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In a Violent Nature

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In Theaters


Home Release Date




Paul Asay

Movie Review

Someone took Johnny’s golden locket while Johnny was laying in the leaves. Now Johnny wants it back.

Positive Elements

Johnny, who lives (?) in the deep forests of Canada, has tracked the locket to a group of youth who’ve rented a cabin in the woods for a weekend of fun. One of those twentysomethings, Colt, is dealing with something big and bad involving his father. We don’t know what that is; but we know that Kris, a friend of his, invited him along, hoping to ease his troubles a bit. Which is nice.

Much later in the story, Kris meets a kindly woman on the road who picks her up, begins to drive her away from the nightmare she’s endured, and reassures Kris that, whatever she’s been through, she’s safe now. And that’s also nice.

Spiritual Elements

Johnny is not just some random psychopath. According to local lore, he may be what’s left of a boy who was killed about 70 years ago. He’s apparently kept at peace as long as a golden locket—given to him by his parents—is left alone in the ruined fire tower where he died. If the locket is disturbed, Johnny is, too—which snowballs into a great deal of disturbance elsewhere.

One of the cabin’s renters starts doing some yoga stretches near the edge of a cliff.

Sexual Content

Just about every slasher film includes a bevy of randy youth readied for slaughter. In a Violent Nature follows to form.

Seven men and women (four men, three women) populate this cabin in the woods. Troy and Kris are the only real “couple” here; we learn that they’re engaged, and conversations make it clear that they’re sexually active. (Several jokes are made regarding the size of Troy’s private parts.) The two share a bedroom, and we see Kris in her bra.

The other two women flirt with each other. One, Brodie, appears to identify unabashedly as lesbian. The other, Aurora, is more experimental. Brodie removes her clothes down to her underwear to swim in a nearby lake; she encourages Aurora to do the same. Aurora at first refuses, but she then tells Brodie to meet her after her swim to do some yoga with her, very suggestively promising more than just stretching exercises.

Some of the male guests met some girls at a gas station before the movie began. One of guys, Ehren, seemed quite taken by them; he mentions the girls a couple of times. And when he walks out of the cabin late one evening, a couple of the other guests ask if he’s going to walk to the station to hang out with the girls, offering a few lewd suggestions and double entendres. (He denies it, saying it’s a several-hour walk to the station.)

Someone makes a reference that Ehren’s uncle is a pedophile. “It doesn’t count if I forgave him,” Ehren says.

Violent Content

In a Violent Nature lands in theaters without a rating—its creators apparently knowing that the violence and gore therein would be too extreme to warrant “just” an R-rating. That should come as a warning for this section, too. Even the written descriptions here might be too graphic for some. This paragraph should give most of you everything you need to know … no need to read further.

But for those who need more, here we go … as briefly as we can.

Johnny uses a variety of implements to kill—most notably, perhaps, a “drag hook.” It’s a large metal hook attached to a chain (he finds it in a display of historical firefighting equipment), and he uses it to kill and mutilate one of his victims in a way that, frankly, seems anatomically impossible and equally visceral. Another character is skewered in the chest by the hook, then dragged to a logging machine that beheads and dismembers the victim.

Another victim is killed with a scythe-like instrument essentially slices the top of that person’s head off. (Johnny then drags both the head and body around, using each as a sort of cadaverous tool of vandalism.) Johnny kills a third with an axe to the forehead, then continues to hammer away at the victim’s head (and perhaps the rest of the body) for what the movie suggests is several hours. (The very definition of overkill.)

That same axe lands in someone else’s thigh, resulting in much bleeding and screaming. Someone’s head gets smashed, like an orange, by a huge rock. A character is killed off camera, but we see plenty of blood and at least one stray limb. Someone gets pulled underwater, and later the corpse bobs to the surface. Another unfortunate victim is forcibly bent over backward, causing some spine snappage.

We hear tales about previous massacres, too, including one that apparently involved the deaths of dozens of lumberjacks. While the lumber company disseminated a story that they were all killed by food poisoning, eyewitnesses allege that it appeared they were all pulled apart by wild animals.

