire. The other major change in point of view happens towards the end of the movie. Both scenes provide the largest chunks of exposition in the entire film, but they are excruciatingly tedious when juxtaposed with the rest of the movie. They take too much time away from Johnny, and they explain way too obviously the themes and ideas that would have been much more fun to glean from environmental storytelling, the overall tone of the film, and tiny snippets of half-heard conversations. They’re just not necessary. Even with its minimal story, even less story and explanation would have been preferable in a movie like this.

Who Will Enjoy In a Violent Nature?

The forest surrounds Johnny in In a Violent Nature (2024).
The scenery in In a Violent Nature is gorgeous.

Other slasher movies have followed the perspective of the killer (Maniac 1980 and 2012 spring to mind), but few—if any—are presented quite like this. In a Violent Nature has been described as an arthouse slasher, but that’s only true to a point. It has an arthouse aesthetic, but it’s a genre film at its core. It is for fans of slasher movies looking for something familiar, but presented in a way they haven’t seen before. It is also for fans of indie horror who enjoy a methodically-paced movie punctuated with a few ridiculously violent murders.

And really, In a Violent Nature should be seen by most horror horror fans, even if you’re not into slashers. It’s an interesting take on the genre that is worthy of discussion even if you don’t find it particularly entertaining. By removing or changing a lot of what makes a horror movie scary (e.g. the focus on the victims, the music, the pace, the framing, etc.), In a Violent Nature is a grand experiment. For some, it illustrates why most slasher movies aren’t made this way. For others, it is a welcome and entertaining change to the typical slasher formula. Either way, it illuminates some fascinating ideas about why we watch horror movies and what it is that makes them work for us.

Johnny walks into a lake in In a Violent Nature (2024).
With some alterations, a movie like In a Violent Nature would work extremely well as a film done in one long take, like Russian Ark (2002) and the first half of One Cut of the Dead (2017).

Personally, I found In a Violent Nature to be more interesting than entertaining. Some of the kills are fun, and I really enjoy following Johnny on his journey even in the slowest of times. However, I don’t care for the ending which is too separated from everything that happens before it, while at the same time coming across as too obviously explanatory. I also would have liked the whole movie to be even slower and more dispassionate than it is. I wanted the victims to be even more faceless than they are, especially the final girl. As it is, it seems like the filmmakers didn’t want to be too experimental in their approach, and that gives the impression of a movie made with half-measures.

Further Reading

Meet The Author

Chris has a degree in film studies at Temple University’s campus in Tokyo, Japan. He is a renowned expert on horror cinema.