For the Sake of Vicious. 2020.
Directed by Gabriel Carrer & Reese Eveneshen. Screenplay by Eveneshen.
Starring Lora Burke, Nick Smyth, Colin Paradine, James Fler, T.J. Kennedy, Nick Spartan, Erin Stuart, Boris Milinkovich, & Adam Ewings.
Raven Banner Entertainment / Federgreen Entertainment / Latefox Pictures
Not Rated / 80 minutes
Action / Horror
DISCLAIMER: The following article contains SLIGHT SPOILERS!
Although I’ve only seen one of Gabriel Carrer’s previous directorial efforts, The Demolisher, and I wasn’t a fan, I was wholly unprepared for his latest. Sometimes a film doesn’t need an elaborate scenario to build a story out of and For the Sake of Vicious only requires a few basic albeit intriguing elements to prop up its fast pace and extreme violence.
Carrer and co-director Reese Eveneshen— the latter also wrote the screenplay— craft a story about a single working mom and nurse, Romina (Lora Burke). She gets home from a long shift on Halloween night only for an angry man, Chris (Nick Smyth), to burst into her place with another bloody man, Alan (Colin Paradine), who happens to be her landlord. Soon she finds out Chris believes Alan committed a horrific act against his daughter. Chris is the least of Romina’s worries, as soon a hellish gang of bikers descends upon her apartment looking to kill anybody and everybody inside.
This is a wild ride from top to bottom. Definitely a fitting little flick for any Halloween movie marathon with it being set on October 31st. There’s more interesting stuff when you dig into the plot. Romina’s working class, just like Chris, and they end up in the middle of a battle neither of them started when Alan’s bourgeois problems become theirs, too. They’re forced to try and survive a brutal onslaught of violence that even Alan didn’t expect. Beneath the violence are issues of class and justice that emerge with every bloody slice of a knife or crushing blow of a hammer.
Class differences are readily apparent in For the Sake of Vicious. Just seeing Romina load up on Halloween candy from work is a small sign of her working class status, something untold numbers of us have done at our own jobs. The class divide is really apparent when Alan, the capitalist, is immediately blamed by Chris for a shocking crime. Chris views it as the working class being violated by the bourgeois, believing Alan sees it as his right to just walk into any home among the buildings he owns and do whatever he feels he wants to do regardless of who it affects or how it affects them.
More than class struggle, Romina’s trapped in a violent power struggle of masculinities. She does well holding her own against a raging Chris. She tries explaining how she was assaulted not long ago and how trauma can warp our perspective to the point we can sometimes get confused about what really happened; this is why victims can tell conflicting stories about an assault because trauma is insidious, it gets inside us and twists our psyche into unrecognisable shapes.
Despite this Romina remains caught in mess of a man’s making. The violence at a certain point seems more about Chris’s wounded masculine pride than his daughter’s assault. Particularly the hammer on the balls moment in one tense scene epitomises the hypermasculine desire for revenge, where justice melts away and only retribution lives. The big question in the film, up until closer to the finale, is whether Chris has the right guy, or if the real monster’s out there somewhere.
“I want it all”
All that class difference filters down to one thing: Chris is sure Alan’s guilty of an awful crime, no matter if Alan beat a conviction pretty convincingly. Chris is positive a bourgeois landlord could beat such a conviction, that the legal system only works for the upper class and the working class are condemned to injustice— not untrue, but not always true, either. During Alan’s rebuttal to the accusations he even mentions “affordable housing,” as if he thinks that makes him look good, like he’s still not getting rich.
Something that came to my mind watching For the Sake of Vicious was when do we decide justice has been attained? Only when it aligns with our judgements and validates them? Chris isn’t convinced by actual evidence, he’s convinced by supposed “stories” about Alan and the landlord’s “shit list.” In real life we often see rich people get off on charges and my personal reaction is usually that there’s two justice systems: one for the wealthy, one for the rest of us. Can we always make that judgement, though? Chris does, and it winds up causing much more violence than he originally intended.
Class struggle evaporates momentarily after Chris, Romina, and Alan have to face Gerald (Jamies Fler) and his gang of vicious bikers. When we discover the horrifying truth about Gerald from a frantic Alan we can view the former as a force of evil. More than that, Chris, Romina, and Alan are all parents and their group predicament once Gerald arrives becomes the same: survive the night for your kids. Gerald comes to represent a force of evil that destroys everything in its path, including children. So for Romina, to whom Alan reveals Gerald’s secret, her confrontation with Gerald takes on an extra level of urgency, like she’s fighting back against the monster under every child’s bed including her own.
A great Halloween treat. A couple moments play off the night’s mischief by showing how dangerous people can use Halloween as a convenient night to hide their identities for sick purposes rather than candy. Screams and cries aren’t out of place on a night reserved for haunted houses and monsters, making for good cover. It’s a night that comes with a social assumption that one should open their doors as a communal gesture to trick-or-treaters who come knocking. If you look outside on Halloween night a devil mask isn’t unusual, though you’d never be able to tell who’s underneath. Maybe it’s a preteen. Or maybe it’s a murderer. We love Halloween— a season that, despite macabre imagery, is full of life. It likewise has a potential dark side we’re often reluctant to acknowledge.
For the Sake of Vicious is a fierce horror full of action. It’ll kick you in the teeth, the balls, or wherever it hurts most. The screenplay’s full of great ideas beyond just brutal action, like class divide and the impossible quest for justice in a world separated across strict economic lines. Most compelling is how three parents come together against all odds in an attempt to not be butchered by a bunch of absolute maniacs. Romina is the star of the show and the film’s real focus. She goes from a woman shocked by violence when Chris first shows up, to a woman forced to commit shocking violence in order to survive. What begins as a confusing mix of good and evil ends with a violent battle to the death between the two after clear moral lines are drawn in the sand.