We also hear the story of a diseased bear that likewise killed indiscriminately: The last victim was apparently a ranger who tracked the beast, but the bear snuck up behind him and bit into his skull. (The man survived and, after a hundred or so stitches, marveled at how little it hurt.)

A man steps, off-camera, into an animal trap, leading to a grievous and painful-looking leg injury. (The corpse of an animal is seen in another trap, too.) Someone else’s leg is impaled by a big stick. Johnny is shot several times; he doesn’t die, but the blasts do slow him down a bit. A gun owner threatens a ranger with his weapon.

Johnny’s face is covered by a mask for most of the movie. But when we see his face, it looks a bit as though parts of it had been in close contact with a large cheese grater. We hear about how a boy slipped on a toy car and fell off a tower, snapping his neck.

Crude or Profane Language

The f-word gets paired with “mother” in one person’s description of himself. We hear at least another 55 f-words and more than a dozen s-words. We also hear “a–,” “b–ch,” “h—” and “g-dd–n.” God’s name is misused thrice elsewhere, and Jesus’ name is abused five times.

Drug and Alcohol Content

People smoke marijuana joints, vape and use a bong. Characters drink beer by a campfire.

Other Negative Elements

If you’ve read the rest of the review, you know that Johnny would’ve been no problem at all if someone hadn’t stolen his locket.

Many of the cabin’s inhabitants can act insensitively at times. But one seems like a particularly big jerk: Troy, who often tries to pick fights. He’s incredibly insensitive. And when Colt and his fiancée, Kris, want to drive to find some help (which, as you might’ve gathered, is a pretty good idea), Troy tosses the car keys into the woods, saying, “I’m sorry that Colt’s dad f—ed him up. But he doesn’t have to f— up my whole weekend, too!” (We don’t have any context for what happened between Colt and his father.)

There’s some discussion about defecation.


Slasher films, by their very nature, are predicated on gore. What “charm” they offer is (ahem) hooked to how many people die and how creatively they do it. And again, almost by definition, they are incredibly predictable: The killer is a nigh-unstoppable force of nature with a lore-riddled backstory. The victims are almost all young and fetching, and many are (as far as the audience is concerned) in need of a good dismembering.

You could say that the slasher flick is the horror genre’s equivalent of a Hallmark movie. Only instead of the heroine sacrificing career for small-town charm and true love, the heroine loses her friends, her blood and perhaps a bit of her sanity. And maybe her life, too, if there’s not much hope of a sequel.

In a Violent Nature runs utterly true to form and, paradoxically, reshapes it.

The nigh-unstoppable predator and the young, screaming prey are all here, to be sure. But instead of following the would-be victims, this Canadian horror flick follows the killer.

We watch as he ponderously strides through the borderless Canadian forests. We witness him select his instruments of doom. We hear only snippets from the humans we should be siding with—which, by definition, makes this slasher that much less humane. We spend more time getting to know choice slabs of beef at the supermarket than we do understanding the movie’s characters—future blobs of meat.

And this film takes its time, too. It does not try to build suspense through the panic and plotting of its doomed victims. It does not try to heighten the tension through a pounding, shrieking musical score. Director Chris Nash sometimes simply follows Johnny through walks in the forest—that ponderous stride as implacable as death itself. He treats the movie’s murders almost clinically—not allowing the camera to turn away even for a brief, blessed moment.

And oh, that gore. As noted above, Nash and company didn’t even try for an R-rating; the bloodletting was just too extreme and, apparently, deemed too necessary. A few who saw early screenings allegedly vomited.

All of this, of course, will surely draw slasher fans into this slow, sadistic film—more so even than its legion of charmed critics. (The film holds an 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.)

Having reviewed my share of slashers, I get where those reviewers are coming from. In a genre that exists only to shock and disgust viewers, one that has only grown more tired by the year, any creativity would be, I suppose, welcome.

But if I was to slap on a little of my own metaphorical meaning onto this bit of cinema, I might equate the killer Johnny to our own culture’s love of the different and transgressive. And how that love is slowly hacking away at the culture itself, bit by bloody bit.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.