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.
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.
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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.