Vicious Fun offers genuine belly laughs alongside a ton of gore

A tongue-in-cheek horror streaming on Shudder, Vicious Fun sees a 1980s horror film critic trapped in a serial killer self-help group. It’s a setup that allows the film to play out familiar tropes and poke fun at them at the same time, writes Matt Glasby – and there’s a ton of gore, from eye gougings to eviscerations.

“Dying is easy, comedy is hard,” goes the old saying. But the joy of this post-modern Canadian slasher from director Cody Calahan (The Oak Room) is that it does both with flair, offering genuine belly laughs alongside some less conventional uses for human viscera.

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Based on a script by James Villeneuve, with a story credit for Calahan, it has a nifty central conceit that allows the filmmakers to play out familiar tropes and poke fun at them at the same time, like Scream or Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon.

In 1980s Minnesota, Joel (Evan Marsh, Shazam!) is a loser horror film critic with a crush on his flatmate Sarah (Alexa Rose Steele). Suspecting her creepy new boyfriend Bob (Ari Millen, Orphan Black) of being married, he follows him to a seedy bar to find out the truth, but ends up getting shit-faced instead.

After closing time, he finds himself in the middle of an AA-style support group chaired by Zachary (David Koechner, Cheap Thrills). Only this one’s for serial killers. “What’s your angle?” Zachary asks the determinedly out-of-his-depth Joel. “Skinner? Slice-and-dicer? Corpse humper?”

Calahan has lots of fun exploring each killer’s MO. Massive Mike (Robert Maillat, Deadpool 2) likes putting on a mask and heading to a summer camp or sorority house. There’s also a cannibal (Sean Baek), a clown (Julian Richings, Chaos Walking), and a kickass revenger Carrie (Amber Goldfarb). When they find out that Joel’s not one of them, they’re unhappy—murderously so.

With his Marty McFly vest and false bravado, Marsh makes a funny and appealingly awkward lead. “Just taking a break from all the ladies I get,” he tells Bob at the bar. Meanwhile, Steph Copeland’s Carpenter-esque synth score and Jeff Maher’s neon-spiked cinematography add a classy edge, and there’s a ton of gore, from eye gougings to eviscerations.

Frankly, what’s not to love? As Officer Tony (John Fray), part of a trio of brilliantly useless cops, puts it: “Sometimes the horror genre can blend with other genres, then you get subgenres, these are where you can sometimes find some really interesting films that are shocking, surprising and, if I do say so myself, downright delightful.” Couldn’t have put it better ourselves.