• Through the Trees

Interview: Random Acts of Violence

Director Jay Baruchel talks to us about the inspiration behind his grisly meta-slasher

As told to Katherine McLaughlin

For his second directorial feature Jay Baruchel has made the leap from sports comedy, (Goon 2 ) to grisly meta-slasher. Working from a screenplay co-written with Jesse Chabot and adapted from the one-shot comic by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray it has taken over eight-years for the indie horror to finally come to fruition. Over that time, the way the writers approached the material, which comments on the artistic process and the moral responsibility of the creator, was impacted by unfolding real life events and allowed for some serious self-reflection.

In the film, comic book creator Todd (Jesse Williams) is attempting to draw his series of Splatterman comics, which were informed by brutal real-life murders, to a close. Embarking on a road trip from Canada across the USA, with his girlfriend Kathy (Jordana Brewster), manager (played by Baruchel) and assistant Aurora (Niamh Wilson), the killer emerges again and the artist is quite literally confronted by his art.

“We realised that inspiration is something of an ouroboros. You can go through something harsh, then find a way to process it and that may be therapeutic to a degree for you but that doesn’t change the fact that you put something harsh out there which will then inspire something else for better or worse. We were interested in where the ring closes in terms of nature and nurture type shit. The idea that inspiration is two mirrors aimed back at each other, life and art, they reflect one another in to infinity.”

Baruchel mentions he was partly inspired by Powell and Pressburger's The Red Shoes, and Donald Cammell’s White of the Eye and Dario Argento’s Deep Red informed cinematographer Karim Hussain’s approach to the look and feel of the film.

“What was weird was that [Karim] assumed our whole script was something of an homage to Deep Red, and then I realised that I had never actually seen it. I watched it during prep. Karim has a lot of Giallo influences. What I came in with was The Red Shoes; there’s one particular sequence when you stop watching the play and you’re in it, everything comes to life. The pacing of it, the movement, and the energy the camera had, the hue of the light really got stuck in me.”

The character of Kathy acts as a contrasting compassionate force to Todd’s willful approach to true crime’s depiction in art and entertainment. Her interests lie in the people who were affected by the vicious serial killer and she is devoted to shining a light on the victims with the publication of a book.

“We just tried to write as good a person and as strong a person, and real and inconvenient a person as we could. We also wanted her to be the steward of the film’s conscience to a degree at the very least. She’s also meant to be representative of anybody that’s too close to a type-A creative personality. If you have tethered your fate to someone whose head is as far up their arse what will that eventually yield? We show an extreme example of that.

“The seeds of these questions and self-reflection had already been implanted in both of us. For me, I go to Anne Rule’s Green River Killer Book [Green River, Running Red] that I read when I was twenty-six/twenty-seven, somewhere around there and it was the first true crime book where she took all kind of historical, contextual, emotional real estate away from the killer and gave it all to the victims. It was an epiphany moment for me.

“Something that was of profound importance in Canada was The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Inquiry. Nothing is better as a result but at the very least it forced an uncomfortable truth on Canadian living rooms which is that if you are an indigenous woman you are six times more likely to die a violent death than the average Canadian. That’s a staggering, unforgivable statistic that none of us should be ok with. That definitely had an impact on us.

“Hopefully we’re both different kind of men to when we both started. I’d like to think it’s been a forward trajectory in my adult life, just, for lack of a better term, growing up and trying to reconcile some of my fascinations with morality.”

Random Acts of Violence is now available on Shudder.

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